By Mario Sarmento
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal continues to roll through the men’s 2014 Sony Open Tennis tournament draw like his beloved Furia Roja soccer team has rolled through opponents in each of the last three international tournaments. In the last match of Monday’s day session, Nadal was nearly perfect in a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Denis Istomin that moves the Spaniard into the fourth round.
“I played a very complete match,” Nadal said. “Talking about the things that you can do well on the tennis courts, I think I did the most because not every match is perfect, but I did a lot of things well. No mistakes, serving with a good percentage, and playing a lot of winners.”
Nadal’s forehand was devastating against Istomin, as he produced 10 of his 16 winners in the match via his favorite shot. Nadal improved to 4-0 all-time against the Uzbekistani player, and he will face No. 14 seed Fabio Fognini, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut. “He’s an opponent that is playing great,” Nadal said. “He has an amazing talent. Great forehand, great backhand, but he is able to hit winners from every part of the court.”
Venus Williams and No. 10 seed Dominika Cibulkova entertained the fans in the last match of the night by going the distance, with Cibulkova finally pulling out a 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 victory to put her in the quarterfinals. “I played against Venus Williams and I knew it was going to be tough,” Cibulkova said. “I knew she would fight and she would come back. She’s a great champion.”
Cibulkova’s forehand was the key to her first-set win that took just 34 minutes. But in the second set, Williams rallied behind her serve and her grit, breaking Cibulkova in the last game to even the match. In the third set, Cibulkova played more aggressively, and she was able to break Williams four times, including the final game, where fittingly, a crosscourt forehand winner ended the match. Twenty of Cibulkova’s 33 winners on the night came on her forehand.
Next up, the Slovakian star will face No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who outlasted Elina Svitolina earlier in the night, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-2. In the first match of the night session, 10th-seeded American John Isner downed No. 18 Nicolas Almagro of Spain 7-5, 6-3. Isner will face No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Joao Sousa in the fourth round Tuesday.
In women’s fourth-round play, No. 2 Li Na powered past Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-0, 6-2, and will next face No. 11 Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated American Varvara Lepchenko, 6-0, 6-1. No. 8 Petra Kvitova rallied from a set down to defeat No. 12 Ana Ivanovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-0. Kvitova’s reward is a date with No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova in the quarters, after Sharapova defeated Kirsten Flipkens earlier in the day.
In men’s doubles, the No. 1-seeded Bryan brothers swept Oliver Marach and Dmitry Tursunov 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals. Their opponents will be No. 5 David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco of Spain. In women’s doubles, No. 2 Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina advanced to the quarters with a 5-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenfeld.