Indian Wells – round 4th + 3rd
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.”
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