(photo credit: NIR KEIDAR/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)
Dudi Sela will have to wait at least one more year to realize his dream of winning an ATP event in Israel after being knocked out in the semifinals of the Israel Open Challenger Tour tournament in Ra’anana on Saturday.
After crushing countryman Amir Weintraub 6-0, 6-1 in 43 minutes in the quarterfinals on Friday, Sela, ranked No. 84 in the world and seeded No. 2, battled Ricardas Berankis for two hours and five minutes on Saturday, only to lose 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Sela’s break point conversion rate ultimately cost him dearly, with the Israeli only utilizing one of 14 opportunities against the Lithuanian, ranked No. 86.
Sela was hoping to claim his second straight Challenger title, entering the event on the back of his 20th career triumph on the circuit in Shenzhen, China.
Berankis faces No. 1 seed Evgeny Donskoy in Sunday’s final.
Israel’s Yoni Erlich also suffered a disappointing defeat in Ra’anana on Saturday, losing in the final of the doubles event with Austrian partner Philipp Oswald. The two were beaten 4-6, 7-6 (1), 10-4 by Konstantin Kravchuk and Denys Molchanov.
Meanwhile, top seed Novak Djokovic overcame a strong challenge from Belgium’s David Goffin to reach the Miami Open final with a 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory on Friday as he continued his pursuit of a fifth title in six years in Key Biscayne.
The Serbian world No. 1 shrugged off a slow start in tough on-court conditions before hitting his stride, and sealed the win with a powerful first serve that forced a wayward Goffin return to end an encounter that lasted just over two hours.
Australian Open champion Djokovic improved his stellar record for the year to 27-1 and will next face Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who ousted Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5 in the second semifinal.
The 28-year-old Djokovic, a five-times champion in Miami, is bidding to match Andre Agassi’s record of six titles at the event and earn a record 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown.
“It was windy, it was humid, it was warm,” Djokovic told reporters. “It was like everything was thrown out there."
“And to overcome those obstacles and conditions was something that I’m proud of. I managed to stay tough in the right moments.”
Djokovic, whose only defeat this year came in February when he retired against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in Dubai due to an eye infection, applauded Goffin’s performance.
“He plays very clean,” Djokovic said.
“Also, I think he improved his serve. I had difficulty reading it. Physically, it was a great battle with lots of exchanges from the baseline.”
Nishikori made his first Miami final by taking out brash young Australian Kyrgios in some style.
“It’s a great feeling to be in my first final in Miami and it was very good playing today so I’m very happy,” said the sixth seeded Japanese.
While happy to get through he was under no illusions of what lay ahead on Sunday, when he will be looking to break a fivematch losing streak against the Serbian world No. 1.
Victoria Azarenka won the women’s event in Miami on Saturday, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2.
Reuters contributed to this report