As Joca mentioned yesterday, the 24th all-European quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 event, for the first time men from Europe rule in Miami completely from quarterfinals and onwards.
(8)Richard Gasquet d. (4)Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3 [1:14 h]
They met two weeks ago at Indian Wells, and Berdych won 6-1 7-5 so there was tough to expect he would be defeated in a similar fashion… but it happened, he got only six games despite very neutral start: he led 3:2* in the 1st set making a better impression, had a couple of break points in the 6th game, however, after he couldn’t convert them, completely lost his rhythm spreading forehand errors all over the place and lost seven games in a row! In my opinion he was more erratic than Gasquet magnificent. The Frenchman can produce an all-court tennis, but this time he was limited to grabbing points off Berdych’s errors, from time to time entertaining the crowd with sharp-angle backhands. “I’m really happy with the way I played,” Gasquet expressed the obviousness. “It was a good match for me. And I think I was solid mentally. I was playing very good. It’s an important match for me.”
(2)Andy Murray d. (9)Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3 [1:42 h]
This match showed how far away Cilic is from the best guys despite he’s approaching Top 10. The start was promising for him as he saved a triple break point in the opening game to establish a 3:1 lead, nevertheless he was broken three times in the 1st set (had lost two service games in two previous matches). He figured out that staying on the back of the court he’s chance-less against the consistent Murray, so he changed his tactics in the 2nd set, and was more offensive than ever, only in the 4th game he played more good volleys than usually in the entire match, all in vain – lost it after seven deuces in 15 minutes. I had an impression that Murray was all the time at 70% of his mental & physical involvement, so when Cilic fought strongly, and saved six match points at the end, it didn’t impress me at all because I know he isn’t a guy who would build a momentum coming back from a big hole against a superior opponent. The Scot improves to an 8-1 record over Cilic.
(15)Tommy Haas d. (11)Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1 [1:04 h]
Clinical performance from Haas. He didn’t overreact after sensational win over No. 1 in the world. He returned on Centre Court twenty-two hours later being well motivated and in a great physical shape, also relaxed because he laughed when his little daughter was depicted on a big screen during the warm-up. The match seemed open until 3-all in the 1st set, since then Haas was doing on court what he wanted, Simon couldn’t respond with one of his biggest merits – patience; he was outplayed even in this department when Haas won a 30-stroke rally without anhelation. The German will play in the semifinals of a Masters 1000 event for the first time since 2006 (Paris). He said: “I used my chances right away in the second set and took that momentum..”
(3)David Ferrer d. Jurgen Melzer 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 [1:55 h]
The 1st set was bizarre, Ferrer led 2:0, then was 2:5* down having a double break point to level at 5 games apiece. So almost six breaks of serve in the first ten games! Perhaps Ferrer would have broken Melzer in the 10th game if he hadn’t received a warning due to shouting “puta!” after losing the second break point at 4:5. It hurt him so much that he called for a warning for Melzer in the 2nd set when the Austrian hit the ball into the stands. Melzer implemented the right tactics generally speaking: hard ground-strokes, risky 2nd serve and changing of pace, but it worked only the first 40 minutes. From start of the 2nd set to the end of the match Ferrer’s domination was overwhelming. He’s fitter and too stubborn to collapse being 0-1 in sets against anyone except Nadal. He was patiently collecting points on Melzer’s errors and double faults (they separated them the most, Melzer committed 11 to none by Ferrer at 14-point discrepancy). Ferrer moves through to the Miami semifinals for the third time in career (2005-06) improving H2H against Melzer to 7-2.
