Serena releases statement after press conference no-show

Serena Williams is facing a fine after failing to show up for her press conference following her first-round defeat to Naomi Osaka at the Miami Open.

The former World No 1 was making just her second competitive appearance since returning from a 14-month absence due to pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the unseeded Williams was drawn against in-form Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka first up, and what followed was a rare 6-3, 6-2 defeat - and an even rarer first-round exit.

It followed her third round exit against her sister Venus in California last week, and it seems Williams is not used to dealing with this lack of success.

Clearly upset after the loss, the American decided not to show up for her post-match press conference, and is now facing a $1,000 fine for not adhering to the tournament guidelines.

Williams did, however, later release a statement through the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

"Every tournament is an opportunity for me to better understand the areas I need to improve to be my best," Williams wrote. 

"Naomi played a great match and I learn something each time I play. I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day. 

"I'm so grateful for my fans who continue to support me every step of this incredible journey."

Meanwhile, Osaka could barely contain her excitement at beating the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

"It's weird if you grow up watching someone and wanting to be exactly like them and then you have the chance to play them," Osaka said after the match. "It's sort of this respect thing, but you also want to win really bad. I don't really know how to describe it. I just wanted her to, in the end, like after the match, just know who I am and stuff."

Osaka was also happy to hear her opponent shout at the other end of the court.

"Sometimes she plays matches where she doesn’t say ‘Come on!’ at all," she said. "That’s a little bit sad, because it’s like, ‘Do you think she’s trying?’ So I just wanted her say ‘Come on!’ once. I knew then maybe she would be trying a little bit. Sometimes when I’m in a really hard position when I’m serving, I’m like, ‘What would Serena do?'"

Djokovic 'pain free' for first time in years

Novak Djokovic said he is looking forward to the start of this week’s Miami Masters after admitting he is playing pain free for the first time in “years.”

The former world number one will continue his comeback in Key Biscayne after six months out with an elbow injury that saw him retire from his Wimbledon quarter-final last year.

His return has not gone well, with a fourth-round exit at January’s Australian Open followed by a loss in his first match at Indian Wells last week.

The manner of those defeats have raised fears that the 12-time slam winner will never reach the same heights that saw him hold all four major titles at the same time just two years ago.

The key for Djokovic, however, is that he finally go on court for the first time in years without having to battle pain.

“I actually started playing pain-free in the last two days. It’s quite refreshing because everything else had pain involved,” Djokovic told AFP.

“The last few days have been first in a long, long time that I could actually be focused on the game rather than have something in my mind and be worried about whether I am going to have pain or not.

“It’s the first time in years.”

The 30-year old added that after years of uninterrupted success, the injury break has helped him learn a great deal about himself.

“I have learned a lot about myself,” he said. “It’s been a great, great blessing to go through this. I’ve been very successful in this sport over the course of the last six, seven years and I’ve been very grateful to go through that.

“But I obviously have had to face different circumstances, situations that I’ve never faced before. Ever since I started professional tennis my trajectory was always going in the right direction and that has changed.

“So I had to open up and figure out things, how to move forward and get inspired and be the best version I can be.”

Djokovic has incorporated a baseball style exercise into his pre-match warm up as part of his rehabilitation, which he said is one of the compromises he has had to make following surgery.

“It’s one of the ways to warm up and get my body and my mind synchronised with a certain motion that I would like to have with my serve because that’s where I kind of compromise my elbow,” he said. “So I’m trying to strengthen the muscles and get into a certain motion that would support the best possible serve.

“I am not yet at my best. Every day is a process for me and it’s an opportunity to learn, to grow and get better after the two years of injury and trying to figure out ways how to play pain free.

“I have had to modify a lot of things in my game to accept it. When I made this intervention, obviously it’s pretty invasive and unfortunately in the end it had to be done.

“It also carries certain consequences but right now, I’m not playing with the pain which is the most important thing.

“All I can do now is to try to embrace the process every day.”

Miami tournament director: Serena seeding wrong

Female players should not have their seeding negatively affected after taking maternity leave, according to Miami Open tournament director James Blake.

Blake, a former World No 4 on the ATP Tour, made his comments after Serena Williams - now unseeded - drew Indian Wells champions Naomi Osaka in the opening round of this week's WTA event in Miami.

Williams lost her seeding after taking 13 months off to have her first child.

"It makes sense to protect someone who goes on maternity leave," said Blake.

"The rules should help her get the benefit of an easier draw and a better path.

"These kind of things shouldn't happen. She has won this title so many times that she needs protection.

"It's not as if she left because of injury and lost her passion for the game. She had a kid, which we should all be celebrating, so when she comes back there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded."

Williams has no official ranking, which means she cannot be seeded for WTA events, though she can gain entry to eight tournaments in 12 months - including two Grand Slams - as a result of her former World No 1 ranking.

Osaka is also unseeded, despite her breakthrough win at Indian Wells on Sunday.

The WTA did at one time apply special seedings to players returning from long lay-offs - for any reason - but that rule was scrapped.

Federer: I don't know what the hell happened

Roger Federer admits he has no idea how Sunday's final at the Indian Wells Masters got away from him.

The Swiss ace saw his 17-match winning streak brought to an end by a victorious Juan Martin del Potro in a pulsating three-set clash in California.

Federer had several match points at 5-4 in the decider, only for Delpo to save them all, break and claim the ensuing tie-break for the big win.

Surprisingly, the Argentine totally dominated the final tie-break, and afterwards a frustrated Federer admitted he had no idea what went wrong.

"I lost my serve a little bit, and then he was clean and I wasn't," Federer said. "And then it goes very quickly in the breaker. 

"As close as it can be sometimes when you're not feeling it or momentum has shifted, it's just crazy how it can go the other way. 

"But I had already missed my opportunities then, but I still, standing at the trophy ceremony, I think I would like to play that tie-break again, because I don't know what the hell happened. 

"But it's OK. It happens sometimes."

Federer will remain world No. 1 in the rankings but because he failed to defend his title he will lose 400 points. 

As for Del Potro, the win is a massive one for him and confirms his recent resurgence is the real deal.

"It's so big," Del Potro said after the final. “I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis. We played great tennis today. I'm No. 6 in the world, I think? Which is so good to me. And I'm excited to keep working...I just want to keep winning titles like this if I can.

"It was an unbelievable match in all the ways. I mean, we played a great level of tennis. The people were excited on every single point. Roger and me were nervous during the whole match, and we felt that on court...Unfortunately I couldn't stay calm in the tie-break of the second set, but then the calms come again in the end of the match and I played good in the tie-break [in the third set]," he said.

"It [missing match point in the second set] was horrible moment for me. I was still thinking about my forehand miss and my forehand error, mistake in the match point. And, I mean, it's my shot, you know, my forehand from that side of the court. I never miss that forehand."

Del Potro upsets Fed to win Indian Wells

Juan Martin del Potro handed world number one Roger Federer his first defeat of the season on Sunday to claim the BNP Paribas Open title at Indian Wells.

The eighth seed beat Federer 6-4, 5-7 (8-10), 7-6 (7-2) in a thrilling match to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title and end the Swiss’ 17-match unbeaten run.

The win also dashed Federer’s bid for a record sixth title in California.

The 29-year old Argentine has struggled with a wrist injury in recent years and underwent three operations, but has battled his way back into the top ten in recent weeks following a win in Acapulco earlier this month.

“I’m still shaking, I’m so nervous,” said Del Potro after the win. “I was thinking [about missing match points]. I played really well in the [third set] tiebreak ... It’s like a dream after all my problems and surgeries. I’m excited to keep surprising the Tour.”

Del Potro was strong throughout, winning the first set after forcing the only break of serve.

The second set was also a tight affair as both players saved break points. Then, in the tie-break Federer thought he had drawn level when serving at 6-5, only for Del Potro to successfully challenge a serve that had been called in.

The Argentine then held match point at 8-7, but some unforced errors allowed the Swiss to level it.

Federer drew first blood in the deciding set, breaking for 5-4 only for Del Potro to immediately break back after saving three match points.

Both players then held serve to set up a deciding tie-break, but loose serving from Federer and powerful hitting from the Argentine saw Del Potro clinch the match at the third attempt after a gruelling two hours and 42 minutes.

Del Potro sees off Raonic to make final

Juan Martin del Potro cruised past Milos Raonic to set up a final date with Roger Federer at Indian Wells on Saturday.

After coming back from a set down in his previous two matches, Del Potro needed no such heroics as he dispatched Raonic with the minimum of fuss 6-2 6-3.

He will now meet the world number one as he bids for a first ever Masters 1000 title.

The world No.8 started strongly, using his potent forehand for a winner down the line to secure a break to love.

Raonic was then broken again in similar fashion two games later as Del Potro stormed into a 4-1 lead and he was comfortable thereafter as he served out for the opening set.

Del Potro was enjoying himself against the Canadian, and broke again in game three of the second after two blistering winners, one from each wing. Raonic had no answer to his opponent’s shot making and promptly double faulted to hand the Argentina the advantage.

The sixth seed then hung on as he clinched the match to advance to his fourth Masters final.

"I was lucky in both sets with early breaks," Del Potro said. "I broke a lot and that was the key to the match. Against Roger I will have to play my best tennis, otherwise I will have little chance.

"I'm healthy now and playing well, that is the most important thing. I'm free of pain and enjoying it again," he added.

Fantastic Federer wins epic against Coric

Roger Federer was forced to dig deep to defeat Borna Coric and reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday. 

The Swiss Maestro came back from a set and a break down to defeat Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 on the blustery hard courts of Indian Wells to reach his third final of 2018.

The victory is a milestone for Federer, who is now undefeated in 17 matches for the year, a career best start to the season. He has dropped just four sets this year.

