BNP Paribas Open

Milos Raonic Serving Woes Leads To One-Sided Loss To Novak Djokovic – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig



  • Ana Ivanovic was given the 2nd quickest loss of her career as Karolina Pliskova beat her 6-2, 6-0 in the third round of Indian Wells in 49 minutes.
  • In the men’s singles final in Indian Wells, Milos Raonic managed to win only three of 30 points on his second serve, leading to a 6-2, 6-0 defeat.
  • Andy Murray was beaten by a left-handed player other than Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2011 as Federico Delbonis beat him in the third round in Indian Wells.
  • At one point in the John Isner-Kei Nishikori fourth round match at Indian Wells, Nishikori’s average first serve speed was 108 miles per hour, while Isner’s average second serve speed was 115 miles per hour.
  • On a negative note for Isner, each of his last three losses have been decided by third set tiebreaks. In each match, Isner held match point and did not face a break point.
  • Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nenad Zimonjic were able to saved eight match points in the semifinal win over the Bryan brothers in Indian Wells.
  • 16-year old Denis Shapovalov of Canada became the first player born in 1999 to win a match on the challenger level. This comes after Felix Auger Aliassime, also of Canada, became the first player born in 2000 to win a match on the challenger level last year. Shapovalov would also go on to become the first 16-year old to make a challenger semifinal since Stefan Kozlov made the semifinals at the Sacramento Challenger in 2014 as a 16-year old.

Bjorn Frantangelo Impresses Against Novak Djokovic – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig



  • At No. 149 in the world, Bjorn Fratangelo became the lowest ranked player to take a set off of Novak Djokovic since No. 174 Nicolas Almagro, who was returning from injury at the time, won the second set in their meeting in Rome in May of 2015. The last time Djokovic lost a first set to a player outside of the Top 100 was when he dropped the first set to No. 158 Lleyton Hewitt in the 2012 Olympics.
  • 18 year old Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe did battle in the first round in Indian Wells with Tiafoe wining in three sets. It was the first all-teen matchup in Indian Wells since Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori in 2008.
  • With Borna Coric and Alex Zverev reaching the third round in Indian Wells, it marks the first time since 2007 that multiple teenagers made the third round of the event. Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Evgeny Korolev were the players who did so.
  • For the first time since 2010 in Indian Wells, no German woman reached the third round of the event.
  • The No. 1 doubles seed in Indian Wells lost in the first round for the first time since 1998 as Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, 10-6 in a match tiebreak.
  • The final of the Jonkoping challenger lasted two hours and 44 minutes, making it the longest final on the challenger circuit in 2016. Andrey Golubev took home the title by beating Karen Khachanov, 6-7(9), 7-6(5), 7-6(4), saving four match points along the way. The four match points saved was the most in a challenger final since Tim Smyczek saved four in the Tiburon Challenger in 2015.
  • The challenger event in Santiago saw a 19-year age difference in the first round as 38 year old Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo took on 19 year old Christian Garin. Ramirez Hidalgo came out with the victory in three sets.
  • Facundo Bagnis became the first player to successfully defend a challenger title in 2016, winning the title in Santiago for the second straight year, also making it three titles in four tries in the Chilean capital.

WTA Katowice Monday Gallery: Opening Ceremony with Goerges, Lisicki, Kvitova and more

KATOWICE (April 8, 2013) — Main draw play of the BNP Paribas Katowice Open kicked off today with not only first round matches, but also the Opening Ceremony as well as a doubles exhibition match which featured Poland’s top doubles players pairing up with top wheelchair players, Marcin Matkowski partnering with Kamil Fabisiak while Mariusz Fyrstenberg teamed with Albin Batycki.

Full WTA Monday Results below:

Petra Martic (CRO) d Elina Svitolina (UKR) | 6 (2) – 7 | 6 – 3 | 6 – 2 |
[3] Klara Zakopalova (CZE) d Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) | 7 – 6 (2) | 6 – 2 |
Annika Beck (GER) d Marta Domachowska (POL) | 6 – 3 | 7 – 5 |
Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) d [8] Laura Robson (GBR) | 5 – 7 | 7 – 6 (7) | 6 – 1 |
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) | 6 – 1 | 3 – 6 | 6 – 0 |

Maria Elena Camerin (ITA) d Katarzyna Piter (POL) | 6 – 2 | 6 – 4 |
[2] Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) d Raluca Olaru (ROU) | 6 – 0 | 6 – 0 |
Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) d [3] Shahar Peer (ISR) | 6 – 4 | 6 – 1 |
Jill Craybas (USA) d Irina Buryachok (UKR) | 6 – 3 | 6 – 2 |