During the last fourth round match, the temperature was low (9 Celsius), the wind strong, nevertheless Novak Djokovic got accustomed tennis fans to win in every conditions. Therefore his 2-6 4-6 shocker to Tommy Haas everyone should interpret as an amazing upset regardless of the unpleasant weather. It’s not only that the German turns 35 next week, so an age when almost all his peers are on retirement, he hadn’t beaten a No. 1 player in the world since… 1999 while Djokovic was on a 14-match winning streak in Miami having beaten Haas 6-2 6-0 last time they met two months ago in Perth! That chilly & windy evening, everything clicked though for Haas, even when he wasted chances for a double break twice in the 2nd set, he kept the mental composure (albeit threw his racquet once) and won the last three games, producing three winners in the 10th game, including an authoritarian forehand down the line on match point.“Playing against someone like Novak and coming out on top at this time of my career, it’s unbelievable. It goes up as one of [the] best wins of my career.” Haas said.“I congratulate him. He definitely made great tactics,” admitted Djokovic. “He used the serve well and he moved around the court really well. He was better.” Haas is the second oldest player to breat No. 1 in the world in the Open era # Nicolas Almagro had had an awful record of deciding 3rd set tie-breaks in first few years of his career, then improved it for a while, and recently loses deciding tight sets again. His 2-hour-39-minute 7-6(3) 5-7 6-7(3) loss to Richard Gasquet, marks Almagro’s fourth defeat of this type since Madrid ’12. The fourth round clash of these two players who are considered as best one-handed backhanders (among with Wawrinka), had an interesting process: Almagro jumped to a 4:1 lead with two breaks but was forced to save two set points at 4:5. In the following two sets, Gasquet served thrice to stay in the match but never was closer to lose it than three points. Fellow Frenchman, Gilles Simon played similarly long match with completely different scoreline in terms of number of games. He tortured Janko Tipsarevic with his amazing patience to a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win (2 hours, 29 minutes) with the last game consisted of eight deuces (lasted 15 minutes) where break- and match points changed its owner many times. Third player to win from a set down on Tuesday – Jurgen Melzer (2-6 6-3 6-3 victor over Albert Ramos) seemed rather erased from competing in crucial stages of the biggest tournaments, but somehow regrouped and now is on an 9-match winning streak (unofficially, because first five wins come from a Challenger). It’s tough to say whether it’s his “swan song” or not. He’s the only unseeded quarter-finalist. Certainly a few good years has Marin Cilic ahead. The Croat dropped out of the Top 10 three years ago, but since last year’s Queens Club (No. 25) he’s been playing consistent tennis everywhere, improves his ranking systematically and his Top 10 renewal seems very probable soon. Just like in the previous round against Isner, Cilic lost his service once, beside that one poor game he was very solid on all service games penetrating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga‘s weaker backhand side with heavy forehands. Cilic won 7-5 7-6(4) improving his tie-break record this year to 8-1 (he had never a period of winning tie-breaks with such a frequency). Tomas Berdych hardly survived two battles against inferior opponents, when he faced theoretically tougher guy (Sam Querrey) he destroyed him 6-1 6-1. With Querrey’s loss (his career-worst), it marked the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1985 that an American male failed to reach the quarter-final stage. ”Just one of those awful days,” Querrey said. ”The more you miss, the harder it gets to get the ball in. It just kept getting worse.”
# Six oldest players to beat Nos. 1:
Wimbledon 1974: Ken Rosewall (39 years 8 months) d. John Newcombe 6-1, 1-6, 6-0, 7-5 Queens Club 2000: Gianluca Pozzi (34 years 11 months) d. Andre Agassi 4-6, 3-2 ret. Miami 2013: Tommy Haas (34 years 11 months) d. Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4 Miami 2003: Francisco Clavet (34 years 4 months) d. Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 6-4 Stockholm 1976: Mark Cox (33 years 4 months) d. Jimmy Connors 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 Queens Club 1998: Mark Woodforde (32 years 8 months) d. Pete Sampras 6-3, 6-2
Jurgen Melzer has been lately experiencing how single points can turn the things around. Two weeks ago he was two points away from losing to Jan Hajek in the first round of a Challenger in Dallas (Melzer’s first tournament on this level since 2008), which could be his fifth straight loss, then he won the title and now is on an 8-match winning streak after prevailing a tough battle against Tobias Kamke 6-7(3) 6-3 6-4 in 2 hours 30 minutes. Similar amount of time needed Janko Tipsarevic to overcome Kevin Anderson. The Serb was 2:4 & 4:5 down in the 2nd set tie-break, but once he won that set, Anderson inexplicably collapsed losing the 3rd set one in a very bad style, and the match 6-4 6-7(5) 0-6. Tommy Haas with an ease dispatched Alexandr Dolgopolov avenging a final loss in Washington last year. The German enjoys playing in front of his little daughter Valentina: “It was nice also having my daughter there too. It was a small dream come true for me. I’ve always said when I became a father, how special it would be to see my daughter in my box. I know it’s a little cheesy sometimes, but to have those memories one day is going to be fantastic.”Albert Ramos moves through to the fourth round of a Masters 1000 event for the first time beating James Blake 6-4 2-6 7-5. The Spaniard was *4:5 in the decider, then won 12 out of the last 13 points. Ramos said: “I don’t know how to explain what it means to be in the next round right now, but I am very happy. I really want to keep fighting out there. There are a lot of Spanish and Latin American fans here, so it was nice to play on the center court. Hopefully I can play on it again.”Tomas Berdych won his second consecutive match escaping in a 2nd set tie-break. This time only centimeters separated him from defeat to Alejandro Falla. The Colombian, supported