Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal to clash in Sony Open quarters
Canadian making first career appearance in Key Biscayne quarter-finals
Canadian Milos Raonic knows what fuelled the 100th hardcourt victory of his professional career.
The 23-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., defeated Germany's Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday in the fourth round of the Sony Open in just 89 minutes.
"It was good Timbits," joked Raonic.
He then explained that his goal was to advance to the quarter-finals of the Sony Open, a tournament he had struggled in in the past two years.
"I think that is a bonus on getting the win, which was the main focus," said Raonic of his 100th hardcourt victory.
Raonic will play top-seeded Rafael Nadal, who downed 14th-seeded Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2. Nadal has dropped a total of nine games in six sets so far in this tournament.
Nadal has won all four matches he's had with Raonic.
"When he gets ahead in the points he's difficult to keep up with," said Raonic. "I have to get ahead in the points early and stay ahead. And obviously serving, as well, is going to be key.
"I think the biggest difficulty of playing Rafa is there is really nobody that plays like him, so whenever you come up against him in the tournament it's quite different."
On Tuesday, Raonic was frustrated on his first two match point chances in the final game as he tried to end the contest with a break of Becker's serve.
But Becker thwarted the 12th seed on both winning occasions thanks to Raonic errors.
Raonic went back to work, setting up another match-winner with an overhead from deep in the backcourt only to have Becker save it. Raonic finally claimed victory after a second set which lasted one hour.
"I was not losing any points on my serve pretty much, but I was not dealing with it the right way when he was getting a few returns back in play," said Raonic.
Reaching the quarter-finals was a breakthrough for Raonic, who has stalled at the third round at the last two Sony Opens.
He had to withdraw with strep throat at last year's edition after going out injured the year before in a walkover to Andy Murray.
Despite landing heavily on his left leg and wearing kinesio tape on much of his back, Raonic insisted he is not suffering physically.
"The are just really, really minor things that are little nicks, but nothing that affects me in any way," he said.
Andy Murray, Djokovic to meet in quarters
Even with his surgically repaired back still nowhere near perfect, defending champion Andy Murray needed only 73 minutes to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-1 at the Sony Open on Tuesday and set up a quarterfinal with Novak Djokovic.
"My game is getting there," said Murray, the No. 6 seed, who acknowledged he was dealing with a sore back. "The last six sets I've played, very high-level tennis, very few errors."
He'll need to keep it that way against Djokovic, who eased past Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-5.
The second-seeded Djokovic even gave back a point in the second set. A groundstroke from Robredo clipped the baseline and Djokovic couldn't handle it, but the ball was erroneously called out. After a review showed the ball was in, the point was ordered to be replayed.
Djokovic shouted "It's OK, it's OK" as the fans applauded his sportsmanship.
"For me, it's something that is part of the sport, fair play," Djokovic said. "I expect everybody else to do the same. Of course, not everybody's the same, but for me, that's something that's normal. Just a normal, natural reaction."
Singles players with a combined 66 Grand Slam victories were in action Tuesday, including Roger Federer — a winner of 17 of them himself. And he looked very much like the Federer of old, needing only 49 minutes to beat ninth-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-2.
"Look, things went well out on the court today," Federer said, clearly understating matters.
Federer, the No. 5 seed, had 25 winners to Gasquet's eight, converted five of his six break chances and won 92 per cent of his first-serve points in the second set. Next up for Federer is 20th-seeded Kei Nishikori, who upset No. 4 David Ferrer 7-6 (7), 2-6, 7-6 (9).
Ferrer had beaten Nishikori in the same round at Key Biscayne a year ago, their most recent meeting before Tuesday. No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine also pulled off an upset, topping third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals.
The last American in the men's draw was ousted when 10th-seeded John Isner lost to No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5.
On the women's side, Maria Sharapova rallied from a break down in the first set to oust Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1 and earn a spot in the semifinals. She's been a finalist at Key Biscayne five times, but never the champion.
"I love the energy here," she said.
The fourth-seeded Sharapova, who needed three-setters to get through her two most recent matches at Key Biscayne, feasted on 30 unforced errors by the eighth-seeded Kvitova. Sharapova won 11 of the final 13 games and moved into a semifinal matchup with Serena Williams, the defending champion who won 62 of 100 points in her 6-2, 6-2 romp over fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber.
Williams broke Kerber twice in each set, faced only one break point and held a more than 2-to-1 advantage in winners.
"When you're playing champions, you like to play your best," Williams said. "She always gives me her best. ... I love playing her. I really do. It doesn't matter what surface. She's one of my favourite people to play."
Sharapova said she was eager to face Williams again.
"It's no secret that she's been a big challenge of mine, an opponent that obviously I would love to beat," Sharapova said.
Also, former No. 1 Martina Hingis teamed with Sabine Lisicki to reach the doubles quarterfinals. And foot and vehicle traffic outside the tennis centre was briefly halted during the night session when a suspicious backpack was found near the main gate, but Miami-Dade police responded and quickly determined there was no threat.
With files from The Associated Press