Miami – 1R

In the most interesting first round clash, met two American veterans: 31-year-old James Blake [173] and one year older Michael Russell [90]. It should have been a straight sets victory for the latter. He led 6-3, 5:3 serving for the match, Blake came back though and saved a match point on serve in the tie-break. In the 3rd set, Russell again had his chances, this time to get a double break – 3:1* (30-0). Blake survived after 2 hours 19 minutes 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 and it’s hard to believe, he has notched the first career win being close to lose a match in two different sets (his 208th tournament at the main level)!
In similar circumstances won his match Feliciano Lopez [41]. The Spaniard was two points away from defeat at 5:5 in the 2nd set tie-break against Richard Berankis [75], then rallied from a 0:3 deficit in the 3rd set, breaking his opponent three times in a row, despite hadn’t broken him even once before (4-6, 7-6, 6-3).
Juan Martin del Potro [51] is on a way to regain his lost position in the tennis world. He has confirmed very good form outplaying Ricardo Mello [79] 6-4, 6-4. “I served really well today, especially in the important moments,” claimed Del Potro who needed two service games to serve the match out, “At 5-4 in the second set, I closed the match with my serve. I [hit] great serves and I’m still working on that.” Del Potro has very tough draw in Miami, in the next round faces Philipp Kohlschreiber with whom played dramatic two-setter last week at Indian Wells. If Del Potro beats the German, in the third round will meet (probably) the No. 4 – Robin Soderling. Two very interesting matches in the prospect, a battle between Kohlschreiber and Soderling should be very interesting as well, they have intriguing H2H which has been already mentioned on my blog in a separate post.

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Pim-Pim retires again

A former No. 9 in the world and the US Open semifinalist, Joachim “Pim-Pim” Johansson [546], last week played a Futures event in Fällanden (Switzerland). In the first round he beat an unknown Croat – Mate Pavic 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4 and withdrew from the tournament… Johansson said he is fit and injury free, but no longer passionate about tennis, adding “realized that I’m done with this.” It’s his second retirement, the 28-year-old Swede retired for the first time at the beginning of 2008 due to injuries. He changed his mind in the same year tough, since then he was playing only a couple tournaments each year. He will be remembered as one of the biggest servers, he is a record holder in “the most aces served in a four set match” – 51 aces (!) against Andre Agassi at the Australian Open 2005.
My MTF tribute thread – made after his first retirement (updated currently)
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Indian Wells – final

(3)Novak Djokovic d. (1)Rafael Nadal  4-6, 6-3, 6-2
(2:25 h)

It was a highly anticipated final, on the one side of the net Nadal – the best player in the world, two-time Indian Wells champion, hungry to get a title because hasn’t won any for five months (long period for his standards); on the other side of the net Djokovic – the hottest player on tour this year, the most serious contender to replace Nadal at the top of the ATP ranking. In the 1st set Nadal impressed a lot, was attacking the net quite frequently, finishing the points with backhand volleys, his shots were flatter (82 cm average clearance, Djokovic 11 cm higher), and solid in service games (albeit lost his serve once). The Serb raised the level of his game in the 2nd set, broke Nadal to lead 4:2, a moment later lost his own serve but broke again to lead 5:3 (Nadal had only 25% of 1st serves in the set!!). The 9th game was crucial (“It was just the question of momentum,” noticed Djokovic afterwards, “I managed to hold that very important game at 5-3 and then I was on a roll“) – Nadal got a break point after saving three set points – Djokovic fought it off with a forehand winner on the line and won the game after numerous ‘deuces’. Nadal probably gave everything in that game, hoping to clinch the win in straight sets because at the beginning of the 3rd set, seemed out of gas, Djokovic notched in total a 6-game winning streak,  had even 30-15 on Nadal’s serve at 4:0. The Spaniard saved his honor avoiding a bagel, but couldn’t do much more and after 2 hours 25 minutes, D’Joke converted the first match point to celebrate his 20th consecutive win, eighth win over Nadal, but the first one in a final (Nadal won their five previous finals) and the first one coming back from a one-set-to-love deficit. “I am playing with a lot of confidence,” said Djokovic, “I’m feeling the ball well on the court. I’m very dedicated. I have a big will to win each match I’m playing on, so it will not stop here, definitely. I want to keep on going and keep on playing good tennis. Hopefully I can recover and get ready for Miami.” Djokovic’s 21st career title (6th ‘Masters 1000’), he joins David Nalbandian and Nikolay Davydenko as the third player to beat  Nadal and Federer in the same tournament on two occasions. Below the complete list of tournaments in which Nadal and Federer were beaten by one player (in the parenthesis their ranking at the time):

2007: MontrealDjokovic (2 – Nadal, 1 – Federer); Madrid Nalbandian (2 – Nadal, 1 – Federer) & Paris (1 – Federer, 2 – Nadal)
2009: US OpenDel Potro (3 – Nadal, 1 – Federer); London Davydenko (2 – Nadal, 1 – Federer)
2010: DohaDavydenko (1 – Federer, 2 – Nadal); Toronto Murray (1 – Nadal, 3 – Federer)
2011: Indian Wells Djokovic (2 – Federer, 1 – Nadal)

Doubles final:
Alexandr Dolgopolov/Xavier Malisse d. Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-7(5), [10-7]

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Indian Wells – SF

Rafael Nadal [1] has probably experienced the weirdest road to an ‘ATP World Tour Masters 1000’ final ever. In his first three rounds outplayed three qualifiers, in turn in the last two, players who try to return after long injuries (Karlovic and Juan Martin del Potro [90]). Del Potro started the first semifinal promisingly, leading 4:1* but Nadal since then managed to win five straight games. In the 2nd set, the Spaniard  astonished his opponent in the 5th game with two amazing passing-shots, the first one (forehand DTL) saving a game point, the second one (backhand DTL) to get a break. Nadal won 6-4, 6-4 snapping Del Potro’s 9 match winning streak. “I had my chance basically in the first set,” Del Potro said, “He improved his game and I felt a little confused with my serve. He broke me back again, and then it’s very difficult to make a winner against Rafa. I think he played much better than me today.” The second semifinal disappointed me. Roger Federer [2] couldn’t prevent the 19th Novak Djokovic‘s [3] successive win in a boring encounter. After two actually identical sets (two breaks for the winner, the second one in the 9th game), Djokovic raced to a 2:0 lead. Federer broke back and had a double game point in the 5th game, Djokovic won four consecutive points though (11 in total), and three another games, the match 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. The Serb has beaten Federer three times this year and deprives him the No. 2 in the world for the second time in career (previously in October last year).  He said of returning to the No. 2 ranking: “It’s I guess the crown for my achievements this year. I think I deserve it. I think I’ve played the best tennis of my life in the last three months. I have been very dedicated, very professional, and I want to keep on going.”

Federer left the court as a loser again a couple hours later, this time suffering the doubles final defeat, partnering Stanislas Wawrinka. The Swiss duo lost to  Oleg Dolgopolov (1st doubles title) and Xavier Malisse (5th doubles title), and Federer went far towards the loss, miss-hitting awfully two volleys in the super tie-break. The Ukrainian-Belgian “ponytails” pair, won all tournament matches after the super tie-break! Dolgopolov: “We had a lot of luck throughout the tournament. You don’t want to lose it because you’re nervous or something. You get lucky, you win; if not, you lose. We just went for it and got a bit of luck as well in the final.” Below their road to the title:

1 – Tomas Berdych/Janko Tipsarevic 4-6, 6-4, [10-8]
2 – (1)Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan 7-5, 6-7(9), [10-7]
Q – Andy Murray/Jamie Murray 6-7(7), 6-3, [10-8]
S – Rohan Bopanna/Aisem-Ul-Haq Qureshi 3-6, 6-3, [10-8]
W – Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-7(5), [10-7]
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‘Fedal’ in doubles – 3rd time

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Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, two hours after playing against each other in the singles quarterfinal at Indian Wells, came back on court, this time together as a team to advance to the doubles final, beating the Spanish duo (the … Continue reading

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Indian Wells – QF

Friday. The story of a match between Novak Djokovic [3] and Richard Gasquet [21], repeated itself in both sets – the Frenchman led 2:0 (a game point a couple times) and 3:0* (deuce) respectively, but since then Djokovic won six and five games respectively, to clinch the victory 6-2, 6-4 in 1 hour 35 minutes, the duration of the match seemed longer than it actually was, mainly due to the 3rd game of the 1st set, which lasted 16 minutes and was won by Djokovic after seven ‘deuces’. Gasquet appreciates  Djokovic’s amazing form: “Because he won Davis Cup, he took a lot of confidence there and after the Australian Open. We see a confident player. That’s why he’s playing really good right now. He can do everything on the court.” Roger Federer [2] needed one break in each set in his match against compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka [14] to win 6-3, 6-4. The match lasted 21 minutes less than the previous quarterfinal, however, was consisted of one game more. Wawrinka made a very bad impression, producing unforced errors from both wings. Federer seemed to spend “another boring day in the office”, now leads 9-1 in their H2H, having won their last five meetings in the last ten months.