by Latin colony, after winning 1st set easily, led 5:3* (40/30) in the 2nd set when Berdych served a second serve ace clipping the line. Falla had another match point in the tie-break, and Berdych’s second serve to receive again, this time he netted a forehand and the Czech player never looked back finishing a 2-6 7-6(6) 6-4 victory with offensive attitude. “My goal through the whole match was to stay as close as possible with him. He was playing really well,” Berdych said. Two months ago Grigor Dimitrov wasted a set point in the 1st set of a final in Brisbane against Andy Murray, in Miami lost to him blowing a set point as well (to be correct: two set points) in the 1st set. The Scot survived with the help of a moon-lob facing second set point, and notched a 7-6(3) 6-3 victory. John Isner in a revers scoreline, 3-6 6-7(3) was beaten by Marin Cilic. The Croat snapped Isner’s streak of 9 tie-breaks won in a row with a methodical performance, despite losing the serve in the opening game. Milos Raonic withdrew prior to his third-round meeting with an illness: “I had a fever before my first round going into the match and it just got really bad over the last two nights.” He withdrew from third round match at Sony Ericsson Open also twelve months ago. With eight retirements/walkovers, it’s second highest total in the Masters 1000 history. First is Shanghai ’09, which had nine in a 56 draw.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Miami (then called Key Biscayne) was regarded as a 5th Slam. This label is still using sometimes but doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s not even that tournament has been deprived of “the best of five” format for many years (obligated in years 1987-90; inception ’85), there are other things which cause that ‘Sony Ericsson Open’ loses a rivalry with its “cousin” ‘BNP Paribas’ at Indian Wells. Only Arthur Ashe stadium is bigger than Centre Court at Indian Wells, there are 3 courts with the challenge system in California, just two in Florida. Some best players manifested that nowadays West Coast > East Coast: two biggest attractions, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer withdrew as well as local player Mardy Fish, always dangerous Stanislas Wawrinka and one of the hottest players in the last three weeks – Ernests Gulbis, the only man who was really close to beat Rafa during his last three triumphs.
Problems didn’t end with those withdrawals, in the first round five players retired, Michael Llodra and Benoit Paire had an argue and didn’t shake hands which is rare in general, especially considering French players that sometimes even kiss each other after matches. As early as second round started, Dmitry Tursunov withdrew from a match against David Ferrer sending the Spaniard to the last 32 without hitting a ball, the rain fell on Day 3 and took its part in Juan Martin del Potro‘s loss (arguably 5th most desired player by officials). The Argentine played a lot of tennis in the last two months, therefore mental and physical tiredness caught him against a journeyman Tobias Kamke  on Centre Court. Del Potro squandered a 5:2 lead in the 1st set (and a few set points), then lost his focus during a tie-break in which the game was halted by rain twice. After another rainfall players left the court and when they came back to continue under the floodlights, Del Potro was powerless, unable to generate the pace, and Kamke took advantage of it playing regularly on DelPo’s error-prone backhand. The German won 7-6(5) 6-1 obtaining the most valuable victory of his career. “I saved two set points [at] 5:2 and somehow I came back in that set and had the chance to win it,” said Kamke. “The second set after the break, I felt even better. Then in the beginning, he missed some easy forehands and he was a little bit frustrated, I think. He didn’t play obviously his best tennis, but still I think I did a good job and pretty satisfied with that.” Also Daniel Gimeno-Traver on the same court but the following day was relatively close (five points) to make another major upset, as he led *2:0 in the 2nd set tie-break against Tomas Berdych having won the 1st set. The Spaniard isn’t a man of surprises though, and a serious of errors allowed Berdych to regain the control over the match and win 5-7 7-6(3) 6-2. Last years finalists and plausible finalists this year, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray thrashed their opponents, the Serb needed just 53 minutes, the Scot 3 minutes more to secure his place in the third round. For top seeds the tournament starts in the second round, for James Blake one round earlier, and he has already won two matches in a similar fashion to top seeds (dropped 2-2 & 2-3). John Isner can’t find his form this year, for the time being he reminded that he’s still one of the most clutch players on tour rallying from a 2:4 deficit in the 2nd set, later on surviving 5:6* (deuce) in the 3rd set against Ivan Dodig to win 4-6 7-5 7-6(5) firing 24 aces. Isner is very likely going to have won the most matches in the 3rd set tie-break in the Open era (26-14 record now), Carlos Moya and Ivan Ljubicic lead with 33 wins of this type. In other interesting three-set encounter, Thomaz Bellucci prevailed against Jerzy Janowicz in front of partisan Latin crowd. The Pole had a problem with a hot support for the Brazilian and left the court being booed. Bellucci won 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3 playing the entire 3rd set with excessive risk (for his standards) because of limitation in his movement (needed a medical time-out in the mid-2nd set). Juan Monaco‘s slump is worse and worse – the last year’s semifinalist finally snapped a streak of losing sets, but lost anyway (2-6 6-4 3-6 vs. Albert Ramos) to extend the streak of tournament defeats to six in a row. Other Spanish speaker in a deep hole (0-8 in sets since Aussie Open third round): Fernando Verdasco – he blew a 5:0 lead in the 2nd set tie-break losing to Alejandro Falla 3-6 6-7(6). One of the biggest fighters of the current generation, Jarkko Nieminen saved a game point to avoid a 0:4 in the 2nd set and defeated David Nalbandian 2-6 6-4 6-3 in the first round. The Finn won easily his second match against a 2012 newcomer Martin Klizan, who doesn’t impress at all this year.