However, the oldest world number one in history certainly didn’t have it all his own way.  A tense opening set saw a number of service holds before Coric broke Federer in the penultimate game, after which he served out the set.

The problems with Federer’s usually pinpoint backhand continued in the second set, where he racked up a myriad of unforced errors to find himself 4-2 behind. Federer would finally hold serve and the Florida crowd got behind their man, as he fought his way back to force a decider.

But again a brilliant Coric, who was sublime from the baseline, took advantage of an out of sorts Federer to break and go 4-3 up. Fortune favoured Federer, as Coric missed a routine forehand that would have taken him to within a game of victory…and Federer took that opportunity to break back.

A blistering 70 second service hold followed from Federer and a bewildered Coric would lose the final game to love to bow out of the semi-finals, his best result in a Masters 1000 event.

Venus and Halep knocked out at Indian Wells

It would be fair to say Friday's women's semi-finals at the Indian Wells Masters didn't quite go according to plan.

With top seed and World No 1 Simona Halep up against Naomi Osaka, and in-form World No 8 Venus Williams taking on Daria Kasatkina, you would have been forgiven for predicting a Venus vs Halep final.

Instead, both favourites got knocked out on a day of upsets.

Kasatkina is certainly no scrub, however. Now ranked a career-high 19th in the world, the promising 20-year-old would have fancied her chances of pulling off an upset against a player 17 years her senior.

And, after nearly three hours on court, that's precisely what she did, earning a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory to advance to her first WTA Premier Mandatory final.

Kasatkina has only one previous WTA title to her name, the 2017 Volvo Car Open, so victory at Indian Wells would mark the biggest achievement of her career by some margin.

Venus fought hard to avoid defeat, clinching a first set that featured no less than seven breaks of serve - four to her and three to her opponent - but she simply couldn't shake Kasatkina in the remaining two sets.

The Russian won each by two breaks to one to secure the upset win and continue her superb, possibly career-defining Indian Wells run.

The second result of the day was an even bigger shock, as the top ranked player in the world lost to World No 44 Naomi Osaka, another young 20-year-old finding herself in uncharted waters.

Unlike Kasatkina, Osaka does not even have a single WTA title to her name yet, but on Friday night she brushed World No 1 Halep aside 6-3, 6-0 to seal the biggest win of her career and put herself in line for a massive victory.

Osaka proved totally dominant during the contest. The players exchanged breaks at the top of the first set but from that point on it was all her.

The Japanese star secured another break to give herself a 5-3 lead, and then easily held serve to close out the first set.

Most expected Halep to come out firing in the second set but to everyone's surprise she totally capitulated, losing her serve three times as Osaka raced to victory.

Only with Osaka serving for the match at 5-0 did Halep offer any resistance, forcing Osaka to save four break points before she finally sealed victory.

That set up a final with Kasatkina, and a chance for both women to forge incredible new ground in their careers.

Raonic and del Potro seal semi-final spots

Milos Raonic and Juan Martin del Potro will meet in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open after both emerged victorious from three-set battles at Indian Wells.

Raonic reached the final four of an ATP event for the first time in 18 months after triumphing 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 over Sam Querrey.

The Canadian’s big serve proved decisive after firing in 17 aces during the one hour, 51 minute encounter.

Raonic - seeded 32 at the tournament - actually dropped his serve in the first game of the match, but broke Querrey when the American had the chance to serve for the first set and then went on to win it 7-5.

After Querrey levelled the match in the second set, Raonic converted his second match point in the third after earning the break at 4-3 up.

The former world number three will face another player who has endured his share of injuries in the semi-finals after del Potro beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Del Potro maintained his 100 per cent record on hard courts against Kohlschreiber and secured his first appearance in the Indian Wells semi-finals since 2013.


Tommy Haas calls time on his career

Former World No 2 Tommy Haas announced his retirement at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, ending a career that started over 20 years ago.

The 39-year-old German announced the decision in an emotional speech on court shortly after his good friend Roger Federer’s quarter-final victory over Chung Hyeon, with Federer joining him in support.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate that I was able play professional tennis for a living for more than two decades,” Haas said to a crowd that included retired greats Rod Laver and Pete Sampras.

“The sport gave me cherished friendships, an ability to travel the world, and opportunities to create incredible memories. It also taught me a lot about what it means to face challenges, battle back, and overcome them.

“To my parents, family, wife and children, thank you for all the love and support that you gave me over the years. And, to the fans, thank you for cheering me on throughout my career.”

Haas won 15 ATP Tour titles over the course of his career, the last two coming in 2013 following victories in Munich and Vienna.

His career-high ranking of second in the world was reached back in 2002, a year in which he reached the Australian Open semi-finals.

In all, Haas made three semi-final appearances in Melbourne - in 1999, 2002 and 2007 - also reaching the last four at Wimbledon in 2009. 

At the 2000 Olympics, he won the silver medal for Germany.

Haas struggled with injuries throughout his career, bouncing back from nine surgeries in all. He won ATP Comeback Player of the Year awards in 2004 and 2012.