R Olaru / V Solovyeva (ROU/RUS) d M Linette / K Piter (POL/POL) | 6 – 4 | 6 – 1 |

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Ernests Gulbis Storms Back; Grunting Still an Issue — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Stuttering Finish

With many of the world’s top-ranked female stars in attendance, the BNP Paribas Open started off so promising. It’s losing steam as it heads to the finale, however, thanks to a couple of key upsets and unfortunate withdrawals. Kirilenko upset both Aga Radwanska and Kvitova to set up a semifinal clash with Sharapova, which is a matchup the World No. 3 likely prefers with the No. 2 ranking up for grabs should she advance to the final. On the opposite side of the draw, Kerber and Wozniacki find themselves in the semis after both Stosur and Azarenka withdrew with leg and ankle injuries. All four women are accomplished players, but with only one of the top-four-ranked women present in the semis, the tournament no longer possesses quite the same level of excitement. It’s a shame for the tournament organizers, but if one person can take these lemons and turn them into lemonade, it’s Sharapova, who is now the strong favorite to take home the title.

Just Won’t Die

Just when you thought that ugly issue would go away, the topic of grunting is once again making tennis headlines. This time, it’s actual grunting, with the latest complaint coming from Murray against ATP pro Berlocq. Murray was moved to complain about the Argentine’s long and loud grunts after his opponent complained to the umpire that he thought Murray was taking longer than the permitted 25 second between points. Irrespective of what prompted the complaint, it was legitimate. But Berlocq isn’t the only loud competitor on the ATP World Tour. Granollers has long been touted as having one of the most distracting grunts, and others, like Nadal, Djokovic, and Ferrer, have also been known to get a little too vocal. Federer hit the nail on the head when he said it’s all about respecting your opponent and suggested that there is such a thing has being too loud. Unfortunately, the ATP players are less likely to pursue a solution to the grunting problem, but with any luck, perhaps they will. Pursuing a solution might then have a spillover effect to the WTA and force the governing bodies to do something now. There are too many positives in the sport for it to be hounded by this issue, but there’s no denying its impact on the sport is growing, and not for the better.

One to Watch

Okay, Ernests Gulbis has been “one to watch” on more than one occasion throughout his career, but after a thirteen match win-streak and a near upset of Nadal in the Round of 16 in Indian Wells, maybe this time, the label will stick. The Latvian may lack the looks and some of the charm of Marat Safin, but he’s definitely the closest thing tennis currently has to the charismatic Russian. He’s unabashedly confident and honest, from declaring he didn’t fear Nadal and had the goods to beat the Spaniard, to his calling out his peers for what he perceives to be fake congratulations. Love him or hate him, he calls it like he sees it. He’s also always had the talent to pull off a plethora of shots to flummox his opponents and thrill the crowds, but the consistency has been lacking. After winning a title in Delray Beach and nearly booking a quarterfinal berth in Indian Wells, however, things could be turning around. At 24, Gulbis is starting to mature. He’s starting to make strides at controlling his temper and keeping the bad patches of play short and to a minimum over the course of a match. We’ll have to wait and see how he fares in the coming weeks, but if this guy has truly put it together, the rest of the field better be on alert.

Bated Breath

Mardy Fish fans will be anxious as the Miami Masters approaches, as the second Masters of 2013 may ultimately turn out to be the American’s last tournament as a professional. Fish has in no way committed to anything, but he made it clear that he hasn’t ruled out walking away from the game after just his second event this season. After Miami, he plans to assess where he is, if he feels comfortable competing and can do so at a high level. After his stint at Indian Wells, things certainly look dicey. He did win a match, and if you just saw the score line, you’d be impressed that he took a player of Tsonga’s caliber to two tiebreak sets in the third round. But Fish blew a 4-0 lead in the second, and he also served for it at 5-4. That may haunt him as he takes to the court in Florida, which given all that he’s dealing with, will make competing there all the more difficult. Hopefully Fish won’t be ready to throw in the towel. Even if he opts to skip the clay court season, it would be nice to see him give it one last go on the lawns of Wimbledon or see if he can rediscover some magic during the US Open Series. But he’s got to feel comfortable with it, and based on the statements he’s made of late, his fans would be well served to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Professional Perspective

With 2012 finalist Isner being bounced out of Indian Wells early (and projected to fall out of the top 20 as a result), Sam Querrey will become the new No. 1 for the United States next week. It’s a great achievement for Querrey, who has had his ups and down with injuries and mental attitude. But what was even better was Querrey’s response to becoming the top American. He recognized it for the honor that it is but was quick to point out that with tennis being such a global sport, what really matters is the world ranking. On that front, Querrey still has plenty of work to do, but with a Round of 16 showing in Indian Wells, he’s moving in the right direction. He’ll be looking to post a respectable result in Miami, and if he can continue to grow and improve, he could be poised for a big summer.