Two years that established an order in the Temple of Tennis for the upcoming years: two-time former champion, Stefan Edberg wasn’t a threat anymore – the Swede who hadn’t lost at Wimbledon earlier than in the quarterfinals between 1987 & 1993, during the 1994-95 editions was ousted as early as second round, and what worse for him, by players with a little grass-court experience; Michael Stich, whose game-style perfectly suited to grass-courts wasn’t able to emulate his 1991 success, and lost twice in the first round – in straight setters on both occasions! Goran Ivanisevic seemed unbreakable serving ace after ace, but couldn’t win the big points when it mattered the most; finally a three-time former champion, Boris Becker was still dangerous, but aging, and exhausted at the end of tournaments after grueling battles when he came back from 2:4 in the deciding sets (Medvedev ’94; Pioline ’95). Under those circumstances, Pete Sampras became the King of Grass. In the years 1994-95, just like in 1993 when he’d triumphed for the first time, he wasn’t seriously threaten even once, albeit had to elevate his concentration to the highest level to outsmart Ivanisevic twice. The 1995 tournament delivered a bizarre series of occurrences featuring Jeff Tarango‘s presence. The American witnessed at close range the first Open era disqualification at Wimbledon when Tim Henman hit firmly a ball-girl in her head with a ball during a doubles match, on the next day Tarango was defaulted himself in an unprecedented fashion. Read more…
(5)Rafael Nadal d. (7)Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 [2:29 h]
It was a perfect ending of the Rafa’s comeback-period that stretched between Vina del Mar and Indian Wells. The Spaniard capturing his third Indian Wells crown (2007, 2009) won his 600th main-level match and 22nd Masters 1000 title (53 overall), thanks to that he edges Roger Federer in this prestigious stats again # Del Potro started slowly as he wanted to check how his body would react after two demanding matches in the past two days. Perhaps he realized everything was OK when he was *0:3 (15/40) down – he sped up then, saved the double break point and the level of his game in the next 40 minutes or so was awesome. He was hitting his forehand all over the place with impressive velocity and accuracy, returning all Nadal’s serves. The overwhelmed Spaniard lost his timing and looked a bit hopeless. But he has made so many comebacks in his career that he never gives up, and he once again withstood the assault of his opponent. He got his service game for 1:2 in the 2nd set obtaining his first point directly after the serve in seven service games! From 1:3 he considerably improved his backhand and notched a 5-game winning streak. The 6th game of that set was crucial – Del Potro won two fantastic points displaying gentle touch at the net, but was broken to ’30’ after all. At the beginning of the 3rd set he looked weary, but a bunch of thundering forehands helped him to save three break points. Nadal was entrenched, and another three games went to him. The Argentine saved a triple match point in the 9th game, but hadn’t left in the tank to fight for a break in the following game – Nadal forced him to an error on fourth match point and celebrated his 14th match won in a row falling on his back. Now he withdraws from Miami because he needs a few weeks of rest to prove he is the King of Clay for the… ninth year running. His European schedule on clay-courts is standard this year: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros. In this type of form I don’t expect he loses more than one match during the European clay-court swing. “I think Rafa deserved to win,” said Del Potro. “The last hour of the match, he played so solid and put me so far [from] the baseline and made winners. But I think I [had] a good tournament anyway, and Rafa played really well today in the second and third sets. He broke me early in the third. Playing against him when the score is down is tougher. I was fighting all the time but he won in the end.” Nadal said about his sabbatical: “A lot of things happened the last seven months, [so] to be back here and to have this very heavy trophy with me is amazing. Beating three Top 10 players and winning a title like this is just something unbelievable for me. I’m very, very happy and very emotional.”
(1)B.Bryan/M.Bryan d. T.Huey/J.Janowicz 6-3, 3-6, [10-6] *
# Most Masters 1000 titles (inc. Mercedes Super 9 & Masters Series):
22 – Rafael Nadal (2005-2013)
21 – Roger Federer (2002-2012)
17 – Andre Agassi (1990-2004)
13 – Novak Djokovic (2007-2012)
11 – Pete Sampras (1991-2001)
* The Bryans just like Nadal have collected 22 Masters ‘1000’ shields. The twins have won 9 different titles (they hadn’t won at Indian Wells prior to 2013, two finals before), Nadal hasn’t still won Cincinnati & Paris-Bercy.
