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Friday. It happens rarely that the first game of the match makes a decisive impact on the final outcome. It happened in the third quarterfinal between Roger Federer  and Juan Martin del Potro . In a very long first game, Del Potro had two break points, but exploded arguing with Mohammed Lahyani. The Argentine felt robbed, because a video line call review was not available after Federer’s wide serve. Del Potro lost the point which should’ve been replayed and couldn’t regain his composure after that for a while and lost three straight games quickly, it allowed Federer to feel himself very well out there, the relaxed Swiss was mixing up the pace intelligently – strong serves (12 aces to none from DelPo) with forehand drop-shots, and secured a semifinal berth in 1 hour 9 minutes, winning 6-3, 6-2. Federer improves his H2H with Del Potro to 11-2 (four matches this year, all of them Federer took in straight sets).
Three years ago Rafael Nadal  survived five match points to defeat  David Nalbandian 3-6, 7-6, 6-0 (the match ended after 2:00 a.m.) in the fourth round at Indian Wells. Today on the same court their match was some kind of reminiscence of that late finished encounter in 2009. Nalbandian was very solid almost the entire two sets, especially from his backhand side. He was two points away from a win at 5:4* (30 all) in the 2nd set – Nadal hit the baseline with an offensive stroke, and broke the Argentine for the first time in the following game. The Spaniard notched a 5-game winning streak in total, and was very close to get another break, but Nalbandian saved a break point at 0:2 with a rally of the match (Nadal was running like crazy from corner to corner) and he came back to the match avoiding a bagel like 3 years before. Later on, he was one point away from erasing a double break deficit but chose wrongly – missed a drop-shot and three points later Nadal wrapped up a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory in 2 hours 39 minutes (needed 2 hours 50 minutes 3 years ago).
Thursday. Nicolas Almagro , reaching quarter-final at Indian Wells achieved arguably the biggest result on hardcourts. So it was tough to expect he would make an upset against the best player in the world. Novak Djokovic  dismissed him 6-3, 6-4 in 1 hour 22 minutes, stepping up in the second phase of both sets. “I had a very powerful ball striker on the opposite side of the net,” said Djokovic. “He’s very solid from ground-strokes and has a powerful serve, but I knew that he’s inconsistent with that, so I just needed to hang in there, which I did.”
He now faces John Isner , who advanced to second straight ‘1000’ semi-final. In the night session match against Gilles Simon , Isner saved a break point trailing 1:3 in the 3rd set. In the 3rd set both players were winning service games comfortably until the 12th game when the Frenchman produced a couple unforced errors and lost 3-6, 6-1, 5-7. “It’s pretty satisfying. I don’t feel like I played my best. I don’t think Gilles did, either,” said Isner. “So we’re both kind of fighting that the whole match. My coach said it wasn’t a Picasso out there, but I found a way to get it done.” Isner had never before played four consecutive matches without a tie-break! He has advanced also to semi-finals in doubles (along with Sam Querrey), in this competition he won in contrary every match thanks to a super tie-break.
Matthew Ebden  has notched the second big result in a ‘1000’ event as a qualifier. Last year in Shanghai he advanced to the quarter-finals, this week at Indian Wells after two wins in qualifying rounds, overcame again three hurdles in the main draw. In the third round he ousted (6-3, 6-4) a Top 10 player for the first time – Mardy Fish, who has been completely out of form since last year’s semifinal in Tokyo (5-11 record since then). There was some controversy at 4 all (deuce) in the 2nd set, Fish played a drop-volley and shouted “come on!” before the second bounce. The chair umpire decided to award the point to Ebden, although the Australian had very slim chance to extend the rally. It seems it’s a year finishing a generation of the best American players of the previous decade. Andy Roddick slipped outside the Top 30 for the first time since 2001, and couldn’t do too much against Berdych in the third round. Robby Ginepri loses regularly in the 1st or 2nd round, James Blake has just played one tournament in the last five months… In this circumstances John Isner becomes the new hope of the American tennis. He hasn’t lost yet a service game in three matches (all on Stadium 2), and hasn’t been even forced to play a tie-break. I assume he should advance to the Top 10 after Miami, Fish will drop then and never come back.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost to David Nalbandian  a fourth round match in weird circumstances. The Frenchman was serving for the victory at 5:4 (30-0) in the 2nd set, he missed a volley having an open court, threw the racquet, caught his head in disbelief which was in my opinion totally unnecessary at this stage. A moment later he had a match point, but made a ground-stroke error, Nalbandian leveled up and never looked back producing a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win in 2 hours 18 minutes.
A 3-time champion of the tournament, Roger Federer needed three sets in back-to-back matches to advance to the quarterfinals. He finally met Milos Raonic, and there happened what I had expected, Raonic was winning his service games as long as the percentage of his 1st serve was good, when it dropped to 50%, Federer broke him three times to get a 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 victory. The Swiss was pushed to 6-4 in the 3rd set also in another encounter against Thomaz Bellucci . The Brazilian showed surprisingly good tennis, hitting the ball clearly, but didn’t stand the pressure serving to stay in the match.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are on a collision course to play another final against each other, both won their matches convincingly, albeit Djokovic due to temporal lack of concentration dropped a tie-break set to Pablo Andujar (6-0, 6-7, 6-2). They played each other in an under-16 match in Belgium. “I had six match points, and I lost that match 7-6 in the third set,” Djokovic said. “We joke around a bit at the times when we were growing up.”