Roger Federer loses cool, argues with chair umpire in win over Stan Wawrinka

By Romi Cvitkovic

March 13, 2013 — What should have been a mostly routine win by Roger Federer over countryman Stan Wawrinka at the 4th round of the BNP Paribas Open, turned into a rollercoaster of a match as Federer lost his cool, double-faulted on set point and much more.

The first set held three breaks of serve and that should have been omen enough of things to come in the match. But Federer finally held in hist fifth service game at 15 to take the first set, 6-3.

After grabbing a break in the second set and with Federer serving at 5-4, the Tennis Channel commentators already resorted to patting Wawrinka on the back, and nearly calling it a match. That was until Wawrinka woke up and decided to really play some tennis.  In the blink of an eye, Wawrinka broke Federer with a running backhand passing winner, followed by THREE backhand errors by Federer. Federer didn’t help his situation as he was forced to dish out a few second serves. 5-5.

On his own serve, Wawrinka quickly went up 40-0 before a few sloppy errors brought it to deuce. Wawrinka eventually held serve with a beautiful approach shot forehand winner just out of Federer’s reach. 6-5 for Wawrinka.

We then quickly found ourselves in a second set tiebreak — a place that has become familiar territory between the two players as of late. Wawrinka continued playing lights-out tennis eventually establishing set points with this beautiful baseline rally. Just watching the video, you start to wonder “Which one is Federer and which one is Wawrinka?” The touch, backhands and shot selection!

Who would have guessed that the almighty Roger Federer WOULD HAVE DOUBLE-FAULTED ON SET POINT! But he did, and with it Wawrinka snatched the second set.

Tensions were high on both ends going into the third set, and at 1-all with Federer serving at 0-30, Federer became uncharacteristically feisty. He wanted to challenge his own serve, but because he had already hit his second shot, the chair umpire refused the challenge. Federer then proceeded to argue with the umpire, even calling ATP supervisor Lars up to dispute the decision. Lars agreed with the original call and Federer was left to serve down 0-40. A graphic on Tennis Channel later showed that there was a 1.955 second delay between when the serve hit the court versus when Federer challenged.

In the following point, you can see a noticeably agitated Federer run around a short shot and leash out a massive forehand, leaving the full court exposed and primed for a beautifully-timed Wawrinka backhand winner.

But as is known to happen in tennis and with one of it’s best players, Federer broke right back, and the two stayed neck-and-neck until 4-all. At 30-40 on Federer’s serve, Wawrinka had a chance to break and serve for the match but Federer blasted a forehand painting the sideline that pulled Wawrinka wide and forced an error. With a beautiful forehand smash, Federer held at 5-4.

With Wawrinka serving at 5-6, Federer quickly went up 0-30 as Wawrinka’s back-to-back rallies went either wide or long. At 15-40, Wawrinka netted a forehand and Federer claimed his 13th win 0ver his good friend, 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5.

Interesting matches, lopsided score lines on day 7 in Indian Wells

In the early rounds of most tournaments, you can expect the main stadium matches to be blowouts. They generally feature low ranked players against the very best and often turn out to be some of the least interesting matches. Tuesday’s schedule featured third and fourth round matches on the main stadium, just about the right time for the matches to get competitive. On paper, the main stadium match ups for Day 7 should have been no trouble for the higher ranked player and while all of them won, the matches provided some pretty entertaining tennis.

Novak Djokovic d. Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(4) 6-1

Novak Djokovic hasn’t lost a match yet this year. The Australian Open champion is the number 1 player in the world and very rarely troubled by anyone outside the Top 4. Grigor Dimitrov has been steadily working his way up the rankings and the 21 year old now sits at a career high 31 in the world. It looked like he came with his A game when he broke Djokovic in the first set. He had the chance to serve it out at 5-3 and it seemed like almost a sure thing, but that’s where experience comes into play. Dimitrov served up four double faults in that game to put them back on serve. Things dropped off quickly from there. Djokovic held and Dimitrov doubled faulted to open the tie break, which he ended up losing 7-4. The second set slipped away just as fast. Djokovic didn’t have to pull out his usual extraordinary play because Dimitrov was beating himself. “He started off well today, but then, you know, I think he gave me the break with four double faults. You know, I haven’t done much really in the match in the second set when I made two breaks. It was all of his unforced errors, so I just needed to hang in there and try to be patient” said Djokovic in his post match press conference. Dimitrov has plenty of talent to make a splash over the next few years, but today the more experience player definitely had the upper hand. 

