Switzerland’s Roger Federer put last year’s first-round loss at the Miami Open in the rearview mirror on Saturday, defeating Radu Albot of Moldova 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 10 minutes. Canadian Denis Shapovalov also advanced in second-round play at the Miami Open on Saturday – a day when the women’s singles draw lost two marquee names – Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
Albot didn’t make it easy for three-time champion Federer, pushing him to the brink of defeat in the second set. But Federer survived mostly on the strength of his serve. He racked up 14 aces and allowed just four break-point opportunities over the entire match. He also won 77 percent of his first-service points and 69 percent of his second-service points.
“I expected a player with a great attitude, which he showed. An aggressive baseliner, who moves well. He’s not afraid to come to the net. The problem is I’ve never practiced with him. I’ve never really seen him play live matches,” Federer said.
“I thought it was hard. I have a lot of respect for those types of players who don’t have the size, have to find a different way to win. He’s a great, great player. I was impressed.”
Federer also noted he was impressed with the tournament’s new venue – the much larger Hard Rock Stadium. The venue is the Miami Dolphins’ home and the Miami Open’s new centre court. The tournament moved this year from Key Biscayne.
“It’s always going to feel very different in a massive place like this,” said Federer, referring to the new stadium. “It was definitely different, especially very different to Key Biscayne last year. I’m happy I got it out of the way. I’m happy I was able to find a way tonight.
“It was a good atmosphere at the end. I thought it was quite electric, how it usually is in Miami. I’m happy that hasn’t gone away.”
Federer will meet Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic in the third round. The two have met twice previously, with Federer winning both contests. Krajinovic defeated No. 30 seed Stan Wawrinka 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (5) earlier in the day.
Shapovalov, the No. 20 seed from Richmond Hill, Ont., had a 37-19 edge in winners as he defeated Britain’s Daniel Evans 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. He needed just under two hours to complete the victory.
He will play either ninth-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia or Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in the third round.
Earlier Saturday, Williams withdrew, blaming a previously undisclosed left knee injury. Less than two hours later, top-ranked Osaka lost in the third round to tour veteran Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Osaka’s departure matched the earliest ever in the tournament by a top-seeded woman and jeopardized her No. 1 ranking, depending on results next week.
“I feel like I’ve dealt with the stress of people asking me do I have pressure because I have the No. 1 next to my name,” Osaka said. “I thought I was doing fine with that, but I guess I’m not.”
Williams’ withdrawal was unexpected because she showed no signs of injury a day earlier while winning her opening match against Rebecca Peterson, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Williams didn’t mention any health issues during a news conference after the match, and the WTA had no information regarding when she was hurt.
“I am disappointed to withdraw,” she said in a statement. “It was an amazing experience to play at Hard Rock Stadium this year, and I would like to thank the Miami Open for putting on an amazing event. I hope to be back next year to play at this one-of-a-kind tournament in front of the incredible fans here in Miami.” Williams has won eight Miami Open titles.
On the men’s side, seeded losers included No. 10 Karen Khachanov, No. 21 Diego Schwartzman, No. 26 Guido Pella, No. 30 Stan Wawrinka and No. 31 Steve Johnson. In a game of inches, the 5-foot-6 Schwartzman lost to 6-foot-11 Reilly Opelka 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Williams was next scheduled to play No. 18-seeded Qiang Wang, who advanced to the fourth round.
Also reaching the women’s round of 16 was the 33-year-old Hsieh, who turned pro in 2001 but has achieved the two biggest victories of her career in the past nine months. Her only other win over a No. 1 player came against Simona Halep at Wimbledon last year.
With two-handed groundstrokes from both sides, Hsieh was the steadier player from the baseline against Osaka. When Hsieh closed out match point with a forehand volley winner, she began to cry as the crowd applauded her performance.
Osaka smiled when reminded it was the first time in 64 matches she lost after winning the first set.
“I know — it’s depressing,” she said. “I was thinking about it right after I lost.”
Osaka, 21, has won the past two Grand Slam tournaments. Williams, 37, still hasn’t won a tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, before she took a break of more than a year to become a mom. She has played only eight matches this year.
Williams’ stay at the Miami Open was also brief last year, when she lost in the first round to Osaka. Friday’s match was Williams’ first since she retired from Indian Wells two weeks ago because of a viral illness.