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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…
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Dubai Duty Free has been very hermetic for years. There are mixed Top 10 players (six this year) with a group of much more lower ranked guys. Top 4 seeded players demolished their opponents in the quarterfinals. Berdych made a … Continue reading
The first Roland Garros triumph of Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal… One of the most memorable finals of the Open era occurred in 1984. John McEnroe prior to that final had been playing unreal tennis from the beginning of the season, he was on a 42-match winning streak, including five wins over his final opponent – Lendl, who had failed to win his four previous major finals. In Paris ’84, McEnroe displaying brilliant offensive tennis led 2-0 in sets against Lendl, and everyone could expect he would overcome a theory that serve-and-volley guys cannot triumph at Roland Garros. However, he lost his composure in the 3rd game of the 3rd set and his magic touch as well, allowing the Czech(oslovak) to get a second wind. McEnroe was two games away in three consecutive sets from taking the title, but couldn’t break his biggest rival in those most important moments, couldn’t also hold his serve under pressure. Read more…
All eyes were on Nadal, the 18-year-old muscular Spaniard, who had missed two previous editions due to injuries, in 2005 was fit and enjoying a top form for the first time in life (triumphed in Monte Carlo and Rome prior to Paris). Nevertheless “I am not the favorite” he insisted at the start of the tournament. During press conferences he was modest, but on court very eager to show different behavior – he was amazingly self-confident and merciless for opponents. Only Mariano Puerta in the final threatened him seriously. Puerta rose like a phoenix from the ashes after a nine-month suspension because of taking an illegal substance. Unfortunately he was a habitual offender and was once again banned at the end of 2005, this time after it was revealed that he had tested positive for the use of the cardiac stimulant, etilefrine – he was forced to forfeit all his rankings points and prize money from the 2005 French Open onwards. Read more…
I’ve also added Australian Open 1993 & 2007 this week.
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Just like a year ago, Memphis had a distinctively weaker field than Marseille despite a higher status #. Unfortunately none of the Top 10 players bothered to visit the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships (five Top 10 guys arrived in … Continue reading
In 1986 only one American player advanced to the quarterfinals, and it was the worst tournament for the Yankees of the Open era at the time. The left-handed legends, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe had their best times behind with little chance to get another major title. The crisis of the American tennis was intermediate though, a new wave of exceptionally capable Americans emerged in the late 80s: Bollettieri’s “childs” Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and David Wheaton, plus a bit younger Michael Chang and Pete Sampras – all those boys displayed a potential which might have suggested they could achieve much more than their predecessors in general (the weakest link Wheaton dropped out of “the magnificent 5” around 1992, but soon was replaced by Todd Martin, who was anonymous across the decades) #. They made a lot of buzz in 1989, matured within the year, and a final of the US Open 1990 was an internal U.S. affair, the first one since 1979 when McEnroe ousted Vitas Gerulaitis. Sampras rather unexpectedly outclassed Agassi in the ’90 final, and a new great rivalry – that lasted 12 years – was established out there. It wasn’t fluke they met in the final, during those two tournaments they defeated five players who had won 12 previous editions (Sampras overcame Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl & McEnroe whilst Agassi took care of Connors & Boris Becker)!
# Five-best under-21 Americans in 10-year intervals:
2 – McEnroe (21 years old), 28 – Purcell (21), 41 – Buehning (20), 85 – Wilkison (21), 90 – Winitsky (21)
4 – Agassi (20), 5 – Sampras (19), 15 – Chang (18), 25 – Courier (20), 27 – Wheaton (21)
156 – Roddick (18), 181 – Dent (19), 212 – Blake (21), 305 – Fish (19), 343 – Kendrick (21)
127 – Young (21), 173 – Harrison (18), 366 – El Mihdawy (21), 472 – Cox (18), 496 – Kudla (18)
Those Wimbledon tournaments are connected to themselves somehow. In 1992 Andre Agassi became the first baseline player since Jimmy Connors in 1982 to win the title at the All-England Club whilst Lleyton Hewitt was the first champion of this type since Agassi. Moreover finals in 1992 & 2002 were played between the youngest pairs, 22-20 & 21-20 years-olds.
At Wimbledon ’92 Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic took their best shots to another level: the passing-shot and the serve respectively. They met in the final and thanks to their contrasting styles, one of the most memorable Grand Slam finals was made, in which passing-shots triumphed over serves by a small margin. 33-year-old John McEnroe, 15 years after his sensational Wimbledon semifinal, advanced to the last 4 once again (triumphed in doubles) and it was his swan-song at majors; in turn fellow American, Pete Sampras, the future seven-time Wimbledon champion, reached his first Grand Slam semifinal on grass; he never had been past the second round at Wimbledon in three previous attempts! Other future champion, Richard Krajicek made his controversial remarks considering women’s tennis. Read more…
Ten years later…
…a shift of paradigm in men’s tennis occurred: it’s a tournament that ended an era of serve-and-volley specialists. Prior to Wimbledon 2002, baseliners were always in minority as far as quarterfinals are concerned, that time there were as many as six baseline players in the last eight, and two of them advanced to the final making the first duel at that stage based on ground-strokes since 1978… Actually it was almost a surreal event: 8 out of 10 highest seeded guys dropped before the third round including an inexplicable Pete Sampras’ loss to George Bastl; three South Americans went through to the quarterfinals; David Nalbandian secured a place in the final playing his first main-level tournament on grass, not having played a match on Centre Court before the final! Under those bizarre circumstances 21-year-old Lleyton Hewitt was unstoppable – he won 6 out of 7 matches easily, and rather no-one had expected it would have been his last major triumph. Read more…
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“Weekend for Old Men” paraphrasing a title of the Coen brothers’ movie. In every of three cities that hosted ATP tournaments this week, more than 30-year-old players triumphed in doubles (Frank Moser got his maiden title at the age of … Continue reading