After the shock of the double semi-final walkovers, the Sony Open in Miami is now set for a final showdown with the top two players in the mens game, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Neither player has been required to lift their racquet since their quart-final victories however, as both of their semi-final opponents withdrew from the competition at short notice. Kei Nishikori, the Japanese man who knocked out Federer, was due to face Djokovic in the first semi-final however after two extremely hard matches against fourth seed David Ferrer and then against Federer, he was forced to withdraw due to a groin injury in his left leg. Nadal’s scheduled opponent, Thomas Berdych, was similarly unlucky as he pulled out just four hours after Nishikori due to a nasty bout of gastroenteritis.
This is the first incident of a double walkover in the semi-finals of an ATP Tour competition since 1968. It was particularly disappointing for many of the spectators who had flocked to Miami expecting to be able to watch two exciting and highly anticipated tennis matches. Almost 1000 people had arrived at the Sony Open for the Nadal match before they were made aware of the unfortunate situation and there were many jeers in response. The director of the tournament, Adam Barrett, stated he had no desire to set such a record and it was not a good day for the competition.
The players were equally apologetic. Both Berdych and Nishikori pulled out less than two hours before their respective games and commented that they had tried to do everything they could to be fit enough to play. Nishikori stated that while he would not need surgery, he would be flying back to Japan to see a specialist and did not know how long the injury would keep him from competing. Berdych stated he was extremely sorry but had felt so dehydrated and exhausted from the stomach pains he had endured since Friday morning that he was just unable to perform on court. Meanwhile Nadal felt sorry for everyone, Nishikori, Berdych, the tournament itself, but mainly the disappointed fans saying that it was “very unlucky, very unusual”. Djokovic was slightly more pragmatic stating that it was just something “you kind of have to deal with”. Djokovic did state that this was the first time he had ever received two walkovers in one tournament, as his third round opponent, Floridian Meyer, also pulled out.
The upcoming showdown between Nadal and Djokovic will surely make for a mesmerizing Sony Open final with the chances of a straight set victory unlikely for either player. Their rivalry is now starting to be compared to the legendary competition between Nadal and former world number one Roger Federer. Nadal leads their rivalry 22-17, however they tied 3-3 last year and with so little to choose between them in both rankings and ability, statistics mean little when attempting to place bets on which player will come out on top. Djokovic has said he feels prepared for the challenge that Nadal always presents, saying that his recent win a few weeks ago at Indian Wells has given him confidence in his ability to succeed. If he won this would be his fourth victory in Miami whereas this is one of only three ATP tournaments Nadal has yet to win. However, regardless of which of these brilliant players gets their name on the trophy at the end, it will not make any difference to the rankings and they will both remain in their current positions of number one and two respectively.
So while many fans are still upset at missing out on the semi-final action, maybe the promise of such a perfect final showdown at the Sony Open with Nadal and Djokovic will off-set these lingering feelings. The match is scheduled to take place today at 2.30pm – hopefully it will live up to expectation.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion