By Mario Sarmento
Rafael Nadal has been playing like a man who is hungry to win his first Sony Open Tennis tournament title, and Tuesday night, No. 14 Fabio Fognini was his latest victim in a 6-2, 6-2 victory that moved the top seed into the quarterfinals.
Nadal has dropped just nine games in his first three matches so far, and he was perfect in his service games in the first set, winning all 16 points on his first and second serve to win all four games at love. Nadal ended the match winning a remarkable 22 of 23 first-serve points, good for 96 percent, and he was 10-12 on his second serve, an 83 percent clip.
“I made very few mistakes and I tried to go for the points when I had the chance,” he said after playing on a breezy night. Nadal is now 33-8 in the Sony Open, and he improved to 4-0 lifetime against Fognini. His reward is a quarterfinal date with No. 12 seed Milos Raonic, who beat Benjamin Becker in straight sets earlier in the day, 6-3, 6-4.
Top seed Serena Williams took another step towards an unprecedented seventh Sony Open title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 5 Angelique Kerber in the women’s quarterfinals on Stadium Court Tuesday. Williams has gotten stronger as the tournament has worn on, winning her second consecutive straight-set match after dropping her only set in the third round. “I feel much better,” she said. “I played a top-10 player so I knew I had to play much better.”
Williams took charge from the start, breaking Kerber twice en route to winning the opening set in 31 minutes. Her powerful serve and forehand flummoxed her German counterpart all night, as Williams racked up 28 winners for the match to Kerber’s 11. She was also opportunistic, converting on 4-7 break point chances. Williams, who improved to 4-1 lifetime against Kerber, is now all-time women’s best 65-7 at the Sony Open.
She’ll face a familiar foe in the semifinals, Maria Sharapova, whom Williams beat in last year’s final, and against whom she has a 15-2 lifetime record. Sharapova, the fourth seed, beat Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1 earlier in the day. “Well, I love playing her,” Williams said. “I really do. Doesn’t matter what surface or anything. She’s one of my favorite people to play. And so I think that helps, too, when you like playing people. I think it just gets you really pumped.”
In men’s fourth-round play, No. 7 Tomas Berdych ended American and 10th seed John Isner’s bid for a Sony Open title with a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Berdych will play Alexandr Dolgopolov, a surprise 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 winner over three seed Stanislas Wawrinka in a quarterfinal match.
In men’s doubles, world No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan reached the semifinals with a 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over No. 5 David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco. The brothers will play No. 8 Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut of France, who defeated Feliciano Lopez and Max Mirnyi 7-6 (6), 6-0 earlier in the day.
On the women’s side, No. 2 Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina outlasted Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova 3-6, 6-2 (10-8) to reach the women’s semifinals, where they will play No. 8 seed Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears of the United States. Kops-Jones and Spears beat Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 1-6, 6-4 (10-5).