An uncomfortable Rafael Nadal lost in three sets, and world No. 1 Serena Williams met the future on an eventful Sunday at the Miami Open.
“I was anxious on court,” Nadal said after a second straight career loss to Spanish countryman Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco. “I tried in every point, but I was not able to relax myself, calm myself.”
Verdasco denied Nadal another attempt at a first Miami Open title after the 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 upset.
“It’s a huge victory, and it’s always really nice to feel it in a packed stadium…and playing against one of the best players in history,” Verdasco said. “At the end, you just try to enjoy the moment.”
Nadal said he is still searching for confidence entering the claycourt season.
“Today, my game in general improved since a month and a half,” he said. “But at the same time, still playing with too many nerves in a lot of moments, in important moments.”
The 31-year-old Verdasco will next face Juan Monaco, who late night on Sunday beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-4.
Top 10-seeded winners Sunday were No. 3 Andy Murray beating No. 27 Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-4, and No. 8 Tomas Berdych turning back an upset bid by No. 25 Bernard Tomic 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-1.
On the upset tip were No. 17 Geal Monfils ousting No. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [corrected] 6-4, 7-6(4) in an all-French meeting, and No. 28-seeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino shocking No. 7 Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
Other winners on the day were No. 15 Kevin Anderson defeating No. 24 Leo Mayer 6-4, 6-4, and Dominic Thiem beating Jack Sock 6-4, 6-3.
On the women’s side in third-round play, the future of American tennis met reality, and it wasn’t pretty.
World No. 1 Serena Williams rolled over former junior world No. 1 and American wildcard CiCi Bellis 6-1, 6-1.
“It was tough,” said the 33-year-old William’s of the 15-year-old’s brief time on the big stage in Miami. “She’s young, and her being an American and her just doing so well, you want to see people like her do well. So when you’re up against them you have to kind of put that aside, even though I’m always cheering for her. But I have to put it aside and just play the match.”
It was the same age Serena made her debut as a pro, to similar results back then.
“I was pretty nervous,” Bellis said. “I mean, she’s No. 1 in the world and like the best of all time for a reason. But it was a really good experience for me for the future, and I’m glad I got to do it. I’m happy I got the chance to play her. It was an eye opener, for sure.”
Williams will next face No. 24 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who came back from a break down in the third to upset No. 13 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Another upset was No. 27 Sabine Lisicki edging No. 5 Ana Ivanovic 7-6(4), 7-5 in the women’s late match.
Other seeded winners on Sunday were No. 3 Simona Halep defeating No. 30 Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5; No. 11 Sara Errani coming from a set down to beat No. 21 Garbine Muguruza 4-6, 6-4, 6-1; and No. 15 Flavia Pennetta edging former No. 1 and unseeded Victoria Azarenka 7-6(5), 7-6(6).
Halep, in the fourth round at Miami for the first time, will next meet Pennetta who she is 0-3 career against.
“I came from Indian Wells, where I won the title, so I have more confidence now to win matches,” Halep said. “And I like to play here. But I’m just trying to stay focused and keep improving every match. I want to fight for every chance.”
Unseeded risers Belinda Bencic and Sloane Stephens set up a fourth-round meeting with wins when the Swiss topped German qualifier Tatjana Maria 6-4, 7-5, and the American defeated Swede Johanna Larsson 6-4, 6-4.
Marquee matches to look for on Monday are (4) Caroline Wozniacki vs. (16) Venus Williams, (1) Serena Williams vs. (24) Svetlana Kuznetsova, (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (Q) Steve Darcis, (9) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (22) John Isner, and Sloane Stephens vs. Belinda Bencic.
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