Kerber books clash with Venus

World number one Angelique Kerber despatched Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki 6-2, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal clash with Venus Williams on Monday at the Miami Open.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams fought past Russian seventh-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) to reach the last eight.

Fourth-seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia crashed out to the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova and ailing French Open champion Garbine Muguruza also bowed out in the fourth round.

Kerber took charge early, breaking twice to establish a 4-1 lead and she was in firm control from then on.

The German said that while her opponent may only have been ranked 87th she had studied Ozaki’s game closely before the contest.

“She came through the qualies, she beat good players, so I was ready for it,” Kerber said.

“I talked with my team and I knew that she’s moving good and bringing a lot of balls back. I was trying to play my game and be aggressive.”

Williams cruised through the first set before Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion and runner-up at Indian Wells last week, fought back to take the second set to a tie-break.

It was a fierce battle for the decisive points, Kuznetsova going 4-1 up, but after two lengthy rallies, both of which were won by the 36-year-old Williams, the oldest player in the tournament emerged victorious.

The victory, sealed with a delicate slice at the net, was Williams’ first against a top 10 opponent since 2015.

“It was tough out there,” Williams said. “She is like a wall. To come back in the tie-break was great, I hope I can keep that tennis up.”

Safarova, ranked 36th in the world, moved into the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 victory over Cibulkova, which was her first triumph against a top 10 opponent since 2015.

Illness has disrupted Safarova’s campaigns over the past two years but the seven-time WTA title winner, looks to be on the right track. “I feel healthy now — thank God and I’ll keep trying to push my limits more and more,” she said.

The 30-year-old Czech will face Dane Caroline Wozniacki who advanced when Spain’s Muguruza retired feeling ill after being edged in a first set tie-break.

In an all-Czech clash, number two seed Karolina Pliskova enjoyed a 6-1, 6-4 win over Barbora Strycova.

Pliskova will come up against Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni whose impressive late career revival continued with the 35-year-old beating American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 6-4.

– Halep hangs on -Lucic-Baroni said she was benefitting from a more thoughtful approach to preparation.

“I’ve always worked hard, but we’re working much smarter now,” she said.

”We’re not murdering me six hours a day anymore, but we’re doing good things.”

While she has never appeared in the Miami quarters before, this will be her third quarter-final appearance in her last four WTA events and she goes into the match knowing she beat Piliskova in the last eight in the Australian Open.

Romanian third seed Simona Halep showed her trademark fighting spirit in an enthralling win against Australia’s Samantha Stosur, coming back from a set and 5-2 down in the second, saving a match point before going on to win the third set.

“I’ve been always like this,” Halep said. “I never give up, I don’t like to give up matches. I am here to play, away from home, I am going to give my all, always.”

Federer blows past Delpo in Miami

In-form Roger Federer powered his way into the fourth round of the Miami Open with a 6-3 6-4 win over Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro on Monday.

Del Potro always enjoys plenty of crowd support in Miami, which has a large Argentine community, and it was the same story again with football-style chants of support ringing out for the 28-year-old on a packed Crandon Park center court.

It was the pair’s first meeting since 2013 and having won 15 of the previous 21 encounters, Federer was favorite – but the crowd factor gave the third round match an added edge.

“Shortly before I walked out to the court you could sense the atmosphere. That’s when I told myself, Just be prepared for something different, you know. It was different,” Federer said.

He was forced to save four break points in the first set but he got ahead with a thundering forehand to take a 5-3 lead and served out for the set.

The Argentine had a chance to turn things around when he had a break point when down 4-3 in the second set but Federer, moving well and looking full of confidence, held firm and wrapped up the match in one hour and 22 minutes.

“I felt like I was in control and I was able to generate more chances than he did,” Federer said.

“I felt like he got his chances a little bit out of nowhere, maybe because I dropped my level ever so slightly and gave him few easy points, and that’s how he sort of got more chances on my serve.

“I feel like I earned it more. I was more the aggressor. It was more on my racquet, and I like it that way,” added the Swiss, who won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.

Federer, whose successful return from a six-month injury layoff has also included a win at Indian Wells this month, will face 14th seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the next round.

Federer’s compatriot and top-seed Stan Wawrinka defeated Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-4.

Wawrinka saved all six break points he faced and converted two of his four break opportunities and will now face Alexander Zverev of Germany in the fourth round on Tuesday.

Zverev pulled off a remarkable win over American John Isner, saving three match points as he came back from a set down to triumph 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/5).

