Miami: First quarter has taken physical toll

Cirstea BOW 12 MALT0214

Sori soared over a hobbled Kerber.

Miami has had no discernable theme whatsoever other than that once again too many players are aching or hurt post the Aussie hard courts swing; the February Euro indoor/Middle East outdoor, Latin American clay or US indoor/outdoor outswing; and of course Indian Wells.

Miami will officially close the first quarter of the season, which is perhaps the physically most difficult portion of the year as player must roar out of the gates within two weeks and then head into Melbourne, and must conclude with two back-to-back Masters Series at Indian Wells in Miami.

The only other quarter that touches the first one in regards to physical effort is the third one, which begins on grass and ends at the US Open and also includes two Masters Series (Canada and Cincy).

The second quarter is a big test for clay courters because it ends at Roland Garros and contains two Masters Series (Rome and Madrid) and a mini Masters Series (Monte Carlo) but the surface remains the same and with grass it is the easiest one on the body.

The fall swing is less mentally taxing because it doesn’t not contain a Slam and is less physically taxing because most of the top players pick and choose where they are playing more carefully.

Indian Wells finalists Rafael Nadal (skipped Miami to rest his knee), Juan Martin Del Potro (his left wrist aches and he was upset by Tobias Kamke) and Caroline Wozniacki (took a troubling 6-2 6-4 loss to the rising Spaniard Garbine Muguruza) are all out of Miami.

The resilient Maria Sharapova, who won Indian Wells, was still around as as she overcame Elena Vesnina in two very tough sets, but Angie Kerber, who reached the semis at IW, apparently is still having back trouble and was smoked by Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-0. Thne Maria Kirilenko, who played so well in reaching the IW semis, went down to Klara Zakopalova 6-2 7-6(4). Petra Kvitova, who looked great in Dubai and sort of OK in the California desert, melted once again in the heat and lost to the surging Kirsten Flipkens 6-0 4-6 6-1.

Having to win physical matches in the heat also ended up affecting the little but lethal Lauren Davis, who wore down her friend Madison Keys in a marathon and then lost to Alize Cornet in three, leaving the United States with only two out of its strong phalanx of female players left: Sloane Stephens, who advanced when Venus Williams withdrew with a back injury, and Serena Williams who punched past Ayumi Morita. Serena will face the hard hitting but up- and-down Dominika Cibulkova, while Stephens, who has not been playing well since the Aussie Open, will face a stern test in the form of Agnieszka Radwanska, who overcame Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3. The Pole and defending champ hasn’t been playing great either, so this is good chance for Stephens to get back on track if she plays with enough patience and savvy, sort of like Maria Kirilenko did in besting Radwanska at Indian Wells.

Aussie Open finalist Li Na has returned and is certainly a big threat on outdoor hard courts. She downed Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-4 and will face the 19-year-old Muguruza, who is tall and hits a pretty big ball. Flipkens will play another talented teen, Croat Ajla Tomljanovic who upended Andrea Petkovic 0-6 6-4 7-6(1). It is not going to be easy for Petko to climb back to the top 20. With each passing comeback, on court life gets little tougher.

The ATP has three blockbusters ahead with Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov reliving their final in Brisbane, which was won by the Scott. Murray smoked an ill Bernard Tomic, who must now go ply his trade on clay, which will be a huge test of his so-called improved fitness. Dimitrov has played a bit better since February but he is still missing a marquee win. The 21 year old has a lot of weapons, but his point-to-point consistency is not one of them. His girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, might be able to help with that.

John Isner picked up a big mental win in besting Ivan Dodig in a third set breaker and now would take an even bigger step if he could overcome a more talented Croat, Marin Cilic. So much of that outcome of that match will be determined by the return of serve, which Cilic is a little better at. But playing at home in the southern heat, which Isner likes, should give the American the advantage.

Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic will also face off and both guys would love to grab a win here as they are in a fairly open quarter where the winner would likely play Tomas Berdych, a very good player who is better than both of them at this point, but not a guy whom they have no chance of beating. Querrey won his last meeting against Raonic at Wimbledon. Service bombs away.

Belgian David Goffin appears to be getting out of the mental funk that he fell into after choking a Davis Cup match to Victor Troicki. The highflying Goffin upended Philip Kohlschreiber 7-6(5) 4-6 6-2?and now will have to try and grind one out against Nicolas Almagro under the intense Miami sunshine. Good luck with that.


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