Gilles Simon  has become a comical specialist of winning matches in which he loses a m.p.-up set, has already won 8 matches of this type # (two this week). In a grueling battle on Stadium 2 during night session with Ryan Harrison for a quarterfinal spot, he wasted a 5:2* lead and three match points in the 2nd set, but kept his composure to get a 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 win (in the 1st set saved a double set point).
Juan Martin del Potro has been lately involved in tight sets everywhere. In the third round he dismissed Fernando Verdasco saving six set points (a triple s.p. at *4:5 and double s.p. at 4:6 in the tie-break). In his following match against No. 51 Denis Istomin (made an upset eliminating David Ferrer, who came to Indian Wells with two South American titles under his belt), saved again a triple set point in the ninth game of the 2nd set, this time on return, and led 5:3 in the tie-break only to lose the set, eventually winning 7-6, 6-7, 6-2.
# Simon’s wins despite losing a m.p.-up set:
Palermo ’06: A.Seppi 6-0 6-7(6) 6-2 – 3 mp
Marseille ’08: N.Djokovic 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 – 1 mp
Cincinnati ’09: I.Andreev 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 6-1 – 1 mp
Eastbourne ’10: E.Korolev 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4 – 1 mp
Davis Cup ’10: E.Schwank 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 6-3 – 2 mp
Cincinnati ’11: D.Ferrer 6-4 6-7(3) 6-4 – 4 mp
Indian Wells ’12: D.Sela 7-5 6-7(6) 6-4 – 2 mp
Indian Wells ’12: R.Harrison 7-6(0) 5-7 6-1 – 3 mp
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In the Internet space we can drift in different directions of time, so I decided to add once per week descriptions of the biggest tennis events of the 80s and 90s. There won’t be any chronology in that, just when … Continue reading
Very strong field this year at Indian Wells, all Top 20 guys appeared in the sunny American city, unfortunately Gael Monfils  withdrew from his 2nd round match due to sickness (food poisoning) as well as his doubles partner Philipp Kohlschreiber. ‘Le Monf’ and ‘Kohli’ lost their doubles match to the Polish duo ‘Frytka & Matka’. Monfils is unlucky lately, due to injury he didn’t play a vital rubber in Davis Cup and skipped tournaments in San Jose and Memphis… Andy Murray is one of the four best players in the world in the last few years, no question about it, but his inconsistency doesn’t allow him to move further in the ATP ranking. From time to time he suffers weird defeats, last year it happened to him three times in ‘1000’ tournaments as he was easily beaten in his opening matches by Young, Bogomolov and Anderson, this time he was stunned by a tricky Guillermo Garcia-Lopez . Murray led 3:2* (40-0) in the 1st set being on a way to a routine win but failed to convert break points and the momentum shifted onto Spaniard’s side. Garcia-Lopez won 6-4, 6-2 saving all seven break points in the night session clash. “I’m not exactly sure why that happened tonight,” Murray said. “I played well in practice. I was hitting the ball really well and I felt pretty fresh. I didn’t move my best tonight, but it didn’t feel like I was moving really badly. My return let me down, and he hardly missed the ball“. Other big boys won their matches without any troubles. Novak Djokovic began his campaign of title defense winning opening match against Golubev, just like a year ago (then dropped four games, this time one game more). Garcia-Lopez’s fellow Spaniard, Albert Ramos  achieved a unique result winning back-to-back matches facing a match point (against Levine & Gasquet). Among active players only Nieminen (twice), Davydenko, F.Lopez and Querrey have done it. There were several topsy-turvy sets and matches. Steve Darcis  saved three mini match points against Young, and won in the 3rd set tie-break, although he had a 4:0 lead in that set. In his following round, the Belgian won a tie-break against Dolgopolov despite 1:5 down and five set points to save; he was serving for the match at 5:3 (30-15) in the 3rd set, but in the end the Ukrainian notched a dramatic victory 6-7(13), 6-3, 7-5. Darcis has won 15 tie-breaks in a row (counting Challengers)! Nikolay Davydenko managed to erase almost the biggest tennis deficit: *0:5 (15-40) in the 1st set against Bubka in the first round. In the longest “best of 3” match of the year so far, Denis Istomin prevailed against Juan Ignacio Chela (second round) after 3 hours 22 minutes 7-6, 6-7, 7-5. The Argentine saved three match points in the tie-break and squandered a 4:2 lead in the decider, Istomin needed seven match points in total to clinch the match. Michael Llodra was fined $2,500 for verbally abusing a spectator during his first-round match against Ernests Gulbis. Supposedly Llodra shouted “Fucking Chinese!” towards Gulbis’s supporter, later on he explained that isn’t a racist and retired during the second round encounter with Tsonga.
Usually players stick to one or two brands during the entire career. There were players who used three brands though (e.g. Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi), but I found only two players to change the mark four times: Henri Leconte and … Continue reading
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The almost 32-year-old Chilean announced his retirement a month ago after Vina del Mar. “I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to end my career at Miami. It’s 100 per cent personal. I realized I don’t have the … Continue reading
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Three weeks ago I posted an entry considering all Top 20 singles players in the Open era in regard of their countries. Today the second part of this theme – doubles specialists, but restricted to the Top 10. Just like … Continue reading
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It’s an untypical week in the tennis season because two ‘500’ finals were played on Saturday. The 20th edition of the Dubai Duty Free gathered delicious players, there were 8 out of the 10 best guys in the world (the … Continue reading