Thursday. The first quarterfinal between Tommy Robredo [28] and Juan Martin del Potro [90] wasn’t played due to injury of the Spaniard (strained left adductor muscle). “I’m sorry for Robredo; I wish [him a] fast recovery, but I am glad to be semi-finals,” said Del Potro “Maybe I could play with Nadal again. We’ve had very good matches before, so I have two days to be better, in good form, and hopefully I can play 100 percent.” Indeed, in the semifinal Del Potro faces Rafael Nadal [1] who was only two points from being eliminated from the tournament. At 5:5 in the 1st set, Ivo Karlovic [239] played perhaps the best return game in his life and broke Nadal to “love”! In the next game fought off a break point with an ace and surprisingly took the set. The tension at the end of the 1st set cost him too much and Nadal quickly jumped  into a 5:0 lead in the 2nd set. The 3rd set went with serves – “You lose a set against Karlovic, and you are under pressure the rest of the games of the match,” said Nadal “I think I played a fantastic second set returning better than ever. In the third, I didn’t have chances. His serve was unstoppable. In the tie-break I was really nervous. I think I returned fantastic in the tie-break, but I didn’t put one first serve on court, so I was really nervous.” In fact, Nadal delivered the first serve at 7:6 (second match point for him), before that he led 5:2 and 6:5. The final score 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(7)… Nadal’s record in long final set tie-breaks (at least 14 points): 5-3; Karlovic has 7-4.

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Indian Wells – 4R

59, 54 and 66 minutes respectively – it is the match time of Novak Djokovic‘s first three rounds at Indian Wells this year. The Serb has been in terrifying form since the beginning of the tournament, winning the first set ‘6-0’ in each of his matches! (the same feat achieved also Thomas Muster in Bari 23 years ago). Djokovic was merciless even for his friend and this week’s doubles partner Viktor Troicki [18], who broke the racquet with his thigh in the last game because of enormous frustration! “I don’t think I’m playing incredible tennis,” Djokovic comments “I think I’m playing really, really solid and getting a lot of balls back into the court and making my opponent play an extra shot… I think he had a very bad match in general. But I was very solid, and I keep on playing well, so this is what makes me happy.Juan Martin del Potro confirms his resurgence after the injury with his ninth win in a row. The Argentinian needed two tie-breaks (2 hours, 21 minutes) to overcome Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German had two break points at 4:3 and was two points away at 5:4 in the 1st set, but the 2nd set was even more dramatic. Del Potro already led  3:0* (40-15) when Kohlschreiber played a risky overhead from the back of the court. Afterwards he took a ribreak and saved a match point in the 10th game to build a seemingly decisive 6:1 lead in the tie-break. Del Potro managed to save five consecutive set points (!) and converted his third match point with an ace. Similar progress occurred in the 2nd set of a Roddick-Gasquet match. The Frenchman after winning the 1st set, led 4:2 with a double break point in the 2nd set. Roddick escaped and had three set points in the 12th game. In the tie-break, the American once again erased a deficit (2:5), but Gasquet won the last two points, converting his first match point with an excellent backhand return down the line.

In doubles there was an intriguing situation that four best singles players in the world, would face each other in the semifinals! In the second quarterfinal Andy Murray (teamed up with his brother Jamie) was beaten though, by the experimental team (for the first time together) Oleg Dolgopolov / Xavier Malisse. The Brits were on their way to a straight sets victory, but Jamie committed four straight double faults (!) at 3:0 (40-0) in the 2nd set, and Dog with X-Man won six straight games. In the super tie-break the Murrays again were close to victory, led 6:1 & 8:4 only to lose the last six points of the match!

