By tradition, the annual event at Miami has always been well attended and 2014 was no different. Originally called the Miami Masters, the ATP 1000 event has had multiple sponsorships over the years and for the last two years it is known as the Sony Open. The tournament in one of a few ATP events with participation by 96 men and 96 women in singles draw, besides 32 teams in each of the doubles. With so many players coming to Miami every year, the main draw spills to two weeks. While no seeded player wants to give Miami a miss, the spectator participation is not lacking either. For the past few years, no less than 300,000 visitors have been visiting Key Biscayne to watch their favorite stars in action. The grand scale, at which the event is held, makes it as big a tournament as any of the four grand slams. There are many people who dub the Miami event as the 5th Grand Slam of Tennis. Yesterday night, defending champion Andy Murray lost 5-7, 3-6 in his quarterfinal match to Novak Djokovic. In another quarterfinal match, Roger Federer was defeated by the fast-improving Japanese Kei Nishikori in a three-set duel 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
In the Djokovic-Murray game, both players displayed their best tennis but the 26-year old Djokovic finally overcame the tough challenge posed by Murray. There was a bit of unpleasantness in the last game of the first set, when a poor umpiring call brought both Djokovic and Murray at the net for a heated exchange, after which Murray dropped his serve lost the first set. While prevailed in the rest of the match, Andy Murray played his best tennis since his victory at Wimbledon and an injury lay-off, necessitated by back surgery in September. In the end, however, Djokovic, who arrived in Miami after winning the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, emerged the stronger player. At 19 years 316 days, the Serbian holds the record of the youngest men’s champion at Miami in 2007. He won the title again in 2011 and 2012. Aspiring for his fourth title here, Djokovic’s semifinal opponent will be Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who has entered the last four after causing two back to back upsets.
In the last match on Wednesday night, Kei Nishikori fought doggedly against Roger Federer after losing the first set. In the second set, Federer was serving with a 4-3 lead in his pocket but the Japanese broke him. At another point, Federer was serving to take the second set to the tiebreak, when the big Swiss double-faulted, committed three unforced errors on his backhand and gifted the set to Nishikori. Just when everyone thought Federer will bounce back in the third set, which went on serves until 5-4 in Nishikori’s favor, with Federer serving in the 10th game to make it 5-5, Nishikori produced some beautiful volleys and won the match by breaking Federer with the final score of 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. On Tuesday, Nishikori had similarly stunned last year’s runner-up David Ferrer in a tough fourth round match. Ferrer had four match points against the Japanese, but the tenacious Nishikori prevailed at the end, 7-6, 2-6, 7-6. The other two men’s semifinalists will be decided later tonight, when top seed Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Milos Raonic of Canada in one quarterfinal, while in the other, Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych will take on Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.
In the women’s semifinals tonight, defending champion Serena Williams will play with Maria Sharapova in the repeat of their clash in last year’s final. In women’s singles other semifinal, no.2 seed Li Na of China will play the no. 10 seed Slovak Dominika Cibulkova. While Li Na has had an easier passage through her matches, Cibulkova caused an upset by beating no.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 3-6, 7-6, 6-3. Both Serena and Maria are old hands at Miami, returning here year after year. Incredibly, Serena holds the tournament record for women, having won 6 out of 8 finals in Miami. Maria has never won here but she has reached the finals on 5 occasions. For men, Andre Agassi holds the same record as Serena in winning 6 finals out of 8.