Zeballos Survives Verdasco, Djokovic Remains On Track At Miami Open

Horacio Zeballos (photo: Miami Open)

MIAMI, March 28, 2016

World number one Novak Djokovic headlined Sunday’s third round action in the top half of the draw of the Miami Open presented by Itaú.

The 28-year-old Serbian outlasted Joao Sousa for the third time in as many meetings with the Portuguese, winning 6-4, 6-1. Djokovic lost his service two times but converted six of his own 12 break point chances to remain on track to capture his sixth crown at Crandon Park.

“He made me play,” Djokovic said after the 77 minutes encounter. “He made me push myself harder in the second set because he was staying close to the baseline and picking up the balls very efficiently, which I wasn’t expecting. I thought he was going to be playing from back of the court a little bit more.

“He was taking time away from me, especially from the side he was playing with the wind. He’s a good player, he’s very talented, he’s very quick around the court; he served well. I started to read his serve better in the second and just didn’t give him enough rhythm to maneuver.

“That first set came down to a few points,” Djokovic added. “After that, it was quite a good performance. In the second set I felt much more comfortable. I was serving very well the entire day. I’m glad that I managed to finish the match the way I did. Obviously, it gives me confidence for the next one.”

Djokovic will play 14th seed Dominic Thiem next, who defeated Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2. The 22-year-old Austrian didn’t face a break point and capitalized on four of his own to advance after 64 minutes.

Tomas Berdych (photo: Miami Open)

Tomas Berdych (photo: Miami Open)

Tomas Berdych advanced to the fourth round for the eighth time in the last nine years, winning 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 over Steve Johnson. The world number seven from the Czech Republic fired 16 aces, saved all  break points he faced, converting two of his own to prevail in two hours and 43 minutes.

“Today it was more about the heat and the conditions out there than tactics,” Berdych told. “The experience from the past was very helpful today, as I knew how to deal with the situation and how to behave throughout that long match. That was the deciding point to get me through.

“The second set was very intense with a good level of tennis, especially in the tie-break, when he started with four aces. Then I made about five or six points in a row, had match point, but eventually there was a deciding third set,” Berdych analyzed and feels confident overall.

“I feel good. I like that the conditions are special here. That’s a kind of extra challenge. That suits my game. I am feel good on court, which is the most important thing.”

Berdych will face the tournament’s number 10 Richard Gasquet next, who emerged victorious from the all-French-encounter with Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-0. The 29-year-old didn’t face a break point and capitalized on four of his own to advance after 57 minutes.

Lucas Pouille saved one match point, upsetting eighth seed David Ferrer 6-7, 7-6, 7-5. The 22-year-old Frenchman sent down eight aces, saved 11 of the 17 break points he faced to score his biggest win his career after two hours and 45 minutes. Pouille will play the tournament’s number 18 and compatriot Gilles Simon, who took out 11t seed Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and 46 minutes.

David Goffin cruised past Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round in Miami for the second straight year. The 15th seed from Belgium lost his serve only once but broke his opponent five times to finish the encounter after only 54 minutes.

Goffin will take on lucky loser Horacio Zeballos next, who replaced number three seed Roger Federer in the draw. The 30-year-old Argentine celebrated a titanic 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 triumph, saving one match point against Fernando Verdasco. Zeballos hit eight aces to reach the fourth round in Miami for the first time after two hours and 34 minutes.

“Winning that match today was the equivalent of playing seven Challengers in terms of points and winnings,” Zeballos said. “So I’m very happy, a little tired, but very excited to be for the first time in the fourth round of a Masters 1000 tournament, having won two matches against opponents who are more accomplished than me and that gives me confidence that I can play at this level and I can keep improving my game.

“These wins are very significant because they will help my ranking, and that will help me get into bigger tournaments,” Zeballos continued. “The stands were full, it was my first time beating Verdasco, so it was huge for me.”

He was also nervous, as Zeballos’ wife is expecting to deliver in the next few days. The due date is April 10. “I would leave if the baby is born. That is a unique moment that would be worth 100,000 finals,” the Argentine told.