Maria Sharapova d. Lara Arruabarrena Vecino 7-5 6-0

Are you unfamiliar with the name Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino? You’re not alone. The 20 year old from Spain is currently ranked 87 in the world. No one thought she had much of a chance against Sharapova, the number 2 seed. Sharapova was stumped when asked about Arrubarrena-Vecino after her last match, saying, “well, I hope my coach was out there watching the end of that one.” Sometimes the unknown players can provide the best challenge and despite being broken early in the first set, Arrubarrena-Vecino was able to come back. Once again, the wheels fell off after the lower ranked player lost the first set and Maria Sharapova was able to roll through the next set 6-0. Sharapova explained her early slips, saying, “I think maybe I was going for the lines a little bit more than I had to, especially in the first few games when you haven’t really don’t know too much about your opponent or haven’t played her.” 

Jo Wilfried Tsonga d. Mardy Fish 7-6(4) 7-6(0)

The score line may not be lopsided but the tie breaks certainly were. Perhaps the closest match of the day on paper, this one did not disappoint. A year or two ago, these players would not have met so early in the tournament as they were both Top 10. Mardy Fish is playing his first tournament back after an extended break for health reasons and was seeded number 32 at this event. As it should have been the match was extremely close, but it came down more to Fish’s errors than Tsonga’s winners. After losing the first set tie break, Fish went up a quick 4-0 in the second set before being broken back twice. When asked if those breaks could be attributed to lack of match play, Fish responded, “maybe. I mean, I usually don’t lose 4-0 sets very often. I can’t remember the last one. So, yeah.” Fish was visibly disappointed with the loss, admitting it would’ve been a different story if he had lost 3 and 2. In the long run, this isn’t such a shabby start to Fish’s comeback. There’s certainly no shame losing to a player of Tsonga’s calibre. Tsonga will play Milos Raonic in the fourth round. 


Lucky 13: Ernests Gulbis’ win streak continues in Indian Wells

It hasn’t been often over the last year that Ernests Gulbis has been faced with a room full of reporters after a match. More often than not, he’s been packing a bag and heading off to the next tournament. That’s how few and far between his wins had become. The 24 year old Latvian, whose ranking peaked at 21 in 2011, had bottomed out at 159 in October of 2012, a ranking that often relegated him to playing challengers or qualifying for the ATP events. Perhaps the biggest low came just last month in Bergamo, Italy where Gulbis fell to world number 234, Michal Przysiezny, in the opening round of a challenger. Gulbis said he mother had a suggestion after that particular loss, “she told me that I should quit tennis. I told her, give me one more month. So now at least she’s happy.” She’s not the only one that’s happy these days. Gulbis has displayed his charming grin all week in press, getting all sorts of questions about his win streak, which has now reached thirteen matches, including qualifying and winning the Delray Beach tournament and qualifying and subsequently reaching the fourth round here in Indian Wells. 

After his second round win against 9th seed, Janko Tipsarevic, talked about some of his struggles, the highs and lows of reaching a peak so early in your career, saying, “so story of my life, you know. I reach something, and then I destroy it.” He spoke with the wisdom of someone who made childish mistakes but is finally starting to grow up. He seems dedicated to his routine. He’s hired a new coach, Gunter Bresnik, and the results speak for themselves. It appears he has no intention of destroying things this time around, what he considers more like a fourth chance than a second or third. “I hope it’s my last one. I hope that this is the one where I make it.” It’s a long climb back to the top, but it seems like he’s doing things the right way this time around. But, that doesn’t mean he’s being hard of himself about taking so long to figure things out, saying, “somebody doesn’t figure it out all his life. I figured it out after 24 years. I think it’s quick enough.”

The normally light hearted Gulbis turned serious in Saturday’s press conference when he was asked about the differences between playing tour level tournaments and challengers. He quickly shot back, “When was the last time you were in challenger? Go to it. Really.” There’s likely no greater difference than a tournament like the BNP Paribas Open, which pampers its players to the nth, and a 50k challenger housed in a college gym. Perhaps heading back to that world helped develop this new found drive for the Latvian, who has beaten three Top 20 players in his current streak, the longest of his career.