(7)Juan Martin del Potro d. (1)Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 [2:50 h]
Djokovic was a dominant figure in the 1st set and confirmed it breaking Del Potro in the 10th game, but needed seven break points altogether to do it (Del Potro saved four break points serving at 3:4). I would argue that losing such a ‘4-6’ set which lasts almost an hour to Djokovic, Nadal, Murray or Ferrer is a bit like losing a tie-break set to vast majority of players. It is tough to keep focus on the highest level when you played your best in a set against an opponent you usually lose to, and you are beaten once again. Del Potro showed a day before against Murray, that he deals very well with those situations. Just like against the Scot, he forgot what happened a few minutes earlier, and broke at the beginning of the 2nd set; Djokovic broke back quickly, then lost his serve again after an entertaining, long rally finished with DelPo’s backhand down the line: one of the players run 62 meters during that rally, the other one 10 meters more. Del Potro built a 5:2 lead and didn’t waste the second opportunity to serve the set out. The 3rd set was draining, they were involved in many punishing rallies. Djokovic jumped to a 3:0* lead, but he seemed a bit more tired at the time. Nevertheless he was on a 22-match winning streak, with an 8-2 H2H record vs. DelPo, and hadn’t lost a match with a three-game advantage in the deciding set since Marseille 2007. Against all odds, Del Potro managed to level at 3 games apiece, and even had a double break point in the 7th game. What he squandered then, he converted two games afterwards. Serving to win the match Del Potro played two poor points leading 30/0, at 30-all Djokovic made an unforced errors from the backhand side, and the Argentine finished the match with an ace out-wide (the only point that separated them in total points), his just fourth during the longest match of this year’s tournament. Obviously Del Potro is known for his blistering forehand, but you can’t beat Murray and Djokovic in back-to-back matches using just one weapon. Del Potro has lately developed very good backhand slice which allows him to keep the ball in play when he hasn’t a good enough position to attack with his double-hander. “I was doing a very good match until the third set, but Novak had the chance to beat me when I was down 3-Love,” said Del Potro. “But I came back soon and that gave me a little confidence to come back in that set. Then also the crowd wanted to watch more tennis and [it] helped me to play my best tennis in the end. I think it was my best match in this tournament, for sure.”
(5)Rafael Nadal d. (6)Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 [1:43 h]
Berdych could hope to snap a streak of 11 consecutive losing matches to Rafa, because he’s been arguably playing his best tennis for a few months whilst the Spaniard hasn’t lately played too many matches on hardcourts. Despite that, their quarterfinal match did not vary from most of their encounters in the recent years – the Czech played his standard solid tennis (good enough to beat Gasquet or Anderson in straights), but all the big points took Nadal. First serious test for Berdych came in the 7th game of the 1st set when he saved two break points, but sent a forehand wide from a good position trying to save the third one. In the 2nd set, Nadal helped considerably committing a double fault at 3:4 (30/40). Berdych was serving to level at one set apiece, only to play the weakest service game of the match. Two games later came a small disaster – Berdych shamefully mis-hit an overhead on a break point. In the next game he had three break points for a tie-break, but on each occasion Nadal responded with a service winner. It’s the third time he beats Berdych ‘6-4 7-5’ (Cincinnati ’09, Rome ’12). “It was a good tournament. I beat a couple of good guys and I had a good run,” reflected Berdych. “My game was also very solid the last couple of weeks that I have been playing… But I’m still trying to push it more and more.” Nadal said about advancement to his fourth final in four tournaments since the comeback: “It’s certainly something amazing for me, totally unexpected, and I received more support than ever from the crowd every place that I played. That’s always a very, very special feeling. Thank you very much [to] all the people.”
