Former top-10s get moment in Miami spotlight

MIAMI (Reuters) - With the top seeds on the sidelines waiting to join the action at the Sony Open, past champions and former-top ranked players took center stage in Miami on Wednesday looking to conjure up some old magic.

Mar 19, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Nikolay Davydenko hits a forehand against Adrian Mannarino (not pictured) on day three of the Sony Open at Crandon Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For a brief moment it must have felt like old times for 2008 champion Nikolay Davydenko as he strolled out onto center court under a bright morning sun to kick off the day’s action.

But there was no reliving the glory days for the former world number three, now ranked 71, who has seen his form dip as Frenchman Adrian Mannarino dispatched the Russian 6-4 7-5 in front of handful of spectators.

Davydenko was followed onto center court by another former top-10 player in Argentine Juan Monaco and a few hours later the world number 41 was shown to the exit by another Frenchman, falling 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-5) to Jeremy Chardy.

But for former world number three Nadia Petrova, now languishing at number 205 in the rankings, there were flashes of the form that carried her to 13 career titles as the Russian saw off Poland’s Urszula Radwanska 7-5 1-6 6-4.

“For some people they might think it’s hard especially being where I am right now,” the 31-year-old Petrova told Reuters.

“At this stage of my career it is kind of difficult but on the other hand with all the experience I have and the knowledge knowing when are the important moments, when to step in and take the initiative it can be easier.”

Sprinkled across the sprawling Crandon Park tennis complex on Wednesday were players who were once fixtures in the top 10, commanding big audiences and all the perks that go with being a top-ranked player.

Czech Radek Stepanek, Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and Germany’s Andrea Petkovic were among those on the comeback trail working up a first-round sweat while world number ones Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams and other members of the top-10 club enjoyed a bye and some of the perks that go with their ranking.

Those luxuries are, for the moment at least, no longer available to Petrova.

“It’s humbling,” admitted Petrova. “When you arrive at a tournament (as top-ranked player) you know you have all the luxuries,” said Petrova.

“You can have a box of balls, you can get a rental car, you can get an extra hotel, you can get a suite and right now those things do not exist for me anymore.

“You have to start from the beginning.”

For Petrova, it is almost like starting over again as she must play qualifiers to get into tournaments or depend on the charity of a wildcard berth.

With 13 singles and 24 doubles titles, Petrova is just one of three active players, along with Serena Williams and Venus Williams, with 10-plus victories in both events.

She had been a fixture in the top 15 for almost a decade and ended the 2012 season as the world number 12.

But a hip injury in 2013 followed by the death of her mother in December forced Petrova off the WTA Tour and sent her ranking on a nosedive.

“I’m just taking it match by match and at the moment I do lack little bit of match play, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a roll so it is frustrating and challenging,” said Petrova. “Obviously going back into (qualifiers) is not an exciting thing for me to do, especially since it has been over 10 years since I have been part qualifying.

“Other than that I am just focused on the game and things I need to do on the court.”

Editing by Frank Pingue