Tennis

Rafael Nadal expects to play Friday in Miami Open despite ankle injury

Rafael Nadal leaves the court with his left shoe off after tripping during practice Monday, March 23, 2015 at the Miami Open.
Rafael Nadal leaves the court with his left shoe off after tripping during practice Monday, March 23, 2015 at the Miami Open. El Nuevo Herald

Rafael Nadal confirmed that he twisted his left ankle at practice Monday and that it limited his practice Tuesday, but he expects to play Friday in the Miami Open in Key Biscayne.

“In the beginning, I thought that was going to be the end of the tournament,” Nadal said. “I am confident I’m going to be ready. … It’s for sure I’m going to be on court on Friday. I don’t know how well I’m going to be prepared for then. I hope to be ready. It’s an important tournament for me.”

Nadal has reached the final four times here but never won the title.

The third-ranked Spaniard gets a first-round bye and will play the winner of the match between Nicolas Almagro of Spain and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.

Nadal practiced for about an hour and a half in the heat Tuesday, which was more than he expected to do, but he said “I feel pain.” He had it checked by his personal trainer and tour trainers, but it was not deemed to be a serious injury.

“It’s still painful,” he said. “It bothers me. I didn’t push myself very hard. I don’t know how it’s going to answer when I try to go at 100 percent because that’s what I’ll need to compete well.”

Nadal was slowed by injuries in the latter part of the 2014 season. An injured right wrist kept him out from summer until the end of September. He played in Beijing and Shanghai, but required surgery for appendicitis in November.

He is coming off a quarterfinal run at Indian Wells (California) last week.

“Last week was a positive week in Indian Wells. I think I was a little bit unlucky in the quarterfinals,” he said. “I was playing a good match and had a lot of chances to win the match but it was a loss that didn’t give me a negative feeling. Probably the opposite — it give me energy, positive feelings that I have to take from Indian Wells.”

Among the other marquee players who met with the media Tuesday was Caroline Wozniacki. The bubbly Dane said she has an apartment in Miami and spends time here whenever she is in the United States for an extended period.

“I have a lot of friends here, so I have a great time in Miami,” she said. “I go to all the restaurants. I went shopping the other day, and to the [Miami] Heat game. It’s not a bad place to be.”

▪ In first-round women’s matches Tuesday, Monica Niculescu of Romania beat American Shelby Rogers 7-6 (7-1), 6-1. Her prize? She gets to play top-ranked Serena Williams in the second round Friday night on Stadium Court.

Americans Madison Brengle and Catherine Bellis also advanced. In men’s qualifying, Alejandro Falla of Colombia beat Benoit Paire of France 6-1, 6-4. Austin Krajicek beat Elias Ymer of Sweden 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

▪ Wednesday’s Stadium Court day schedule features American Jack Sock against Go Soeda of Japan, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus against Silvia Solder-Espinosa of Spain, and Miami resident Monica Puig (representing Puerto Rico) against Irina Falconi.

“It takes off all the pressure when I play at home,” Puig said. “It’s so nice to have so many friends and family there for you. I really love it. It’s a lonely world out there on planes and in hotels, so this is fun.”

Wednesday’s night matches feature American Sam Querrey against Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic and American Sloane Stephens against Yanina Wicklmayer of Belgium.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MEN

Novak Djokovic: The top-ranked Serb opened the season with his 5th Australian Open title, made it to the final weekend at Indian Wells, and remains the man to beat on hard courts.

Rafael Nadal: After sitting out the end of 2014 to recover from a wrist injury and appendix operation, Nadal is 11-3 so far this year. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, the semis at Indian Wells and he is always a crowd favorite with Miami’s Hispanic crowd.

Andy Murray: The back struggles seem to be over. Fourth-ranked Murray is back in the conversation after finishing runner-up to Djokovic in Australia. He is the 2013 champion on Key Biscayne and owns a condo nearby, so he always feels at home here.

Milos Raonic: The Canadian with the monster serve is having a great year. He reached a final, a semifinal and the quarters at the Australian Open. Of his four losses this season, three were to Top 10 players.

Kei Nishikori: He was the runner up at the 2014 U.S. Open, and he is up to No. 5 in the world, so he could make a deep run.

WOMEN

Serena Williams: She is just as dominant as ever at 32. Williams won the 2015 Australian Open – her 19th Grand Slam title – and loves to play Key Biscayne because it is so close to her Palm Beach Gardens home.

Venus Williams: The resurgent elder Williams sister, who turns 35 in June, was written off by many experts and fans, but she is back up to No. 17.