(7)Juan Martin del Potro d. (3)Andy Murray 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1 [2:32 h]
It was their first meeting since November 2009! It’s a very good match-up so I’d like to see more of their matches in the near future… After a sluggish start in the opening game, Murray escaped from a double break point and there was no other break point in the 1st set. In the tie-break, the Scot led 5:2 on serve, but dropped two points. An amazing rally occurred then, consisted of 43 strokes (whilst the second longest ’23’), Del Potro was in defense almost throughout, played many backhand slices and finally made an error. He kept his composure despite losing a tight set which lasted an hour, and broke Murray to ‘love’ immediately at the beginning of the 2nd set, winning at the net with a stretch-volley one of the most entertaining rallies of the match that gave him a triple break point. Murray finally had his first break point leading 1:0 in the deciding set – Del Potro fought it off with an overhead. The Argentine from *0:1 won six games in a row, but in five of them Murray was a point or two points away from winning those games, so the 3rd set was more equal than the scoreline would suggest. Murray analyzed: “I thought I hit the ball decently throughout the match, but I played better when I needed to in the first set; then obviously hadn’t managed to break him in the match. I had some chances in the second set, didn’t manage to get them. I could’ve served better and returned better. Two pretty important parts of the game.“
(1)Novak Djokovic d. (8)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-1 [0:54 h]
The Frenchman had no answers to Djokovic’s brilliant performance. The Serb was better even in departments usually reserved for Tsonga: the serve and the net-game. It’s Djokovic’s eighth consecutive win over Tsonga and he collects these victories easier and easier (10 straight sets since their thriller in Paris last year). He has won his last 22 matches and in this kind of form it’s tough to imagine that a player outside the big four would defeat him in the next few months. Tsonga said: “I’m disappointed about my feelings today and the whole match. I made a lot of mistakes. It was tough for me to keep the ball in the court. Not because he put me under a lot of pressure. I don’t know how to explain that, but it was a day for me without sensation. Everything I tried to do, I missed it.” Even though Tsonga loses regularly to the Top 4 guys in the last two years, he is still a leader in terms of percentage comparing “Little-Big 4” vs. Big 4
(5)Rafael Nadal d. (2)Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2 [1:24 h]
29th mutual meeting of two titans of the game, the earliest one since the inception of their great rivalry in Miami 2004. Every time they are gathered on court together, tennis fans around the world are excited and expectations are high. So this time they were disappointed because Nadal’s superiority was visible from start to finish. The Spaniard just like Berdych a couple of hours earlier, didn’t need to play anything extra, he was just collecting points from the baseline (they didn’t play even a single volley during their victories on Thursday!). Federer was slow and erratic, he didn’t run a few times towards his right side to balls he normally reaches with his “squash shot”. Nadal lost his serve once but it occurred when the match was virtually over at 3:0 for him in the 2nd set with a two-break advantage. Federer said: “The longer the match went on, I realized I had to change up my game. I played differently than I was hoping to be able to. Obviously, he got more comfortable as the match went on, as well. Things became difficult. Obviously once I was down a set I knew it was going to be difficult.”
(6)Tomas Berdych d. Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 [1:30 h]
High frequency of meetings between these two. They hadn’t met prior to 2012, and now have played six matches against each other, all won by Berdych (five on hardcours). Their quarterfinal at BNP Paribas Open was monotonous and boring. Berdych, focused on service games, stuck to the baseline, awaiting Anderson’s errors. The South African tried to dictate the pace, he was producing more winners, but generally looked a bit intimidated as the only unseeded quarter-finalist among the elite players of this sport, and failed when it mattered the most – in the 10th games of both sets: committed two double faults trying to stay in the 1st set, and saw helplessly two consecutive forehand return winners of Berdych, trying to stay in the match. The Czech secures his semifinal spot without dropping a set, no-one even played a tie-break against him in four matches. It’s his best result at Indian Wells, the previous best: quarterfinal three years ago. “I feel quite well on court, and especially I would say physically, because I already play quite a lot in the past couple of weeks,” said Berdych. “So that’s the important sign for me, that I can be fit for the guys in the next rounds. Then I can focus on the game that I want to play and the game what is working.“
Two halves of the draw at Indian Wells are separated by different days of play, except the fourth round when all encounters are gathered in one day. So many good players in the last 16 that officials decided to schedule all matches on two main courts, those on Stadium 1 were longer than expected, and in the consequence Novak Djokovic, who was scheduled on 8:30 p.m. against Sam Querrey, stepped onto the court after midnight! The Serb avenged his loss to Querrey with a 6-0 7-6(6) victory at 1:51 a.m. local time (ghosts of the Parisian repetition were in the air because the American won 0-6 7-6 6-4 then). Among three 3-setters which preceded Djokovic’s appearance, the most intriguing battle was witnessed between Rafael Nadal (10 wins in a row) and red-hot qualifier Ernests Gulbis (13 wins in a row, including 5 in qualifying tournaments). It was playing entirely under the floodlights despite it supposed to be a “day match”. The Latvian raised his level accordingly to the occasion, and was delivering throughout much more complex tennis than at Delray Beach where he 10 days ago captured the title. He was hitting forehand harder, more precisely, he was very patient on his backhand side and didn’t allow himself any moment of madness if we don’t count rather silly fist-hitting into strings of his racquet which left his