Sony Open salutes the hard-court monarchs in Miami

With the ‘Big Two’ in March essentially forming a giant four-week tournament it is no coincidence that (Williams sisters aside of course) the same players who went far in Indian Wells would be there or thereabouts in Miami come the crunch.
Sure enough, it was the usual suspects frequenting the latter stages; Fognini, Dolgopolov, Isner, Wozniacki, Radwanska and Cibulkova all enjoyed another excellent run. But despite some prize upsets or at least on-paper surprises to deliver the drama – as well as some unwelcome walkovers – the victors were as expected.

Not for the first time, Novak Djokovic cemented (pun not intended) his place as the king of the hard courts with another clean sweep of the March Premiers. But after many a battle in Indian Wells (not least that excellent final fight with Federer) the Serb had a much easier time here with first Florian Mayer and then the brilliant Kei Nishikori bowing out before a point was played.

Come the final, Djoko didn’t have it all his own way against a Rafa Nadal trying to kick-start his own stuttering season, the Spaniard too enjoying a free ride after Berdych withdrew with gastroenteritis in the semi’s.

Nadal needs this clay season now one feels, the hard-court campaign has brought precious little especially compared to 2013. Here, there was nothing Nadal could do to counter a Novak firing on all cylinders.

That is more than ominous, could this be the year that Djokovic joins the Career Grand Slam club.

Another player trying to rediscover the glories of 2013 is Serena Williams who has stuttered even more than Rafa by their lofty standards. After dispatching Sharapova the American faced 2014’s polesitter.

Li Na has really found her mojo this season – and the sport is all the better for it. But the Chinese who battled past Wozniacki and Cibulkova finally ran out of steam against the only opponent who – on her day – could represent a step up from the Slovak and Dane resurgents.

Finally, a mention for Martina Hingis who clinched her 82nd career trophy here with the Women’s doubles title alongside Sabine Lisicki. Let’s all hope this encourages the Swiss to have another crack at a singles career relaunch. The likes of Radwanska – admittedly a much younger practitioner – have kept alive the game of finesse and angles over all out power.

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