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Indian Wells – 3R

20-year-old Milos Raonic [37] and one and a half year younger Ryan Harrison [152] might be two of the Top 5 players of the current decade. Today they met  (both participating in the tournament thanks to “wild cards”) for the first time in a high quality match – in front of a packed house on Stadium Two – which lasted 2 hours, 29 minutes. Harrison wasted a triple mini-match point in the 2nd set, but stayed cool and built a 5:2 lead in the 3rd set, having a match point on serve. Raonic fought it off with a help of the net-cord, saved also another two match points in the 10th game to obtain a break point for himself! Harrison delivered a solid service winner in that very difficult situation, then got a point with a great volley and finished the match off with his 11th ace (Raonic fired 17). It’s been a breakthrough tournament for the 18-year-old American, who for the first time in his career won three consecutive matches on the main level. He will be awarded in the next round facing Roger Federer [2]. Harrison speaks on the tournament
The former No. 1 in the world, needed only 58 minutes to demolish Juan-Ignacio Chela [32]. The other best players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their matches in similar style, Nadal needed 10 minutes more than Federer, Djokovic 4 minutes less to advance to the fourth round. Djokovic’s ‘6-0, 6-1’ over Ernests Gulbis (his first tournament under Darren Cahill’s coaching) is astonishing, especially that the Latvian [34] began the match with a triple break point. Djokovic: “He’s unpredictable; he has a very strong serve and he has a powerful ground-strokes, but if he’s not patient and not hitting the right balls like today, he can miss a lot“.
Not only Harrison has been playing a tournament of life, a qualifier Somdev Devvarman [84] as well. The 26-year-old Hindu, was *2:5 down in the final set tie-break against Xavier Malisse but managed to win the last five points of the match. Philipp Kohlschreiber and Robin Soderling have a stunning frequency of playing long tie-breaks against each other. In their sixth career meeting (counting a qualifying match), they played the fifth at least 14-point tie-break, and the German won four of them, this time 10-8 (the whole match 7-6, 6-4), saving five set points, two on Soderling’s serve in the same style – with a forehand return!

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Indian Wells – 2R

Andy Murray [5] after reaching the Australian Open final last year where was beaten in straight sets by Federer, couldn’t back on the right track in the following few months. This year is even worse, after (in some sense) a humiliating defeat in the Australian Open final, he lost very quickly his opening match in Rotterdam (to Baghdatis) and now at Indian Wells suffers the third straight sets loss, to a player whom should have outplayed with ease – Donald Young [143]. The 21-year-old Young, before this weak, hadn’t beaten a player from the Top 30! His biggest scalp came also in Indian Wells, three years ago when he ousted F.Lopez, No. 32 at the time. Young: “It’s by far the biggest win of my career. I’ve had chances before but this is the first I’ve come through and didn’t let my nerves get the better of me.” The other main contenders to the title (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Soderling) won their matches easily, albeit Federer was two points away from losing both sets against Igor Andreev, even though was keeping the match under control throughout. Soderling, in turn, found himself at *5:6 in the 2nd set against Michael Berrer, despite a 4:1 lead with a double break.
Nikolay Davydenko‘s slump continues. The Russian fell in the ranking 34 places in the last five months (from 6 to 42)! He almost can’t win a tie-break during the last 12 months and paradoxically before that, he had a career best tie-break streak (17-1), since Australian Open ’10 it’s been 5-22! Yesterday against Stanislas Wawrinka [14], he was leading 5:3* in the 2nd set and was two points away from winning the encounter at *5:5 in the tie-break, Wawrinka won 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, taking the last three games of the match. Also dramatic matches won Juan Ignacio Chela (4-6, 3:5*, 15-30 against P.Petzschner), Ernests Gulbis (saved a match point on serve in the 2nd set tie-break against YH.Lu) and Philipp Kohlschreiber, who unexpectedly had a very difficult match against T.Smyczek, won from a triple match point down in the 12th game of the final set. The defending champion Ivan Ljubicic [16] had the worst possible draw in the second round and lost 7-5, 4-6, 2-6 to Juan Martin del Potro [90], who seems to back to his 2009 form. Ljubicic: “It’s not an easy draw, of course. He’s a great player, and it was a great match. It was great entertainment for the crowd. We had some great points. I came up short in the end.” Del Potro’s first three set match after 14 consecutive two-setters!

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Scud gets another title

34-year-old Mark Philippoussis won his second successive title in ATP Champions Tour beating two years older Tim Henman in straight sets in the final of the  BNP Paribas Zurich Open. The semi-retired Australian, two weeks ago triumphed in Delray Beach … Continue reading

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