By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – For only the fifth time in the tournament’s three-decade history, an unseeded player has reached the women’s quarterfinals of the Miami Open.
Sloane Stephens, who hails from nearby Fort Lauderdale, knocked off Belinda Becic of Switzerland 6-4 7-6 (5) to advance Monday at Crandon Park Tennis Center. The match, a battle between two of the WTA’s talented young players in the 22-year-old Stephens and 18-year-old Bencic, took two hours and seven minutes to finish.
“It's awesome. Obviously I have a lot of friends and family here in South Florida, so it's really nice for me,” Stephens said. “Growing up here, I mean, I'm used to playing here. I played Orange Bowl here and played this tournament a lot. It's home, so it's really nice for me.”
Stephens, as well as No. 12 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, and No. 27 seed Sabine Lisicki, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Miami Open for the first time Monday. It’s been a solid three weeks so far for Stephens – she reached the round of 16 at Indian Wells – after a tough 2014 season in which she failed to get past the round of 32 in most of her tournament appearances.
“I’m definitely not focused on anything that happened in the past,” Stephens said. “I’m going forward and just getting out there and competing, trying to do my best every match.”
Stephens, who will next face the winner of Monday’s late match between No. 3 seed Simona Halep and No. 15 seed Andrea Petkovic, is trying to capture her first career WTA tournament title.
Twelfth-seeded Suarez Navarro, and 27th seeded Lisicki, both advanced with upset wins.
Suarez Navarro rallied to top seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2012 Miami Open champ, 5-7, 6-0, 6-4. Lisicki was dominant in dispatching 11th-seeded Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2.
Top-seeded Serena Williams, Andrea Petkovic (No. 9), Karolina Pliskova (No. 14), Venus Williams (No. 16 seed) also advanced to the quarterfinals.
In third-round men’s action, sixth-seeded David Ferrer, the world’s No. 7 ranked player and Spain’s best hope here with Rafael Nadal’s loss Sunday, beat Lukas Rosol 6-4, 7-5. He’ll next play No. 12 seed Gilles Simon, who beat qualifier Alejandro Falla 6-3, 6-4.
Kei Nishikori, the No. 4 seed and fifth-ranked player in the world, also moved on easily with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Viktor Troicki. No. 5 seed Milos Raonic won a third-set tiebreaker against No. 31 seed Jeremy Chardy to reach the fourth round, where he’ll face No. 22 John Isner, who upset ninth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (2), 6-2.
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic advanced with a 6-0, 7-5 win against qualifier Steve Darcis. Alexandr Dolgopolov and David Goffin also won their fourth-round matches Monday.