Tennis round-up: Djokovic and Nadal advance at Qatar Open

Round-ups from Qatar, Brisbane, Auckland and Shenzhen, as well as news of Serena Williams at the Hopman Cup.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Fernando Verdasco of Spain during their second round match of the Qatar Open tennis tournament at the Khalifa Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, 06 January 2016. EPA
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Qatar Open

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both advanced to the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open on Wednesday.

Djokovic beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, saving two break points during the match.

The top-ranked Serb, who is now 8-4 against Verdasco, improved his winning streak against Spaniards to 17 matches, dating back to a 2014 loss to Tommy Robredo.

Djokovic will play eighth-seeded Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Nadal beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard saved both break points he faced.

Nadal will next face Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia.


In pictures: Nadal, Djokovic through in Doha, Murray and Watson lose in Hopman Cup

Also, seventh-seeded Jeremy Chardy defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.

Djokovic breezed through to the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open on Wednesday, losing just four games in a comprehensive defeat of Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.

The World No 1 triumphed 6-2, 6-2, in one hour nine minutes.

It matched the score of his first-round victory against Dustin Brown and means the Serb has spent just two hours on court in the first two rounds.

“Both of the matches went very well,” said the Serb immediately afterwards, adding he had put in a “very solid performance” on Wednesday.

Ominously for his rivals, Djokovic looked already to be getting back to his dominant form of 2015.

In warmer temperatures experienced in Doha than in the rest of the week, around 20°C, Djokovic controlled the match from the very beginning.

He first broke Verdasco’s serve in the fourth game to 15 and was rarely troubled after that.

The Serb squandered another break point just two games later but eventually closed out the set on Verdasco’s serve to go one up in just 31 minutes.

Verdasco, the world number 49 who had beaten Djokovic four times in their 11 previous meetings, offered some resistance in the second set but only enough to delay the inevitable.

The Spaniard, who may have been feeling the effects of his first round victory less than 24 hours before, missed two break opportunities in the second set and was made to pay.

Djokovic, was watched on by coach Boris Becker, the first winner of the Qatar Open back in 1993.

It is not yet known who Djokovic’s third round opponent will be, but it was at that stage last year that he crashed out of the Qatar Open, losing to Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic.

Earlier Jeremy Chardy won an all-French clash beating compatriot Paul-Henri Mathieu6-2, 6-4.

Men’s singles

Second round

Leonardo Mayer (ARG x8) bt Pablo Andújar (ESP) 6-2, 6-4

Jérémy Chardy (FRA x7) bt Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 6-2, 6-4

Illya Marchenko (UKR) bt Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-4, 6-2

Brisbane International

Japan’s Kei Nishikori overcame a slow start to cruise past Mikhail Kukushkin and move into the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International on Wednesday.

Nishikori lost his opening serve to go 2-0 down in the first set but soon recovered to get on top of Kukushkin and ease to a 6-3, 6-4 win.

“I thought it was a great match,” the second seed said.

“(But) I didn’t start quite well; I think he really started well.”

Nishikori, who reached the final of the US Open in 2014, was below his best in his first match of the season, particularly during the opening set.

His serve was initially poor but it improved as the match progressed and he faced only one break point in the second set.

“I think I served really well today. That’s also improving, so I’m very happy for that,” he said.

Nishikori also found his range with his groundstrokes and was able to force errors from his opponent from Kazakhstan.

“He was playing aggressive, great backhand, and I tried it mix up,” Nishikori said.

“I think I went to his backhand too much (but) I tried to move the ball around and start playing better.”

It was Nishikori’s fourth straight win over Kukushkin and ensured he reached at least the quarter-final stage in Brisbane for the fourth time in five years.

The world No 8 will now play seventh-seeded Australian Bernard Tomic, who beat Czech veteran Radek Stepanek 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.

Big-serving Croatian Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori to win the 2014 US Open, downed rising Korean star Chung Hyeon in two tight sets 7-5, 7-6.

Cilic will take on Austrian Dominic Thiem after the eighth seed’s comfortable 6-3, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla of the US.

Men’s singles

Second round

Dominic Thiem (AUT x8) bt Denis Kudla (USA) 6-3, 6-2

Kei Nishikori (JPN x2) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-3, 6-4

Marin Cilic (CRO x3) bt Chung Hyeon (KOR) 7-5, 7-6 (7/3)

Bernard Tomic (AUS x7) bt Radek Stepanek (CZE) 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4)

Women’s singles

Second round

Samantha Crawford (USA) bt Belinda Bencic (SUI x7) 7-5, 7-5

Angelique Kerber (GER x4) bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-3, 6-0

Andrea Petkovic (GER) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 7-5, 6-4

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) bt Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) 6-3, 6-2

Varvaro Lepchenko (USA) bt Garbine Muguruza (ESP x2) 7-6 (11/9), 1-0 retired

Shenzhen Open

Polish top seed Agnieszka Radwanska breezed through the second round of the WTA Shenzhen Open on Wednesday in straight sets, leaving her one of only two seeds left in the tournament.

