NADAL IN SHOW OF STRENGTH

Rafa sweeps past Sela, Dim­itrov top­pled

New Straits Times - - Sport -

RAFAEL Nadal cruised past Is­raeli Dudi Sela in the sec­ond round of the Mi­ami Open on Fri­day while Kei Nishikori and Mi­los Raonic also en­joyed com­fort­able vic­to­ries as the top seeds got un­der­way.

But there was an up­set for ninth-seeded Bul­gar­ian Grigor Dim­itrov, who was beaten by 158th ranked Ar­gen­tine Guido Pella, and for France’s 11th seeded Lu­cas Pouille who was de­feated by Amer­i­can Don­ald Young, ranked 51st in the world.

With plenty of back­ing from the South Florida crowd, Nadal never looked in trou­ble against the 83rd ranked Sela as he ran out 63, 6-4 win­ner in one hour and 20 min­utes.

Rain de­lays ear­lier in the day pushed back Nadal’s ap­pear­ance on court and gusty con­di­tions also made it tricky for the for­mer World No 1.

“It has been very tough and long day for ev­ery­one I think. Rain de­lay a cou­ple of times and then the wind was very, very high,” he said. The Spa­niard is look­ing to win his first Mi­ami ti­tle af­ter los­ing in the fi­nal four

times in his ca­reer.

Ja­panese sec­ond seed Nishikori beat big-serv­ing South African Kevin An­der­son 6-4, 6-3 on cen­tre court and will face Fer­nando Ver­dasco of Spain.

Nishikori, beaten by No­vak Djokovic in last year’s Mi­ami fi­nal, didn’t face a break point in the con­test and won 88 per cent of his first-serve points.

The 27-year-old said he was look­ing to make a break­through in one of the slams this year and be­lieves a win in Mi­ami could give him the boost in be­lief that he needs.

“I think if I can win big tour­na­ments like this or some Masters, that’s go­ing to give me a lot of con­fi­dence for sure. That’s my next goal, to win the big tour­na­ments,” he said.

Canada’s Raonic was re­turn­ing from al­most a month on the side­lines due to a right leg in­jury and en­joyed a 6-3, 7-5 vic­tory over Ser­bia’s Vik­tor Troicki.

The Cana­dian was in charge of the open­ing set and at 3-1 up in the sec­ond, it looked all over but Troicki forced things back to level at 5-5 be­fore Raonic got the cru­cial break.

In­ter­mit­tent rain and high winds made it tough at times for both play­ers but Raonic said he was glad to get back on court.

“Con­di­tions ob­vi­ously weren’t ideal but I have to be very happy with just the out­come,” he said adding he was still not in the best shape phys­i­cally.

Dim­itrov made 38 un­forced er­rors in his loss to Pella, who showed some great flair from the base­line.

Al­though the Ar­gen­tine wob­bled with a dou­ble fault on his first match point up 6-3 in the sec­ond-set tie-break, Dim­itrov’s back­hand on the next point was wide and handed the 26-year-old the win.

Young con­tin­ued his ex­cel­lent form with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Pouille.

The Amer­i­can, who reached the round of 16 at In­dian Wells, where he also beat the French­man, is now 12-5 in 2017.

He’ll play an­other French­man, Benoit Paire, who beat 21st seed Pablo Cuevas, in the next round. AFP

Rafael Nadal

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