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Top-ranked Djokovic battles into Miami quarters

Novak Djokovic outdueled Austrian 14th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, stretching his Miami win streak to 13 matches. PHOTO/AFP.

Novak Djokovic outdueled Austrian 14th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, stretching his Miami win streak to 13 matches. PHOTO/AFP.

MIAMI, March 30 – World number one Novak Djokovic was struggling to play his best, but held firm when pressed to the brink Tuesday and battled into the ATP and WTA Miami Open quarter-finals.

The two-time defending champion outdueled Austrian 14th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, stretching his Miami win streak to 13 matches to book a last-eight date Wednesday against Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych.

“Straight set win but far from easy. It was a tough match,” Djokovic said. “I kept my serves. But I made a lot of double faults and he had me under a lot of pressure.”

Djokovic, a five-time Miami winner overall, rescued 13 of 14 break points, four of them in the last game of the first set and four more in a dramatic 14-minute final game before hitting a forehand winner on his fourth match-point opportunity.

“I had some luck in that last game where he missed a couple of easy forehands to get the break back and get into the match,” Djokovic said. “I stayed tough when it was most needed. The important moments I tried to make him play, make him run.”

Djokovic won his 11th Grand Slam title two months ago at the Australian Open and has also lifted Doha and Indian Wells trophies this year while Thiem captured titles last month at Acapulco and Buenos Aires.

The 28-year-old Serbian made eight double faults and 29 unforced errors against only two aces and eight winners.

“The second serve was not working that well. That was due to the pressure he was imposing. I just didn’t have the rhythm,” Djokovic said.

“Generally I don’t get to face that many break points. I’ll try not to get myself in those positions as much.”

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Berdych outlasted French 10th seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, but has won only two of 24 meetings with Djokovic, having lost their past nine matches since a 2013 Rome quarter-final victory.

They are the only top-10 men still playing except for Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori, who downed Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-4.

“I played really well,” Nishikori said. “I felt great out there.”

Up next for Nishikori, who won his fourth consecutive Memphis crown last month, is French 16th seed Gael Monfils, who rallied past Bulgarian 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-3.

“He is playing really well,” Nishikori said. “He is a fun player to play against and we will have a good match.”

Nishikori won their only prior meeting in 2014 on Halle grass.

“Kei is a good player, very consistent, and he has a win over me,” Monfils said. “It will be a great match.”

Only one of the world’s top 12 women, second-ranked Angelique Kerber, is still playing after Romanian fifth seed Simona Halep was ousted 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 by 19th-ranked Swiss Timea Bacsinszky.

“To beat someone who fights as hard as she does, it’s something amazing,” Bacsinszky said. “I’m happy with it.”

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The 2015 French Open semi-finalist will play for a berth in the final against Russian 15th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 30-year-old two-time Grand Slam winner who ousted top-ranked defending champion Serena Williams in the third round.

Kuznetsova, the 2006 Miami champion, beat Russian 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-3.

“Just kept fighting,” Kuznetsova said. “I was feeling low in energy but I tried to hang in there.”

– Kyrgios to face Raonic –

Australian 24th seed Nick Kyrgios, the youngest top-30 ATP player at age 20, reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 victory over Russia’s 51st-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov.

The Aussie never trailed in the tie-breaker and took the only break of the second set when Kuznetsov double faulted away the fourth game.

Kyrgios, off to a career-best 13-3 start that includes his first ATP title last month at Marseille, next plays Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic, who ripped Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-0, 6-3.

Raonic owns a 2-1 rivalry edge but this will be their first match outside the Grand Slams. He won in 2014 at the French Open and Wimbledon but lost to Kyrgios last year at Wimbledon.


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