right fingers bleeding in the mid-3rd set. Tennis-wise he did nothing wrong until 10th game of the final set when he led 5:4 (30/15) and showed some sings of nervousness. Two points later, he was two points away from an upset once again, and played great backhand down the line, but Nadal responded with his defensive mastery and passed Gulbis with his next stroke (BH down the line). In the following game Gulbis netted two relatively easy forehands and was broken at 15. The Spaniard serving to book his place in the quarterfinals, converted third match point with a heavy top-spin (4-6 6-4 7-5). “I was more aggressive. I went for my shots much more than him,” Gulbis said. “But he did really incredibly well, as he always does, on the important points. It’s really tough to beat the guy.” Nadal’s next opponent, and arch-rival, Roger Federer also won 7-5 a final set facing Stanislas Wawrinka. The Swiss derby should have been finished 40 minutes earlier, but Federer squandered a 5:3 lead in the 2nd set to lose first tie-break to his countryman having won six previous breakers. In the deciding set, Federer saved a mini-match point at 4-all with a tight forehand winner which landed on the line within a deuce-box. In the first match on Stadium 1, Kevin Anderson in front of rather empty stands, outsmarted Gilles Simon 6-3 1-6 6-4 actually tanking the 2nd set as early as lost his serve for 1:2, only to find another gear at the start of the decider jumping quickly to a 2:0 lead and holding all service games convincingly to the end. The South African is the only unseeded player in the quarterfinals but I don’t treat this as a surprise because I wrote after watching his Sydney & Melbourne matches that he’s been currently playing a Top 20 tennis. Stadium 2. Here, the most equal match played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic (4-6 7-5 6-4). The Frenchman had some problems with his left leg, but the serve didn’t abandon him in the most important moments, in contrary to Raonic’s serve. The Canadian was broken twice trying to level (all other service games won without any troubles), committing a double fault on match point. It was a weird situation because both players didn’t realize that the match was over – the technology let down at the end of the 3rd set and Raonic simply couldn’t challenge his serve, but I think the ball was clearly out so he shouldn’t blame anyone but himself for the departure. Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych confirmed their aspirations to replace Ferrer as No. 5 (even though he’s currently one place higher) thrashing Tommy Haas and Richard Gasquet respectively. Andy Murray rather unexpectedly was pushed to a hard work against Carlos Berlocq. The Argentine was even serving to win the 1st set at 5:4. He managed to break the Scot three times in total, but Murray notched a straight sets victory anyway (7-6 6-4). “It was tough,” admitted Murray. “He started well and he was playing very aggressive. He had a lot of chances in the first set. He obviously served for it. And then the second set was kind of the other way around. I had a lot of chances, but it was still tight. All the games were pretty close, a lot of long games and longish rallies.”
…was preceded by an earthquake in the Monday morning (5.2 on the Richter scale). Fortunately it didn’t affect facilities and all matches started according to the plan. There wasn’t such a good 35-year-old player on tour since 2007 when Jonas Bjorkman was able to win three straight matches in a tournament. Admittedly, Tommy Haas turns 35 next month, but it’s tough to expect this particular date changes anything. The German  enjoys his second or third youth. In the third round he survived a tough battle with higher ranked and seven years younger Nicolas Almagro. The Spaniard held a match point serving at 5:4 in the 3rd set, Haas played a dropshot then, it wasn’t a great shot, but the German automatically used all his experience and moved in his right direction before Almagro hit the ball, and he hit it exactly there where Haas was awaiting to make a half-volley from the back of the court into the open court. It was a crucial point, Almagro was never the same afterwards, and lost 3-6 7-6(2) 6-7(2), Haas’ 10th win from a match point down. The big 4 guys moved through the fourth round don’t wasting too much energy, Rafael Nadal at all, because his potential opponent Leonardo Mayer withdrew due to back pain. Novak Djokovic was *2:5 (30-all) down in the 1st set against Grigor Dimitrov, but controlled the match since then to the end entirely, winning 7-6(3) 6-1. He next meets his last tamer – Sam Querrey, who prevailed the longest match of the tournament so far (2:47 hrs) against Marinko Matosevic. Querrey triumphed 7-6(5) 6-7(7) 7-5, winning for the first time despite losing a match point-up set; the last set was consisted of five breaks.The biggest contenders of the Big 4 advanced to the last 16 not dropping a set yet, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should have lost two: in the second round he saved a triple set point in a tie-break against James Blake (two on return), two days later rallied from a 0:4 deficit in the 2nd set against Blake’s buddy – Mardy Fish. The Frenchman won 7-6(4) 7-6(0). “I felt like I could have easily won the match,” said Fish. “Bunch of break points obviously in the first set, and the second set was what it was. Tennis wise it’s a good sign that it hasn’t taken too long to get the form back. I usually don’t lose 4:0 sets very often. I can’t remember the last one.” 30-year-old Carlos Berlocq  still improves, after a shocking destruction of Kei Nishikori, 6-2 6-2, the Argentine has won for the first time three matches in a Masters 1000 tournament. Similarly to Berlocq, won his match Kevin Anderson, who also lost just four games (against Jarkko Nieminen). The South African played actually a perfect match, losing just one point when his 1st serve was in, and it happened on a match point when Nieminen played his best tennis during a quite long rally. A moment later Anderson fired an ace to finish the job, he said afterwards: “I think it’s important after a win like Ferrer to try and capitalize on your opportunity. The conditions are playing really nicely I feel. The balls are bouncing up. I think that suits my game nicely. I think I’m moving. I’m giving myself time from the baseline. I’m feeling healthy. My elbow is getting better with each match.”