Czech Tomas Berdych, Miami finalist in 2010, defeated Gilles Muller 6-3, 6-4 while Australia’s Nick Kyrgios held off a strong effort from big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic on the way to a 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-2) win.

Kyrgios will play Belgian David Goffin, who narrowly edged a three-set thriller against Argentine Diego Schwartzmann.

Linares retains lightweight title

Venezuela’s Jorge Linares retained his WBA lightweight title on Saturday on a unanimous points decision against big-hearted Anthony Crolla of Britain.

Linares had Crolla on the canvas in the seventh round but the British fighter showed great determination and grit to last the 12-round distance.

Linares was declared the winner 118-109 on all three of the judges’ scorecards.

The Venezuelan had also beaten 30-year-old Crolla in September and now has a record of 42 wins against just three losses.

“Jorge Linares is a great fighter and a great champion,” Crolla said of an opponent who has not lost for five years.

“He’s proved that again tonight. He caught me with a great shot. Before that I was trying to close the distance and I thought that I was going to get to him but he moved very well. I can say I got beat off the better man. No excuses.”

Linares hailed his opponent.

“I want to tell everyone in Manchester, Anthony Crolla has some big balls. He had a lot of heart and that’s why he made it to the 12th round with me,” said the Venezuelan.

ZEUGE RETAINS WBA BELT

WBA super-middleweight champion Tyron Zeuge, 20-0-1, 11, retained his belt on a fifth round technical decision against Isaac Ekpo, 31-3; 24, at the MBS Arena in Potsdam, Germany on Saturday night.

Zeuge sustained a bad cut over his right eye after a clash of heads in the third round.

The referee decided to stop the fight in the fifth round and go to the scorecards, in accordance with the rules.

The scores were 49-46, 48-47 and 49-47, all in favour of Zeuge.

Mukala wins WBA Pan African title

South Africa’s Patrick Mukala won the vacant WBA Pan African super-middleweight title when he stopped Daniel Lartey of Ghana in the eighth round, at the Kempton Park Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday night.

In a fight that never rose to any real heights, Mukala (76.05 kg) dominated from the opening round and possibly won every round as he used his left jab to dominate Lartey (76.15 kg).

The South African came out fast at the opening bell and stunned Lartey with a big right hand, but then lost his way through the next six rounds as the fight developed into a mauling affair.

However, in the eighth round Lartey was dropped against the ropes where he stood talking to his corner-men and refusing to fight on. Referee Wally Snowball had no option but to wave the fight off at 2:16 into the round.

Mukala improved his record to 8-0; 7 and Lartey’s record dropped to 10-1; 3.

Other results from the weekend:

Junior middleweight: Roarke Knapp W pts 6 Mandla Mpofu; Junior welterweight: Marcus Lebogo, W pts 6 Tshifhiwe Munyai; Junior middleweight: Cowin Ray W tko 2 Akhona Dibi; Junior middleweight: Mark Farah W ko1 Phakamani Mthethwa; Junior middleweight: Etienne van Niekerk, W pts 4 Welcome Malubu; Bantamweight: Sikho Nqothole W tko 1 Thabo Malesa.

In the three scheduled eight-rounders, Super-middleweight Barend Van Rooyen W pts 8 Walter Dlamini; Junior -middleweight: Brandon Thysse W tko 1 Azizi Mponda; Junior middleweight: Emmany Kolombo W tko 5 France Ramabolu.

Kenya win debut mixed relay in Kampala

Kenya opened up their medal count at the ongoing IAAF World Cross Country Championships with a gold medal in the mixed relay after clocking an impressive 22:22 on Sunday at the Kololo Independence Grounds.

The new event comprised of two men and two women with each running a loop of the course.

The reigning world 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop, set the pace in the first loop with a good advantage over Ethiopian Tufa, who posed a challenge after four minutes but that lasted just 25 seconds as Kiprop kicked in to regain his lead and hand Winfred Nzisa Mbithe a six-second advantage.

Mbithe sprung into action with a well-established lead over Ethiopia’s Bone Cheluke to prepare the way for Bernard Kipkorir Koros, who dwarfed Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha.

It was clear from the onset that the battle was between the world powerhouses, Kenya and Ethiopia, but the former was stronger on the day.

With a good lead, Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech maintained the lead, despite the challenge set by reigning Olympic silver medalist Genzebe Dibaba, who came close on the home stretch but the damage was done and Kenya walked away with the gold medals.

The +0.08 lead over Ethiopia for the gold announced Kenya’s intentions at the world event that has attracted 59 countries.

Turkey settled for third place while hosts Uganda finished fourth, +0.41 seconds behind the gold medalists.

