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Top players sizzle on Sunday at Sony Open

Even by Miami standards, it was a sweltering Sunday. Temperatures peaked near 90, and fans that flocked to the Sony Open on Key Biscayne fried on aluminum bleachers at the outer courts and sought shade wherever they could find it.

Conditions were even hotter on the purple courts, so most of the top players made sure to finish their matches as quickly as possible. This was not a day for long rallies or third-set tiebreakers, and there was little chance play would drag on until 2:30 a.m., as it had the night before.

Defending champion Andy Murray needed just 73 minutes to knock off Spanish heartthrob Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-1. Roger Federer, the rejuvenated 17-time Grand Slam champion, had an even shorter work day, beating Dutch qualifier Thiemo De Bakker 6-3, 6-3. David Ferrer, the 2013 runner-up, got past Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-2 in a night match that lasted 69 minutes.

On the women’s side, Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Li Na was tested, but eliminated Boca Raton’s Madison Keys in straight sets — 7-6, (7-3), 6-3. And in the first evening match, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki took 55 minutes to cruise past Sloane Stephens of Coral Springs 6-1, 6-0. Wozniacki, who is engaged to golfer Rory McIlroy, said she and her fiancé were headed to Mr. Chow’s for dinner after her early finish.

Wozniacki said it takes more focus during a lopsided match, so she never let up.

“Things can turn easy, especially when you’re up by a lot,” she said. “The other person doesn’t have anything to lose, so you know you really have to be on your toes and expect anything. So I just stayed focused out there. I didn’t let her into the match. I didn’t give one point away. I was very happy about that.”

Stephens, meanwhile, had no answers for her disappointing performance.

“Just got my butt kicked, and that’s about it really,” she said. “I tried a lot of things. Wasn’t my night. It was disappointing. Just didn’t click for me.”

Three-time tournament champion Venus Williams is one of the few players who had to toil to advance, outlasting Australian wild card Casey Dellacqua 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

The elder Williams sister, 33, does not generate the buzz she once did, back when she was a teen phenom in floppy beaded braids or when she was Queen of Wimbledon, winning five titles between 2000 and 2008. She has to contend with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that saps her of energy and she finished 2011 out of the Top 100.

But on Sunday, the powerful and graceful Williams showed she still has the stamina and weapons to be a threat. Her 11 aces helped neutralize her 44 unforced errors. Williams is ranked No. 29 and having a good year, with just three losses and a title at Dubai.

“If I go down, it’s never easy,” Williams said. “At least my opponent knows they have to go to the end of the earth to take me out no matter what the circumstances, usually.”

She is feeling confident for the first time in years.

“The year is still really, really new, but every tournament I have played I have played well,” she said. “I feel confident. I feel good on the court. I feel like I have had a chance to play more matches this year than many, many years, like four or five. I love being here. I wanted to play Monday.”

Williams got her wish. She plays Monday night against No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova, who beat No. 22 Alice Cornet 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.

Murray is also finding renewed confidence after offseason back surgery. He looked particularly sharp on Sunday, as Ivan Lendl watched from the stands. Lendl was Murray’s coach the past two years, and the two parted ways last week, but his presence at the match showed there are no hard feelings.

It was Murray’s most impressive match since surgery. He had been stretched to three sets in seven of his previous eight matches, and in five of those lost the first set. But on this day, he dominated early had his serve broken only once.

“It was really hot,” Murray said. “I don’t know how hot it was, but when we came over at like 9:30 [a.m.], it was already 80 Fahrenheit, and it was extremely humid. I have played a few matches here where it’s been very, very hot. But it doesn’t always stay like this for a few days in a row in March. I mean, I come here in the summer and it’s awful. It’s like 100 and so humid. Not easy conditions.”

Murray’s next opponent will be No. 11-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5.

This story was originally published March 24, 2014 12:01 AM.

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