Nadal advances to Sony final; Berdych out
By Steven Wine, AP
March 30, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
KEY BISCAYNE, Florida--No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic advanced to the Sony Open final without playing a point on Friday.
Both received walkovers when their semifinal opponents withdrew for health reasons. That left Nadal and Djokovic to play for the title on Sunday in their 40th career meeting and their first of 2014.
It was the first time since at least 1968 that an ATP Tour event had two walkovers in the semifinals.
Djokovic was given a walkover for the second time in the tournament when Kei Nishikori withdrew because of a left groin injury. Four hours later, Tomas Berdych pulled out before his match against Nadal due to gastroenteritis.
“It's very unlucky, very unusual,” Nadal said. “Sorry for Kei, sorry for Tomas, and sorry for the tournament, especially sorry for the fans.”
Around a thousand fans arrived at the stadium unaware the Nadal match had been canceled, and they jeered the announcement.
The wave of ailments left the tournament with only two women's doubles matches. Former No. 1 Martina Hingis advanced to her first doubles final since 2007 when she and Sabine Lisicki beat Cara Black and Sania Mirza 6-3, 6-4.
On Saturday, No. 1 Serena Williams will try for her seventh Key Biscayne title when she plays No. 2 Li Na — health permitting.
Tournament director Adam Barrett said the withdrawals by Nishikori and Berdych made it a tough day for the event.
“I ran into Cliff Buchholz, who was the tournament director before me for many, many years,” Barrett said. “He looked at me and said, 'Adam, that's never happened before. I think you just set a record.' I said, 'Cliff, not a record I want to set.'”
Djokovic also received a walkover in the third round and has played only six sets in the tournament. He's seeking his fourth title in the event, while Nadal is 0-3 in Key Biscayne finals, one of only three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments he has yet to win.
“To be able to play four finals in one tournament is because you did well,” Nadal said. “I'm going to try to be ready for Sunday.”
Djokovic will attempt to complete a March sweep Sunday. He won the Indian Wells title two weeks ago, when he beat Federer in the final.
Nadal leads his rivalry with Djokovic, 22-17, and they went 3-3 last year.
“Only chance to win against Novak is play to the limit, play my best, and wait that he not going to have his best day,” Nadal said.