Giving tennis more than a shot

Indian Wells – Between Virus And Doubles Drama

There is a virulent stomach virus going on in Indian Wells at the moment, which caused the pull-out and the retirement of many players, but also affects everyone there: players, linesmen, ball kids, journalists. No one is safe and we saw again retirements and pull-outs because of it yesterday, among which the 2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone. Roger Federer and David Ferrer both admitted to not having felt well after their matches, Sunday, and Jürgen Melzer had all the trouble in the world finishing his match against Thomaz Bellucci the same day. Melzer ended up losing and had to pull out of the doubles.


Those are only examples, as there are now over 10 players who have been affected by that virus. Hopefully the field will remain healthy from now on.


Virus notwithstanding, there have also been tennis matches and I have to say that the most dramatic ones, since the beginning of the tournament, are those we cannot see because they are not shown on TV or online: the doubles matches. To be fair, a lot of these matches are not even on show courts, but even if they were, they would not be shown.


The courts are almost always packed, which shows that doubles are somewhat popular, but they don’t have the TV coverage they deserve. With such a field as there is in Indian Wells, a little effort in that sense would be appreciated.


Lots of doubles drama

Sunday, the fans on Court 7 were treated to high British drama, as the draw made Colin Fleming/Ross Hutchins face the Murray brothers in the first round. Flemchins were sailing on a very good season start and had won the doubles title in Delray Beach just before Indian Wells started. As for Andy and Jamie Murray, they are also a very good doubles pair.


This had all the ingredients for a great match (and the historical fact that there were three Scots on the same court for a Masters 1000 match, as Judy Murray noted on Twitter), and a great match it was for those who were lucky enough to see it. The Murray brothers won it in a tight match tiebreak, 3-6 6-2 13-11. The Murrays will face the no 2 team in the world, Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, tonight.


Bob (L) and Mike (R) Bryan won a 2:04 thriller when they defeated Marcel Granollers and Feliciano López 6-7(2) 7-6(4) 17-15 in their second-round match (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

But however dramatic this match was, it was nothing compared to the second-round match that opposed the no 1 team in the world, the Bryan brothers, to Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Feliciano López, yesterday. Again, Court 7 was the scene of doubles drama of the highest quality, as Bob and Mike Bryan, still seeking Indian Wells glory, narrowly escaped to reach the quarter-finals.


The twins won a 2:04 contest against the Spaniards, 6-7(2) 7-6(4) 17-15, the longest match tiebreak of the Bryans’ glorious career. A match that had most of us glued to our live scoreboard and Twitter timelines for updates from those who were lucky enough to be there. A tough loss for Granollers and López, but a tough win for the Bryans, who will meet the winners of the match between Matthew Ebden/Ryan Harrison and 8th seeds Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski.


And who knows, maybe someday, the boradcasters and tournament organizers will realize that doubles are indeed popular and they will show them more than in most of the ATP250, some ATP500, and the Grand Slams… (Not to mention that we get to see a lot of Challenger Tour doubles matches too.)


Another agreeable surprise

Aussie Matthew Ebden defeated a top 10 for the first time in the third round when he got the better of no 8 Mardy Fish in straight sets (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

He came all the way from the qualifications in Indian Wells. Since last year, he has known a steady rise, including the quarter-finals at the Shanghai Masters 1000 (l. to Andy Murray), which made him enter the top 100 for the first time in his career. Yesterday, he defeated a top 10 player. Who is that? Aussie Matthew Ebden. At 24, the South African-born Australian has been showing a lot of progress since last fall and he proved it again by defeating his first top 10 opponent yesterday (after four losses) when he took out World no 8 Mardy Fish in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.


Yes, it’s true, Fish doesn’t have his best season start (a record of 5-6 since the beginning of 2012). However, Fish had many chances to get back in the match, as he was up breaks a couple of times in the second set. But Ebden was simply the better player on court yesterday and really deserves his place in the round-of-16. 