Bahrain, Morocco and United States followed suit in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively while Tanzania, Spain and Eritrea completed the top-10 line-up.

The mixed relay, that is debuting at the world event, was well-enjoyed by the Ugandan fans at Kololo.

Kerber advances at Miami Open

World number one Angelique Kerber came back from a break down in both sets to beat American Shelby Rogers 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday and move into the fourth round at the Miami Open.

With no sign of the rain that interrupted the past two days on Key Biscayne, Kerber was joined in the round of 16 by Britain’s Johanna Konta, American Venus Williams and Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova all who had comfortable wins.

Although ranked 61st in the world, Rogers has beaten Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina in the last year and had her eye on beating the top seed.

An upset looked possible when the American won the first three games of the opening set but Kerber recovered to win six of the next seven.

It was a similar story in the second set where Rogers, having saved a break point, hit some good winners to go 4-2 up only for the German to power back and secure a fourth round meeting with Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki who beat German Julia Georges 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

“If you win the match, you’re always happy about your performance. In the second set, she was 4-2 up and we’d played a long game. That was important because she was playing well, but I was staying positive and believing in my chances. I think that was the key to the match,” Kerber said.

Williams had no such difficulties in beating Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig, 6-3, 6-0 to set up a tough challenge against Russia’s Kuznetsova.

“We’ve had a lot of great matches. I played her in the very beginning of her career and now we both have had great careers that are continuing to be amazing,” Williams said.

“I know her game. I don’t think there will be any surprises. She knows mine. I just want to continue to control the court. That’s what I’ll try to do.”

Kuznetsova, beaten finalist in Indian Wells last week, was broken early by confident American Taylor Townsend.

Townsend had beaten experienced Italian Roberta Vinci in the previous round, but Kuznetsova wasn’t about to be another victim and took four straight games to take the set and then never looked in danger.

Tenth seed Konta beat 57th ranked Pauline Parmentier of France, 6-4, 6-0 looking in better form than she had in laboring to a three-set win over Belarussian Aliaksandra Sasnovichher in two-hours and 40 minutes.

The contest turned in Konta’s direction when she converted her third break point to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and the Australian-born Briton lost just five points in the second set.

Conditions were much improved over the gusty winds of her opening match, but Konta said she was pleased with both victories.

“My first round was very good because I could get through a difficult situation. Today was a cleaner match, so in that sense, it was also a good performance,” she said.

Rafael Nadal wins in 1 000th match, Raonic withdraws

Rafael Nadal celebrated his 1 000th tour level match with a come-from-behind victory over German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber to reach the fourth round of the Miami Open on Sunday.

World number 31 Kohlschreiber was on fire early, ripping through the first set in only 21 minutes but fifth seed Nadal flipped the switch and turned the match on its head to prevail 0-6 6-2 6-3 on the main stadium hard court at Crandon Park.

It was the first time Nadal had failed to win a game in the first set of an ATP tour match since 2008, the ATP said.

The 30-year-old Spaniard ignited the near-capacity crowd with a typically determined comeback to clinch his 822nd career victory.

He joins a small group of 11 players headed by Jimmy Connors (1 535) to have played at least 1 000 matches.

“One thousand matches is a lot of matches. Obviously that’s good news because that says I am having a long career,” Nadal told reporters.

“During a lot of years, I heard that I’m going to have a short career, so it’s something important for me. I remember the first match very well because it was at home in Mallorca. It was my first victory on the ATP and was a great feeling.”

Nadal said he had not done much wrong in the first set against an opponent who was in the zone.

“He was doing everything good, so that’s sport. I lose the set because he was playing too good. That’s it.

“But a match is long and the positive thing is I held the pressure well this afternoon after a very tough first set. I resisted well in the first few games of the second set and then I think I played a great second and third set.”

While Nadal played in the relative comfort of the late afternoon, Kei Nishikori also took three sets and nearly three hours to advance under a high noon sun, outlasting Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 7-6(2) 6-7(5) 6-1.

Nishikori, the runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year, fired 37 winners but Verdasco, aided by persistent swirling winds, used his varying pace and depth to rattle Japan’s No 1, inducing 48 unforced errors.

Milos Raonic withdrew before his match against American qualifier Jared Donaldson, blaming a persistent hamstring injury.

“It’s related to the previous injury I sustained almost four weeks ago… in Delray Beach,” the Canadian told reporters.

Raonic said he would not return to the tour until he felt 100 percent fit.

“That could be in two weeks, that could be a little bit longer.”