The world No 5 and winner of the WTA Finals in Singapore in November sent her home opponent Zhang Shuai packing 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 10 minutes.

But Romanian third seed Irina-Camelia Begu went out, retiring halfway through the second set against Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam, having lost the first 7-5.

Begu’s compatriot, fourth seed Monica Niculescu, was also eliminated from the US$500,000 (Dh1.8 million) tournament in the southern Chinese boom town, with Hungary’s Tímea Babos, ranked 70 in the world, beating her 6-1, 6-4.

Aside from Radwanska, the only other seed to reach Thursday’s quarter-finals was Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, the number six seed beating Nicole Gibbs of the US 6-4, 6-2.

Women’s singles

Second round

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x1) bt Zhang Shuai (CHN) 6-1, 7-5

Wang Qiang (CHN) bt Vania King (USA) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3

Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) bt Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM x3) 7-5, 3-2 ret

Katerina Siniakova (CZE) bt Zarina Diyas (KAZ x7) 6-0, 6-4

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN x6) bt Nicole Gibbs (USA) 6-4, 6-2

Timea Babos (HUN) bt Monica Niculescu (ROM x4) 6-1, 6-4

Alison Riske (USA) bt Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE) 3-6, 7-5, 6-1

Anett Kontaveit (EST) bt Zheng Saisai (CHN) 6-1, 6-2

Aucland Classic

Svetlana Kuznetsova joined the growing list of seeded players making an early exit from the WTA Auckland Classic on Wednesday while tour battlers continued to shine.

Fourth seed Kuznetsova was beaten in straight sets by Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek while seventh seed Barbora Strycova went down to German Julia Goerges.

Going into the quarter-finals on Thursday, third-seed Caroline Wozniacki and fifth-seed Sloane Stephens are the only seeded players remaining and both are in the same half of the draw.

The exit of the big names began in the first round when Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic were both beaten.

Williams conqueror, Daria Kasatkina, could progress no further, beaten in her second match by 66th-ranked Nao Hibino of Japan.

However, Naomi Broady followed up from her upset victory over Ivanovic to come from one set down to beat Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 in a spiteful match.

During the second-set tie-break, Broady appealed for Ostapenko to be disqualified after the Latvian threw her racket and it appeared to hit a ballboy, however the umpire allowed play to continue.

“It was quite clear that she threw her racket and it hit a ball kid, which should be straight disqualified,” Broady said.

“The chair umpire said Jelena said to him that it slipped from her hand, so he said it was just a code violation or something.”

Paszek, ranked 172, and fellow qualifier Kirsten Flipkins, who turns 30 on Sunday and is ranked 85, have emerged as two of the strongest underdogs but are set to clash in the quarter-finals.

Flipkins made the final eight with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win over American Irina Falconi.

“Anything could happen from here. Paszek will be a tough opponent. She beat Kuznetsova quite easy. I saw a little bit of the match and she was on fire,” Flipkins said.

Women’s singles

Second round

Tamira Paszek (AUT) beat Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUSx4) 6-2, 6-3

Naomi Broady (GBR) bt Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5

Alexandra Dulgheru (ROM) bt Marina Erakovic (NZL) 7-6 (7/4), 6-3

Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x3) bt Christina McHale (USA) 6-0, 6-2

Sloane Stephens (USA x5) bt Carina Witthoeft (GER) 3-6, 6-1, 6-3

Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) bt Irina Falconi (USA) 6-1, 4-6, 6-

Julia Goerges (GER) bt Barbora Strycova (CZE x7) 6-4, 6 (9/7)

Nao Hibino (JPN) bt Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 7-5, 2-6, 7-5

Hopman Cup

World No 1 Serena Williams pulled out of the mixed teams Hopman Cup event due to a knee injury on Wednesday, less than two weeks before the start of the Australian Open.

After pulling out of Monday’s tie against Ukraine with inflammation in her knee, the 34-year-old American hobbled through her match against Australian Jarmila Wolfe the following day before deciding she could not go on.

She had refused to rule out returning to the court for the United States’ match against Czech Republic but officially put an end to that on Wednesday.

Williams will hope that the injury will not scupper her plans for the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on January 18.

“I have some knee inflammation that’s going away very slowly. It’s going, it just needs a little more time,” Serena had told reporters after retiring against Wolfe.

“Maybe a day off or two will really make the world of difference.

“It’s not even a bump, just a really minor thing in the road and I’ll fly over it.”

Williams, who was using the event as preparation for her tilt at a 22nd grand slam singles title, will be replaced in the US team by Vicky Duval.

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