Always nice to see: very strong field out there, all 32 seeds were covered with the first 32 ATP ranking places. A few players came back on tour: Andy Murray (five weeks time off because of his new schedule – the Scot wants to be concentrated only on the biggest events this year), Philipp Kohlschreiber (4-week break due to a hamstring injury) and Mardy Fish (he didn’t play six months, heart problems); Rafael Nadal in turn, played his first match on hardcourts in 346 days.
Fish  notched a comeback win despite a *2:4 down in the deciding set against Bobby Reynolds, winning the last four games (won 16 out of 19 points in the end). Murray squandered six mini-set points at 5-all in the 1st set of his match against Safin’s protegee, Masters 1000 debutant Evgeny Donskoy , but snapped a streak of 7 losing sets in a row at Indian Wells, taking a full control over the match from 1:2 in the 2nd set to notch a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win in 2 hours 15 minutes. Kevin Anderson, who recently underwent an elbow surgery which sidelined him four weeks, and now plays with a special elastic bandage, made the biggest upset of the second round eliminating David Ferrer 3-6 6-4 6-3. The South African  saved a double mini-match point at 4-all in the 2nd set and recovered from a break down at the beginning of the decider. “It was fantastic,” said Anderson. “Obviously David is a great player, and especially in the past few years he’s really stepped it up. Beating a Top 5 in the world player is always a great feeling, and especially somebody like David who doesn’t go away. I mean, he fights for everything.” Last year’s finalist, John Isner has been in a poor form this year, he was beaten 7-6(6) 3-6 4-6 by Lleyton Hewitt, who didn’t lose his serve. “It’s a tough match. I knew it was going to be. Lleyton is such a good competitor,” said Isner. “I felt like I could have played a little bit better. I needed to play very well to win today, and I don’t feel like I necessarily did that. But I think Lleyton had a lot to do with it. It’s very disappointing.” Hewitt, a champion of the BNP Paribas Open ten years ago, has won two matches in a Masters 1000 event for the first time since 2009! Janko Tipsarevic and Fernando Verdasco suffered the worst main-level defeats in their careers, Verdasco won just one game against Jarkko Nieminen whereas Tipsarevic was thrashed 2-6 0-6 by Ernests Gulbis (the Serb lost a match winning only two games six years ago in Amersfoort). The 28-year-old Tipsarevic is on a 5-match losing streak not having even won a set (!), his peer Juan Monaco has been in a bigger slump. The Argentine has lost 8 out of last 10 tournament matches, including all this year. This time he wasted two set points on serve and lost 5-7 0-6 to Marinko Matosevic. Gilles Simon made second sensational comeback within one year, in Rome ’12 he rallied from a 0:4 deficit in the 3rd set against Garcia-Lopez, this time he did it the same against Paolo Lorenzi. The Italian led 4:0, 5:1 (deuce), held a double match point serving at 5:2, and blew another match point in the following game. Simon, who won 6-3 3-6 7-5, trailed also 0:3 in the opening set! Carlos Berlocq rallied from the brink of defeat too, against Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Argentine saved a double break point at 1:3 in the 3rd set to win five straight games and the match 6-3 6-7 6-3. Novak Djokovic needed hardly 19 minutes to get the 1st set against Fabio Fognini. Everything went so easily that the No. 1 lost his concentration for about 15 minutes, and the unpredictable Italian leveled after saving a match point with a service winner. The Serb pushed himself to a harder work, saved a break point in the opening game of the 3rd set and moved through to the third round with a 6-0 5-7 6-2 decision.
I’ve made some changes in navigation this week to make the site more dynamic. Because current tournaments are intertwined with old Grand Slams, I’ve changed the format of entries considering current events. Since now, they will be displayed only with a few lines, you need to click on “Continue reading -›” (or the entry’s title) to see the full text. When you click on “More Galleries” you’ll be directed onto a page with entries of all weeks of the regular ATP season and Davis Cup weekends. Tournaments are tagged now. If you want to compare descriptions of a particular tournament by years, just click on its tagged name, and you’ll go to a page(s) that shows the tournament you’re interested in.
It was a time when Rafael Nadal had already shown his amazing clay-court potential, however, his ability to play very well on other surfaces was still questioned. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic were teenagers then, a couple of years before their emergence as the real threats… It was a time when Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick were the biggest rivals of Roger Federer. The Swiss established his supremacy over them, defeating Hewitt and Roddick twice at Wimbledons 2004 & 2005, and he did it in impressive style. Read more…