Certainly his next opponent will be the toughest challenge he has faced yet. His fourth round opponent is none other than Rafael Nadal, who received a walkover from Leonardo Mayer on Monday. Gulbis has a 0-4 record against the number 5 seed, who is playing just his third tournament this season after being sidelined with an injury since last July. Gulbis is confident that he has a good chance of beating Nadal the way he’s playing right now, but a loss would not be devastating because he’s on the right track. He said, “idoesn’t, okay, it matters if I win or not, but I want to play as much as matches as possible against these top guys. Sooner or later I’m going to win something, you know, it’s gonna give me extra confidence, and then just to keep it there, you know.”

Turning the Corner: Twelve Questions for the Week Ahead in Indian Wells

In the early stages of a draw as large as Indian Wells, more questions often are asked than answered as we learn just enough to know what we don’t know—and what we want to know.  Here are twelve burning questions to ponder while the core of the tournament approaches.

1.      Will Federer and Nadal meet for the first time in a year?

For the first time since their rivalry took flight, the archrivals did not clash on clay or grass last season.  By placing them in the same quarter, the draw gods have done their best to ensure that they will meet at Indian Wells for the second straight year.  Especially promising is Federer’s path, for only Ivan Dodig and the winner of Hewitt vs. Wawrinka stand between a Swiss star who looked crisp in his opening demolition of Denis Istomin.  Nadal’s route looks generally benign as well on paper, but the surging Ernests Gulbis could pose a severe test if he can keep up the form that has carried him through his longest winning streak ever.

2.      Will Azarenka and Wozniacki meet for the first time in two years?

The two BFFs last faced each other on this court in 2011, when Wozniacki held the #1 ranking and Azarenka faced serious questions about her physical and emotional durability.  How times have changed since then.  Now, Wozniacki must field questions about her continued relevance as a contender, while Azarenka has become the face of the WTA’s new generation (albeit not always the face that the WTA would want).  What makes this potential quarterfinal between the last two Indian Wells champions intriguing is Wozniacki’s former control of their rivalry, which seemed not so much technical as psychological.  Still undefeated this year, Vika looks nearly certain to reach that rendezvous if she can keep injuries at bay.  Chronic nemesis Goerges still might intercept Caro, as might a revived Petrova.

3.      Can Berdych take care of business?

As if the weakest quarter in the men’s draw needed to get any weaker, Kevin Anderson upset the only serious threat to the Czech in David Ferrer.  With his route to the semifinals wide open, Berdych need not worry about anyone more dangerous than Gasquet.  The Frenchman does happen to be rather dangerous at the moment, granted, since he has won two (small) titles this year and should prosper on the slow surface.  But Berdych also has enjoyed a consistent season to date, so his superior weapons leave him in control of his own destiny.

4.      Can Sharapova take care of business?

Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino.  Sara Errani.  Marion Bartoli.  None of these potential pre-semifinal opponents ever has defeated Sharapova, and only once has any of them threatened her.  That occasion did come recently at last year’s US Open, when Bartoli won the first set before Maria stormed back.  All the same, the 2006 champion should overwhelm the Spanish journeywoman in the fourth round and rely on her dominance over those rivals to reach a third straight semifinal in the desert.  Even without her best form against a top-25 opponent, Suarez Navarro, she eased through in straight sets by—as usual—growing more aggressive rather than less when the match could have tilted in either direction.

5.      Should Murray’s fans be concerned?

After an easy third-round assignment, the competition will get stiff for the Scot as Nishikori and Del Potro loom.  With those obstacles ahead, Murray would have benefited from a strong and efficient start to the tournament, but he didn’t get it in a three-set scare against Evgeny Donskoy.  While the Russian has plenty of talent and ambition, he is not the sort of player expected to trouble one of the Big Four.  Anybody and everybody has troubled Murray here recently, though, for he dropped seven consecutive sets at Indian Wells between a 2010 quarterfinal and the first set of his  opener here.  Hangovers from Australian Open disappointment have hampered him emotionally in those appearances, so his body language will bear watching if more sustained adversity arises.  That said, he matches up extremely well to Nishikori and Del Potro, neither of whom ever has defeated him on a hard court.

