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Miami Masters: Murray marches on; Berdych survives a scare

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 25:  Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria congratulates Andy Murray of Great Britain after their match during the Sony Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center

KEY BISCAYNE, FL – MARCH 25: Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria congratulates Andy Murray of Great Britain after their match during the Sony Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center

The round of 32 of the Miami Masters at Crandon Park turned into a near mayhem that was only prevented by some fine brinkmanship from the fancied lot who averted an early exit as they scrambled into the round of 16. Andy Murray, the second seed, was almost ambushed by Grigor Dimitrov, before the Scot prevailed 7-6(3), 6-3 in a shade less than two hours. Tomas Berdych had to save two match points before he could subdue an obdurate Alejandro Falla 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 to remain interested in the tournament. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga though bucked the trend as he coasted to a relatively straight forward 6-3, 6-3 victory over Jarkko Nieminen to advance to the fourth round of the ATP Masters Series 1000 event in Miami.

Dimitrov is a sight to watch and, with such outrageous talent, almost certainly on his way to a storied career. But then the 21- year-old has gremlins walking about his head at crunch moments. The Russian squandered two opportunities to close out the first set at 5-2 and the Scot took advantage of the tender head to hold serve and force Dimitrov to serve for the set.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Dimitrov had the opportunity to serve out the first set over Novak Djokovic. He responded by sending down four double faults to give away the initiative to the Serbian. In a similar vein, Dimitrov somehow conjured three double faults from a position of strength at 5-3, 30-30. Murray embraced the generosity of his opponent to force the tie-breaker and take control of the match.

Murray will face the Italian Andreas Seppi for a spot in the last eight, as he pushes forth to try and go one better on his runner-up finish last year. The Scot can usurp Roger Federer in the rankings if he can win his 9th Masters Series title on Sunday. 16th seeded Seppi needed more than two hours to get past the Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the round of 16.

“It was obviously way cooler today, much slower conditions,” said Murray. “The ball wasn’t going as quick. I was leaving the ball a bit short. Once I started to improve my depth a bit, I made it tough for him and he started to make more mistakes after that.”

Richard Gasquet drew even with Mikhail Youzhny with a fourth career victory over the Russian in eight meetings. The world No. 10 needed only 88 minutes to register a 6-3, 6-4 victory to reach the next round. The Frenchman will face off against Nicolas Almagro, who also won his match 6-3, 6-4 over the gradually progressing David Goffin.

Tsonga served five aces and saved both break points on his watch as he eased past Nieminen with a couple of breaks in the first and another in the second to complete his duties for the day in an hour and 6 minutes. His next opponent might pose a more probing test – Marin Cilic got the better of John Isner 6-3, 7-6(3) in an expectedly fast-paced encounter.

Cilic was broken in the very first game, but recovered well to break his opponent in the second and sixth games to bag the first set. There were no breaks of serve in the second but Cilic prevailed by taking the ensuing tie-break 7-3. It was the first breaker that Isner lost this year in ten instances.

In the match of the day, Berdych needed nearly two and a half hours to force his way past his determined Colombian opponent. The Czech made an edgy start and Falla punished him by breaking in the first and fifth games as he ran away with the first set in just 32 minutes without facing a single break point.

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 25:  Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic plays a match against Alejandro Falla of Columbia during day eight of the Sony Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center

KEY BISCAYNE, FL – MARCH 25: Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic plays a match against Alejandro Falla of Columbia during day eight of the Sony Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center

Falla broke again in the third game and was on the verge of an improbable victory. Berdych saved a match point on his serve in the ninth game. Falla could have served out the match in the tenth game, but instead ended up conceding the first break point of the match to Berdych. The Czech took it with both hands before forcing the breaker.

Berdych had to save another match point at 5-6 in the breaker, but won the next three points to force the decider. He then rode the momentum swing to break in the fifth game of the third set before serving out the match on his second match point in the tenth game. The world no. 6 served 12 aces and made the most of the two break point opportunities that came his way in a tense contest.

His next opponent only had to put up his legs and enjoy the hospitality at Crandon Park to move into the next round. Sam Querrey was the beneficiary of a withdrawal from his opponent Milos Raonic, who was forced out of Miami with illness. “I had a fever before my first round going into the match and it just got really bad over the last two nights,” Raonic said. “I just feel completely drained. I was able to get rid of most of the fever, but I’m still low.”

The last Indian standing, Rohan Bopanna, was also shunted out of the tournament. Bopanna and Rajeev Ram succumbed to a 4-6, 6-7(5) defeat at the hands of second seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. The Spaniards had Bopanna and Ram constantly on the mat and even though the Indo-American duo saved 13 off the 17 break points faced, the pressure eventually got the better of them.

The pre-quarters will be played on Tuesday – David Ferrer, Murray and Tsonga have their matches scheduled during the day. The showpiece night match is the contest between Novak Djokovic and Tommy Haas. The Serbian has a 4-2 edge over the veteran German, having beaten in both their matches last year in Toronto and Shanghai.

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