American John Isner is in a quest for a top 10 spot and defeated Juan Mónaco 7-5 7-5 to book his round-of-16 spot (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

If he wants to reach the quarter-finals of this event, Edben will have to discard another American, this time John Isner, who took the measure of his good friend Juan Mónaco in two sets, 7-5 7-5. It’s not that Pico played a bad match, far from there, but from the middle of the first set until the end of the match, the Tandil native started struggling with his serve, which opened the door to Isner. Furthermore, the rare chances to break for the Argentine were quickly smothered by the usual big serving of his opponent.


This Isner – Ebden matchup should be really interesting, if only for what’s on the line. Isner is aiming to enter the top 10, whereas Ebden has absolutely nothing to lose. This said, I am not keen on giving the win to big serving Isner just yet. Doing that would mean not knowing how much of a fighter Matthew Ebden is, and I know he will fight until the last point, win or lose.


An Almagro – Berdych rematch

Everyone remembers what happened at the Australian Open between Nicolás Almagro and Tomas Berdych. When the draw came out, a lot were salivating at the prospect of a round-of-16 rematch between the two. Such a rematch will happen tomorrow, as both won their third-round encounters, albeit not necessarily easily.


Almagro was facing Santiago Giraldo and the open match I thought we would have is what we, indeed, were treated to. It was maybe not the best serving match for either player but it still was a very hard-fought match that finally went the way of the Spaniard, again, in three sets, 4-6 6-2 7-6(2).


Tomas Berdych will face Nicolás Almagro in the round-of-16 after defeating Andy Roddick in round 3 (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Berdych, for his part, defeated Andy Roddick in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-2. The first set quickly escaped the American, who had a very bad first game, but it went from bad to worse when, trying to challenge a call (very quickly as usual), he wasn’t seen/heard by the umpire, so could not challenge and got pretty upset. As usual, this made him lose his focus, and the set in that wake. Andy Roddick broke late in the second set on a flurry of errors from the Czech, but reverted to serving rather poorly in the third, and the high level of Berdych did the rest to take the win.


Should we expect something special from this match between Almagro and Berdych? Apart from interesting tennis, I don’t think so, at least on Almagro’s part. He was often questioned about the Melbourne incident in the last few weeks and his answer was invariably the same: he’s well over it and Berdych is a great player. As for Berdych, he did kind of regret his actions not long after the match so I don’t think there will be anything special on his end either.


So really, the only thing we should expect from that match is another tight encounter and, because it’s Almagro, a three-setter. 😉


Without surprise…

Even though not serving his best, it is without surprise that World no 1 Novak Djokovic defeated Kevin Anderson somewhat easily in round 3, same as he did Andrey Golubev in round 2 (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

There is really nothing surprising in Novak Djokovic‘s run so far. A bit rusty during his first match, he still quite demolished his opponent and did the same yesterday with Kevin Anderson (6-2 6-3), even though the World no 1 did not serve his best. Then again, his cake draw is even more of a piece of cake (with a cherry on the top) with Andy Murray’s early demise.


His opponent in the round-of-16 will be Spaniard Pablo Andújar, who had the best of his countryman Albert Ramos 7-6(5) 6-4 to reach the round-of-16 of a Masters 1000 for the first time in his career, on his weakest surface. Of course, against the best player in the world, Andújar starts with two strikes against him, but I’m pretty sure he will put up a great fight in order to win. Hopefully for him, he will serve better than he did yesterday, else it will be a very short match indeed.


Open match!

The last round-of-16 match of the top half will oppose Ryan Harrison to Gilles Simon. With both players healthy, it should really be a high-contested match and one that I hope not to miss (as I think it will be the night match on Stadium 1 tomorrow – and hoping very much I’m wrong).


Harrison has gained a lot of maturity over the last months (particularly since the change of coach), both in his game and in his on-court manners. It showed against Viktor Troicki and again, last night, against Guillermo García-López, whom he defeated 6-4 7-5.


As for Gilles Simon, he played very aggressive tennis yesterday to dismiss Stanislas Wawrinka, although the Swiss finished it about on one leg, suffering from a knee injury. However, the first set was a tight and highly contested affair, very enjoyable to watch. Simon ended up winning 6-4 6-4, as he failed to serve out the match at 5-2.


This match will really be one to watch, especially if we see more the new and aggressive Gilles Simon than the overly defensive one. That would make for a lot of tennis entertainment!


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