The Sunday Mail
NUMBER ONE-RANKED Rafael Nadal and second seed Novak Djokovic advanced into today’s Sony Open final without playing a point.
Both received walkovers when their semifinal opponents withdrew for health reasons. That left Nadal and Djokovic to play for the title in their 40th career meeting and their first of 2014.
Djokovic was given a walkover for the second time in the tournament when Kei Nishikori withdrew because of a left groin injury.
Four hours later, Tomas Berdych pulled out before his match against Nadal due to gastroenteritis.
Djokovic also received a walkover in the third round and has played only six sets in the tournament.
He’s seeking his fourth title in the event, while Nadal is 0-3 in Key Biscayne finals, one of only three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments he has yet to win.
Djokovic will try to complete a March sweep today after he won the Indian Wells title two weeks ago, when he beat Federer in the final.
Nadal leads his rivalry with Djokovic, 22-17, and they went 3-3 last year.
Regardless of today’s result, Nadal will remain No. 1 and Djokovic No. 2 next week.
A disappointed Nishikori pulled out less than two hours before his semifinal.
“I tried to warm up and I couldn’t move,” Nishikori said. “With anybody on the other side, I don’t think I could win today.”
Berdych’s withdrawal was announced an hour before his match.
That spared him from having to face a player who has won their past 16 meetings.
Nishikori said his groin has bothered him for more than a month, and he retired during a match in Delray Beach last month.
Last week he won a three-set match against David Ferrer, saving four match points, and then beat Roger Federer in a three-setter on Wednesday night.
The No. 21-ranked Nishikori said he won’t need surgery, but he’s unsure how long he’ll be sidelined and will fly home to Japan to see a doctor.
His next scheduled match is in Davis Cup for Japan against the Czech Republic in Toyko on April 4.
Nishikori has retired or withdrawn 14 times in his career, including three times in Grand Slam events.
He was hoping to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final.
“It was going to be a great challenge for me today,” Nishikori said.
“Hopefully I can play another time.”
Three of the past six Key Biscayne men’s semifinals have been cancelled.
Nadal withdrew because of a knee injury in 2012, giving Andy Murray a walkover. — Supersport.