6.      Should Radwanska’s fans be concerned?

The sun of Indian Wells usually has not shone brightly on Radwanska, usually more successful at the tournament’s sequel in Miami.  But her draw looks more comfortable than it often does, or at least it did until she toiled for two and a half hours to suppress Sorana Cirstea in the third round.  The type of player whom Radwanska tends to dismantle with ease, the erratic yet powerful Romanian hit through her surprisingly often considering the court speed and her defensive skills.  Radwanska also twice failed to serve out the match in the third set once she had reversed the momentum, a strange lapse for someone who has established herself as a fine competitor over the last eighteen months.  Her next two projected opponents, Kirilenko and Kvitova, have spelled trouble for her at significant events before.

7.      Which Novak will show up?

This question would have sounded ridiculous a set and a half into what looked like a humiliating rout of Fabio Fognini.  When Djokovic threw away the second set and did not immediately reassert himself in the third, some eyebrows raised over this extended lapse.  Also suggesting competitive fatigue was a minor altercation over a time violation warning that he received.  Djokovic is not nearly as dangerous a player when his head is not in the right place, and early signs of trouble historically have spelled trouble later in the draw.  If the man who smoothly struck every shot in the book during the first set returns, however, he will remain the title favorite.  Djokovic may have time to collect himself, for his next two opponents do not look intimidating, nor did quarterfinal foe Tsonga in his convoluted victory over Blake.

8.      Which Petra will show up?

Always a woman of two sides, Kvitova brought her bad version to the Australian hard courts and her good version to the Persian Gulf.  As remarkable as it sounds, the same woman who won two games from Cibulkova one month came within two games of knocking off Serena (and demolished Radwanska) the next.  More of a lamb than a lion in March recently, Kvitova showed some of both extremes in a three-set victory over the pedestrian Govortsova and a third-round battle with a qualifier that nearly reached a third set as well.  She can contend for the title as convincingly as anyone, especially with her past success against Azarenka, but every opponent whom she faces should enter that match knowing that they have a chance.

9.      Can a former US Open champion prove himself (again)?

When he knocked off Nadal and Federer in succession to win the 2009 US Open, Del Potro looked like the next big thing for the ATP.  He still could be, but the odds of his becoming one of his generation’s great champions grow slimmer with every season since his wrist surgery in which the Big Four and even players like Ferrer throttle him.  One of the few men who has won a major but not a Masters 1000 tournament, Del Potro may need to walk before he can run.  In the peaceful environment of Indian Wells, where he has produced strong results before, he should take heart from the early frailty displayed by Djokovic and Murray.

10.   Can a former US Open champion prove herself (again)?

Compared to Stosur’s recent results, those of Del Potro look positively brilliant.  The 2011 US Open champion has not won a title since that miraculous breakthrough against Serena, and winning a single match lay beyond her abilities early in 2013.  Unlike most players who win a major, the Aussie drew no fresh confidence from her achievement.  The good news is that she finally has strung together a few victories in her recent tournaments, and a commanding victory over Keys showed form that could prove good enough to carry her through the weakest quarter in the women’s draw.  When she last faced Azarenka at the US Open, Stosur extended her to a third-set tiebreak.  Who knows what could happen in a semifinal against her if she accumulates some momentum before then?

11.   Who will be the last American man standing?

There are two candidates left at this stage:  Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey.  Both find themselves uncomfortably close to Djokovic, never  a good place to be.  Fish is just grateful to have started to play matches again after his health scares, and anyone who believes that Querrey can become the next great American champion probably just clicked on an email from Nigeria.  That said, the Californian deserves credit for surviving the elephantine serve of Ivo Karlovic, and it will be intriguing to see how he handles bearing the mantle of the top-ranked man from a nation frustrated with its tennis underachievement.

12.   Who will be the last American woman standing?

Well, let’s take a look at the options.  There’s Stephens and,…oh, she lost already?  Anyway, there’s Keys, who…she’s gone too?  Maybe Christina McHale with…hmm, Kirilenko came back?  Time to do a Ctrl+F for USA on the women’s draw.

1 match.  Jamie Hampton.


Enjoy the rest of the tournament, and feel free to suggest answers for questions 1-11 in the comments.

Players Lounge Diary: A Look at the Intimate Side of the BNP Paribas Open

Lauren, sister of ATP pro tennis player Tim Smyczek, blogs from Indian Wells, CA as Tim competes at the 2013 BNP Paribas Open, and takes us through two typical days on Tour.

By Lauren Smyczek

Thurs, March 7th — 6:00 am Woke up this morning a bit later than usual during our stay here in Indian Wells. I think I’m drained from all the sun yesterday even though I downed 3.5 Nalgene canisters of water — the desert air just sucks it right out of you! Mom and I are here supporting Tim this week on the road, and we are all staying off-site at a house of one of Tim’s friends; it was so generous of her to offer her place! Before the rest of the group wakes up, mom and I tiptoe out of the house and go for a long walk in the neighborhood. It’s surprisingly chilly in the mornings, but really a must before sitting all afternoon at the tournament site. If I’m being good, I throw in some yoga poses to get the blood flowing.

7:00 During our walk, we head over to the local coffee shop. My whole family are coffee snobs. Our favorite is Milwaukee’s Alterra but today we have to settle for other beans since Alterra hasn’t come to California … yet. I text Tim to see if he’s awake and ready for coffee, and mom and I chat at the shop until he texts back. Even at the beginning of the day, there seems to be a lot of “waiting around” when it comes to tennis players, but you get used to the random nature of the scheduling pretty quickly.

7:30 We head back to the house and my mom makes breakfast for Tim and Billy Heiser, his coach. Today, it’s every tennis player’s dream breakfast of eggs and chicken followed by Greek yogurt with jelly and my mom’s famous home-made granola. It takes a lot of nutritious food and calories to keep your energy all day as a player, so a balanced breakfast is a must.

8:15 Thanks to our hosts, Tim and Billy don’t need to head on-site for morning drills just yet. The family’s backyard is equipped with a tennis court, so they are able to get started bright and early with little hassle.

10:00 After drills, we all tune into the TV and quickly settle on watching The Golf Channel. This makes Tim itch to get out on the greens. He lives on a course back in Tampa, FL so we joke that he goes into withdrawal on the road when he doesn’t have access to a golf course.

10:30 We finally head over to the site for their morning hit, and on the way there — as every good partnership can attest to — Tim and Billy bicker over predictions on the outcome of today’s matches.

11:00 Once at Indian Wells, Billy grabs a coke from the locker room for my mom, and as we’re leaving the players’ area, a sweaty Stan Wawrinka walks past (he’s one of my favorite players right now). Across from the entrance to the players’ area is a big field for warming up and working out, and a game of pickup soccer is taking place with several players participating in the fun.

Today it’s colder and more cloudy than usual, and while I optimistically wore shorts, I also brought jeans which I gladly switch into. I walk around the grounds to catch some match play as the first round started today. The first match I catch is on Court 7, Viktor Troicki vs David Goffin. Long rallies, fist pumps, and a huge break for Troicki to get him back on serve at 3-4.

It’s only Day One, but the crowd is excited and ready for some great tennis. The early days of big tournaments like Indian Wells are always a lot of fun as there are so many great matches on, and perhaps even some surprises. The momentum of this particular match though, is going back and forth — it’s just incredible to see from both Troicki and Goffin just how much focus this game takes. You let up for even a single point and you’re in trouble.

We then move to watch some of Bernard Tomic vs Thomaz Bellucci, but find ourselves heading back to Court 7 for an enticing third set. With all the excitement on the grounds, I accidentally missed Tim’s afternoon practice, so I just keep on watching the matches. Tim will text when he’s done with the trainer and his ice bath. Glad I don’t have to “enjoy” those frigid ice baths — will leave it for the players!

3:00 pm It’s now been a few hours, but still no word from Tim in the locker room. We don’t like to bother Tim and Billy so we just wait. Who’s complaining though when you’re at an awesome event surrounded by world-class tennis?! I’m guessing that back in the massage line or trainer room, Tim is reading — or maybe even more likely — scrolling through his Twitter feed.

4:30 We hit some nasty traffic on the way back to the house. Shopping plans for the day? Nixed. Uhh … more Golf Channel?

7:00 We have dinner  with a group of Tim’s friends who are hosting a new Challenger starting off in Sacramento this Fall. It’s an exciting and riveting conversation, but my eyes are failing me and closing at the table. Tim, though, has extra helpings — have to stay fueled up!

10:30 Finally time for some shut-eye.


Friday, March 8th — 6:00 am No walk this morning as it’s surprisingly raining in the desert!

7:00 Off to get that coffee again to start the day right. Same routine as yesterday.

8:20 The rain was short-lived as the sun makes it’s appearance, even though the meteorologist called for more rain. Go figure!

9:15 My mom and I head out to do a little walking around and shopping now that it’s nice out. Tim is fifth up today for his match against Yen-Hsun Lu, so we won’t need to head to the site for a few hours.

1:30 pm Once we do arrive at the site, we catch some of the Jack Sock vs Ivo Karlovic match. What a tough loss for Jack after holding match points. Sometimes matches just don’t work out how we want them to.

3:00 We head over to watch some of Tim’s pre-match warmup, before seeing some of Jelena Jankovic vs Svetlana Kuznetzova. Once the sun starts to set though, mom and I realize that it would be better to spend a few hours inside so we’re not frozen popsicles by the time his match rolls around later in the evening.

4:45 Luckily, we were able to find in a nice corner of the players lounge where I can discretely do a little yoga — stiff from shivering all afternoon.

James Blake strides in smiling after his win over Robin Haase. Then from across the room, I see Haase discussing his loss with his coach and a cloudy look of disappointment on his face. With the constant flux of familiar tennis player faces walking in and out, it’s hard to not be distracted. But, of course, when you’re in the players lounge, you just play it cool — no staring, even if you are a little starstruck.

Stadium 3 is hosting a women’s match before Tim’s (Bartoli v Scheepers), so it feels like they’re trying to set a record for number of deuce games. Part of me — oh wait, all of me, is dreading going back out into the ever-extending frigid night.

6:00 We finally head out to Stadium 3 to shiver for a few more hours and watch Tim’s match against Lu. Tim came out of the gate strong, but Lu is known to be hot and cold. Sure enough, Lu got the break to start the second set, and then really started playing on all cylinders. Tim didn’t play poorly, but he can definitely play at a much higher level than this, and suffers a heart-breaking three-set loss, 6-2, 2-6, 2-6. Never easy to see a match slip through your hands after having had control.

9:00 After the cool down and some talk with his coach, it’s a quiet car ride back to the house as expected. I wish it could have gone better for Tim, but it was a heck of a time in Indian Wells and I’m incredibly grateful to have been along to support my brother! It’s the losses that show us our true strengths and I know Tim will bounce right back, looking for his next win.

As a bonus, Tim also shot his Tennis Channel “Bag Check” this week, so look for that in the weeks to come!

Until next time!

Mardy Fish has a triumphant return in Indian Wells

Mardy Fish walked on court Sunday for his first professional singles match in six months and eight days, his first match since beating Gilles Simon in the third round of the 2012 US Open. He was forced to withdraw from his US Open fourth round match against Roger Federer last September when the heart condition he revealed earlier last year flared up once again. It’s been a long road back but Fish finally made his 2013 debut at the BNP Paribas Open, a short trip from his home base in Los Angeles. Fish was first up on Stadium 1 on Saturday against compatriot Bobby Reynolds. It wasn’t the cleanest or easiest match Mardy Fish has ever played, but he left the court victorious after three sets, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. He described it as a, “win just to get back out there.” Fish was the number one American player for much of 2011 and some of 2012, having taken the helm from Andy Roddick who would go on to retire last year. He is a much needed presence at a time when younger Americans like John Isner and Sam Querrey have been struggling.

When asked about his feelings after the match, Fish called it, “elation probably.” He went on to say it wasn’t just about winning, adding, “there has been a couple of people that have really been there for me through these past months, and it felt good to play for them, as well. My wife has been a rock at my side the entire time, so it’s been very difficult for her, as well.”

Sunday’s match actually wasn’t Fish’s first appearance on court at this year’s BNP Paribas Open. He teamed up with fellow American and good friend, James Blake, to take on Spanish duo David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco in doubles on Saturday. Blake said he was, “honored to be the one that’s out there with him when he comes back because I know how hard it’s been. It’s been a long journey for him, and I hope I really, really hope that it’s easier for him to be out there with me, with someone that you know, I like to think of myself as one of his good friends out here that cares about him more as a person than any results will ever speak to.” Perhaps playing with Blake did bring back some of the good old days because the pair won the match 6-4, 6-4. 

Andy Roddick was certainly paying attention to his good friend Mardy’s return on Sunday, tweeting, “Hell yes @mardyfish !!!” just after the match’s completion. Fish was asked to comment on the absence of his good friend Roddick who wasn’t playing the tournament for the first time in over ten years. Being the same age, the two players grew up together on tour. The two even attended the same high school. The biggest difference for Fish? “I miss the free meals from him because he has way more money than we all do.” Just kidding. On a more serious note, Fish said he missed the “silent cheering from afar for us both” and having a breakfast companion. The two would eat breakfast together every morning at this particular tournament

Mardy Fish is taking things slow. He will play Miami and then assess whether he wants to continue on to the clay court season. As for this tournament, Fish will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round, who took out James Blake on Sunday night.