Maria Sharapova: Coming off a big year, in which she won the French Open (her fifth Slam) Sharapova is up to No. 2 in the world.

Simona Halep: Only 23, the Romanian is a rising star. She is ranked No. 3 after reaching the finals of the 2014 French Open and WTA Finals, winning Dubai and reaching the semifinals at Indian Wells.

Caroline Wozniacki: The former world No. 1 is back up to No. 5, and though she had an unfortunately tough draw at the Australian Open – losing to Victoria Azarenka in the second round – she is always dangerous.

Results, schedule

WOMEN’S FIRST-ROUND RESULTS

Anna Schmiedlova, Slovakia, d. Polona Hercog, Slovenia, 6-3, 6-2; Madison Brengle, United States, vs. Aleksandra Krunic, Serbia, 6-0, 6-2; Catherine Bellis, United States, d. Indy de Vroome, Netherlands, 6-2, 6-2; Paula Badosa Gibert, Spain, d. Petra Cetkovska, Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-1; Karin Knapp, Italy, d. Katerina Siniakova, Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-0; Monica Niculescu, Romania, d. Shelby Rogers, United States, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1; Kaia Kanepi, Estonia, d. Francoise Abanda, Canada, 6-2, 6-3; Johanna Larsson, Sweden, d. Yaroslava Shvedova, Kazakhstan, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4); Kristina Mladenovic, France, d. Klara Koukalova, Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-4; Tereza Smitkova, Czech Republic, d. Natalia Vikhlyantseva, Russia, 0-6, 7-5, 6-2; Bojana Jovanovski, Serbia, d. Mona Barthel, Germany, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Kurumi Nara, Japan, d. Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, 6-4, 6-3.

WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE

STADIUM

11 a.m.: Thanasi Kokkinakis, Australia, vs. Carlos Berlocq, Argentina; Go Soeda, Japan, vs. Jack Sock, U.S. Not before 3 p.m.: Victoria Azarenka, Belarus vs. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Spain; Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, vs. Irina Falconi, U.S. Not before 7:30: Victor Estrella Burgos, Dominican Republic, vs. Sam Querrey, U.S.; Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, vs. Sloane Stephens, U.S.

GRANDSTAND

11 a.m.: Donald Young, U.S., vs. Yen-Hsun Lu, Taipei; Heather Watson, Great Britain, vs. Evgeniya Rodina, Russia; Sergiy Stakhovsky, Ukraine, vs. Nicolas Almagro, Spain; Dominic Thiem, Austria, vs. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina. Not before 5 p.m.: Ruben Bemelmens, Belgium, vs. Juan Monaco, Argentina.

COURT ONE

11 a.m.: Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, vs. Belinda Bencic, Switzerland; Marcel Granollers, Spain, vs. Hyeon Chung, South Korea; Kyle Edmund, Great Britain, vs. Robin Haase, Netherlands; Tim Smyczek, U.S., vs. Adrian Menendez-Maceiras, Spain; Lauren Davis, U.S., vs. Sesil Katatantcheva, Bulgaria.

COURT TWO

11 a.m.: Sorana Cirstea, Romania, vs. Christina Mchale, U.S.; Urszula Radwanska, Poland, vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, U.S.; Jarkko Nieminen, Finland,, vs. Marinko Matosevic, Australia; Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan, vs. Austin Krajicek, U.S.

COURT SEVEN

11 a.m.: Jan-Lennard Struff, Germany, vs. Benjamin Becker, Germany; Stefanie Voegele, Switzerland, vs. Kirsten Flipkens, Belgium; Filip Krajinovic, Serbia, vs. Dusan Lajovic, Serbia; Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia, vs. Vera Zvonareva, Russia.

COURT EIGHT

11 a.m.: Annika Beck, Germany, vs. Shuai Zhang, China; Marina Erakovic, New Zealand, vs. Daria Gavrilova, Russia; Damir Dzumhur, Bosnia and Herzegovina, vs. James Duckworth, Australia; Joao Sousa, Portugal, vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Spain.

COURT NINE

11 a.m.: Alison Riske, U.S., vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia; Pauline Parmentier, France, vs. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands; Roberta Vinci, Italy, vs. Tatjana Maria, Germany; Julia Goerges, Germany, vs. Jana Cepelova, Slovakia.

COURT 10

11 a.m. Kateryna Kozlova, Ukraine, vs. Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria; Alexandra Dulgheru, Romania, vs. Elena Vesnina, Russia; Timea Babos, Hungary vs. Nicole Vaidisova, Czech Republic; Alison Van Uytvanck, Belgium, vs. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia.

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