There are not many tournaments that Rafael Nadal has not won, but the world number one tennis player started off his effort to triumph at the Sony Open in dazzling form. It took Nadal just over an hour, a mere 69 minutes, to dispatch the veteran Australian with a 6-1, 6-3 victory in the second round of the Sony Open. Despite Hewitt’s best efforts, he just could not compete with the sheer power and perfection of Nadal’s playing. The Australian has been unable to take a set off the Spaniard since 2007 and his attempt to change that bleak statistic was not aided by his high number of unenforced errors. A perfect gentleman as always concerning gamesmanship, Nadal paid tribute to the example that Hewitt provides as a passionate and committed player with a fighting spirit so similar to the Spaniard’s own. Despite his loss, Hewitt is actually only one of three (the other two being Nadal and Federer) to clock up 600 wins in his time on court – a testament to the length and success of his tennis career. Thus while Nadal remains merciless in his ability to hammer Hewitt on court, he displays the utmost respect for his fellow player. Having lost three times in the final at the Sony Open, Nadal is hoping to go all the way this time and add to the extensive list of victories he already owns. His next match is against Denis Istomin.
Nadal’s number one female counterpart and the Sony Open defending champion, Serena Williams did not have such a straightforward round and her match against the French prodigy Caroline Garcia was further strained by a 45 minute third set rain delay. The tenacity and experience of Williams inevitably won out and the final result was 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to the American tour-de-force. Ever the perfectionist Williams was less than pleased with her result and although she tried not to take anything away from the French woman’s performance she made it apparent that she was certainly not on top form. At the age of 32 Williams continues to defy critics and skeptics on the subject of her ability to bounce back and maintain the strength of her performances. At times she is more than capable of hammering her opponents in the same fashion as Nadal, despite the fact that she struggled in this match. Another win for this veteran champion at the Sony Open tournament would provide her with yet another record of seven victories in Miami. Williams now faces fellow American Coco Vandeweghe ranked at 104; there should be no contest and Williams is the consummate survivor but it remains to be seen who will scrape through this time.
Sharapova, who was the runner-up in Miami last year and is currently ranked at number seven in the world, also struggled to finish things off. Her serve suffered with eight double faults and she had an uncharacteristically high number of unenforced errors during the match. Needing nine match points before finally clinching victory at 6-4, 6-7 (7/5), 6-2, the Russian confessed that she had been pushed by Czech Lucie Safarova and had not taken chances when they were given to her by her opponent. As no win for Sharapova is ever complete without a serious attempt to deafen her challenger and audience, the unnecessarily loud scream at the final point provided clear evidence of her relief at making it through to the next round. The high decibel delight has her next game against the Belgian Kristen Flipkins ranked number 23. It looks set to be a close match and certainly a harder draw than Williams received but Sharapova can never be counted out until the final net call and has struggled through a number of close situations.
It was an exciting couple of rounds for the spectators in Miami as the Sony Open saw Nadal hammer Hewitt while the inimitable Williams and Sharapova struggled through, neither very happy with their respective performances. It remains to be seen who will come out on top as particularly the men’s draw features some key players – Djokovic is aiming for his fourth win at the tournament, Federer seems to be back on form, the defending champion Murray is in play after a back injury and Nadal as always is a clear contender for the trophy.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion