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I assume it’s the newest major which will have been added to my site in two years… Before the tournament started there were three strong favorites to the title: Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi  and two-time defending champion Patrick Rafter. … Continue reading
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The compilation prepared based on articles written for the New York Times. The first major title for Mats Wilander , a Swedish teenager at the time, who hadn’t won a tournament prior to Roland Garros ’82, and it was his … Continue reading
(3)Roger Federer d. (11)John Isner 7-6(7), 6-3 [1:21 h]
In the 1st set the weather was ugly again, the wind was blowing and raindrops forced players to halt the final after the first five games for 11 minutes. Isner was serving the whole set too conservatively (only 4 aces in the match, Federer fired 7), he managed to hold his serve six times though (saved a set point in the 12th game). The tie-break was weird, there were seven mini-breaks in total and decided a point at 7 all when Federer passed his opponent with a help of the frame (played backhand and the ball landed on the line, Isner let it go). A moment later he won the set on fourth set point with a service winner on Isner’s weaker backhand. The Swiss stepped up in the 7th game of the 2nd set. He invited Isner to the net three straight times to get three points (two with passing-shot winners, Isner made a volley error on break point). The devastated Isner played a very poor game at *3:5, and after a sloppy netted forehand from the American, Federer could celebrate his record tying 19th ‘1000’ tournament victory (73rd title). It’s a moment of the season when this question is understandable: will Federer regain the No. 1 spot in men’s tennis? Last year it seemed impossible, but at the moment with ‘Djodal’s vulnerability, three titles in a row by FedEx, and 39 wins in the last 41 matches (including easy victories over Nadal and Murray) his self-confidence must be huge, and the next week event in Miami looks like a fascinating prospect. “I served pretty well,” Isner said – in contrary to my observations. “I don’t think I lost the match because I didn’t serve as well. He was on top of me and his forehand was way too good. The hard thing now is staying inside of the top 10. That’s what I’ve got to work on.” Stats of the match.
M.Lopez/R.Nadal d. J.Isner/S.Querrey 6-2, 7-6(3)
(3)Roger Federer d. (2)Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 [1:31 h]
The match was delayed because of rain, although started at 5:30 a.m. the floodlights were activated from the beginning. The sky was cloudy, the wind was strong, Federer was more eager. He took first three games despite Nadal had a two-point advantage in every game. The Spaniard responded winning three straight games too, but Federer extended the 3-game streak by each player to three (served the set to “love” making three different winners)! In the 2nd game of the 2nd set, the players were forced to stop the play for a few minutes due to breezy rain. After that, Federer dominated his opponent totally, he was constantly attacking the ball early, and Nadal couldn’t find his rhythm. The Spaniard was broken twice and it seemed like a beat-down, but he never gives up. Federer was serving at 5:2, but Nadal kept fighting to make the things more interesting with Federer serving at 5:4 (15-30). At 30 all the situation became ridiculous, during a long rally again a few raindrops fell, Nadal missed a forehand and Steve Ulrich halted the match for a few minutes just like in the 2nd game of the set. Federer came back on court to deliver an ace on match point! He advances to the Indian Wells final for the first time in six years, Rafa remains titleless since last year’s French Open!
(11)John Isner d. (1)Novak Djokovic 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(5) [2:45 h]
Perhaps it will be remembered as the best 3-set match of the season, albeit the initial phase didn’t indicate it would be possible. Djokovic showed his amazing retrieving skills to win six straight points on Isner’s serve, and led 3:1* (30-0) in the 1st set when the American delivered four service bombs to hang in the set. The Serb was serving at 5:4 (30 all) when Isner attacked the net to finish the point with a calm overhead. Facing a break point, Djokovic made an astonishing mistake, after Isner’s long return he decided to challenge the ball despite responded with a shot which found the way to Isner’s no-man’s land, and the rally would have been continued on equal terms. The hawk-eye signalized the ball was good, and Isner broke back. In the tie-break he led 6:4 & 7:6 before converted his fourth set point. At 4:3 in the 2nd set Djokovic tried as hard as he could to break the American, and he managed to do this on the fourth break point in that game. Since the middle of the 3rd set, the No. 1 in the world was very emotional sensing that winning a decisive tie-break against the local-favorite would be an extremely tough mission to accomplish. He manufactured an opportunity at 3 games apiece – Isner fought off a break point with a huge serve (143 mph) – D’Joke’s racquet only touched the ball by its frame. In the 12th game, Isner jumped to a 30-0 lead. Djokovic won three points in a row, then lost two… match point Isner – Djokovic’s service winner, two points more for him and we have the deciding tie-break, something what Isner loves, but Djokovic is exeptionally good at it as well. Leading 2:0 Isner should have made a crucial blow, but his tentative forehand from a comfortable position, Djokovic blocked with a backhand volley. In the following point he lobbed Isner on the line, Marian Vajda was laughing. An ace by Isner – 3:2. Djokovic’s second serve and Isner furiously plays return forehand from the tram-lines, 4:2 for him during the change of ends. 4:3 a moment later. Isner creates a double match point with a forehand winner followed up by a service winner. Djokovic replies with an ace and a service winner. Isner is such a cool customer tough, hits an ace-wide (his 20th of the day) on fourth match point, and celebrates the biggest achievement of his tennis life with a shy small fist-pump. A few minutes after the last match point the rain came and delayed the second semifinal three and a half hour… This famous victory introduces Isner to the Top 10, thirty other Americans before him achieved this feat in the Open era. “With that serve and with that forehand he’s got the ability to be a Top 10 player,” said Djokovic. “He had that already a couple years back. It’s just a matter of really trusting your instincts and your strokes and your quality. I think it all came together for him now, and he’s deservedly in the Top 10 now.”
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