Two-time finalist Rafael Nadal ignored the nagging pain from a wisdom tooth, which will have to come out within days, to earn a solid 6-4, 6-4 win over Taylor Dent for a place in the third round of the Miami Masters on Friday.
On a day when three-and-a-half hours of rain interruptions plagued a full schedule, the Spanish fourth seed was the model of efficiency with his victory in little more than an hour.
“I had my chances on the return, small ones, only a few ones,” said the winner. “I converted, I had three breaks against his unbelievable serve.
“I’m happy for this victory, it’s a comfortable win against a difficult opponent.” While Nadal was gliding, 2009 finalist Novak Djokovic was wondering what went wrong with his game.
The Serb went down in an upset 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4 to inspired Belgian Olivier Rochus, now 3-1 in their series after earning only his second career win against a Top 10 player in Miami.
Djokovic, who also won the title three years ago, was unable to make a winning impression against an experienced challenger standing just 1.67 metres.
“I had played well in the first round, so I was feeling confident. But of course I never expected to win,” said the Belgian.
World number two Djokovic was also eliminated early last week in Indian Wells in the fourth round by eventual champion Ivan Ljubicic.
“I don’t feel great on the court, and everybody could see that.
Life goes on. I’ve gotta rest now and try to make up for these defeats on clay courts,” said Djokovic, after his fourth loss of the season.
“He was motivated to win against a better-ranked, top player. He didn’t have anything to lose. He coped well on the court.
“Sometimes you feel great on the court. You can win against anybody. Sometimes you dont feel confident. It’s a mental game definitely.” The match was proceeded by a two-and-a-half-hour rain interruption and halted late in the second set for another hour.
Djokovic struck 11 double-faults and lost serve six times. He broke Rochus while the Belgian was serving for victory at 5-4 in the final set but was broken back a game later to end it after nearly three hours of play.
Spanish 12th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero, winner of two titles on clay in February, advanced to the third round as Austrian Daniel Koellerer quit injured trailing 4-0.
Spain’s number 15 David Ferrer beat Frenchman Michael Llodra 6-2, 6-4.
Women’s defending champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus earned a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru before the weather turned.
Azarenka won the only major honour of her career so far at Crandon Park a year ago with a straight-set humbling of Serena Williams.
Dulgheru won a career-first title in Warsaw last season.
Last week’s seventh-seeded Indian Wells winner Jelena Jankovic beat Mariya Koryttseva of Estonia 6-4, 6-0.
Australian ninth seed Samantha Stosur fought back past Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 while 15th-seeded Italian Francesca Schiavone put out Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-2.