Spotlight | On tennis

Semi-retired Martina Hingis to join star-studded lineup at Sony Open

 
 
Martina Hingis returns a shot as she and her partner Sabine Lisicki face Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua during a first-round doubles match at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Indian Wells, Calif.
Martina Hingis returns a shot as she and her partner Sabine Lisicki face Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua during a first-round doubles match at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Indian Wells, Calif.
Mark J. Terrill / AP

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

The Sony Open will announce on Thursday that semi-retired former No. 1 Martina Hingis has accepted a wild card to play doubles with friend Sabine Lisicki at the Key Biscayne tournament, which begins next week.

Hingis, the five-time Grand Slam winner and crowd-pleaser, is now 33 and dabbling in doubles. She joins a star-studded Sony field that includes Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova.

Fans should also keep an eye out for Ukrainian player Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Last week, Dolgopolov released a video calling for peace in his homeland, and it included messages from Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Gael Monfils.

On Monday night in Indian Wells, Calif., Dolgopolov (known as “Dolgo") did something that he hopes brought Ukrainians a short respite from the government unrest and violence back home: He beat world No. 1 Nadal and established himself as a player to watch heading into the Sony Open.

Dolgopolov was 0-5 against Nadal going into Monday’s third-round match at the BNP Paribas event and had never won a set against the Spaniard. He lost to Nadal two weeks ago on clay in the Rio final. But this time, his aggressive style and varied pace threw Nadal off his game and the Ukrainian won 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5).

The 25-year-old jumped from No. 57 to No. 31 in February and beat three top 20 players in Rio, including David Ferrer.

"As I said, it's good to make some results and make the people forget a little bit and have some happy moments in the news, [something] except the politics," he told reporters after the win over Nadal.

As for Nadal, he did not blame the loss on his back problems. He said he “played bad," never got in rhythm and was looking ahead to the Sony. “I will try to rest a few days and be fresh mentally, and I hope to be ready for Miami."

Azarenka withdraws

Two-time Sony Open winner and world No. 4 Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday pulled out of the tournament because of a foot injury.

“I am very sad not to be able to compete at this year's Sony Open in Miami,” Azarenka said. “I love playing in the U.S., and my results in the past were also great. But it’s been now over a year that it seems that bad luck has been following me. I couldn’t play in Miami last year with a problem in my ankle, and now this with my foot. It is time for me to think about my recovery, and I will work hard for that. I wish the tournament all the best for this 2014 edition. Miami is an amazing place and a great tournament. I hope to be there next year fully recovered and able to be competing for the title.”

Wild cards

Miami-born Haitian American Victoria Duval, who made a splash at the U.S. Open last year after stunning No. 11 Samantha Stosur in the first round, is among the players granted wild cards to the Sony Open main draw.

The wild card list also includes former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, coming back from a shoulder injury; former No. 3 Nadia Petrova, 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, and American Ryan Harrison.

Sony tickets are on sale at sonyopentennis.com and at 305-442-3367.

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