The third round of the BNP Paribas Open was completed yesterday, although it started on the wrong foot with the announcement of yet another pull-out caused by the gastro-intestinal virus, that of Nikolay Davydenko, which gave Thomaz Bellucci a direct entrance to the round-of-16. This means that the virus was really kind of profitable for the Brazilian, as his second round opponent, Jürgen Melzer, had all the trouble in the world finishing their match for the same reason (and later pulled out of the doubles).
All the other matches were completed and most went the way we thought, with the exception of a huge surprise caused by Denis Istomin, really in form since the return to America.
Juan Martín del Potro vs Denis Istomin
We expected a match between no 9 seed Juan Martín del Potro and no 5 David Ferrer. However, Denis Istomin caused the upset of the Spaniard and will be the one facing the Argentine today.
Denis Istomin causes a huge surprise
David Ferrer came into Indian Wells with the best record of the ATP Tour so far this season, 18-1 and three titles (Auckland, Buenos Aires, Acapulco). Having won his 19th match in the second round when he defeated Grigor Dimitrov 2 and 2, the no 5 player in the world was, of course, the heavy favourite in his match against Denis Istomin.
However, the Uzbek has been on a roll since the Tour came back to America. Runner-up in San Jose (l. to Milos Raonic), he made his way in a somewhat spectacular fashion since the beginning of the tournament, first defeating Yen-Hsun Lu in straight sets and then having the better of Juan Ignacio Chela in a highly disputed match, 7-6(5) 6-7(7) 7-5 before meeting with David Ferrer yesterday.
That’s when we saw that his actual good form was not a fluke. If he served well despite his 59% of first serves in, it’s true that he was helped by a strangely extinct David Ferrer. However, Istomin was able to rely on his serve when the need arose, which kept him out of trouble for most of the match. Moreover, he returned very, very well, which was proved by his breaking The Wall a total of four times during the match in a 6-4 6-3 win.
As for Ferrer, if he started the match with his nearly usual slowness, I was among those who thought that he would get back and claw his way to a win. But Ferrer was obviously, from the middle of the first set onwards, strangely not his feisty, fighting self. His backhand, usually so reliable, was misfiring most of the times and the usually genial angles he creates with his strokes could not seem to find the lines. In other words, for a rare time, David Ferrer had a bad day and Indian Wells continued not smiling to him.
Ferrer tried, hard, pumped himself as much as he could, but yesterday was just not his day. On the other hand, it was Istomin’s and the Uzbek really played an incredible match to log what is likely to be the biggest upset of his career. This round-of-16 appearance is the best Masters 1000 result of his career so far. However, if he wants to further this result and reach the quarter-finals, he will have the hard task of fending off another of the in-form players of the moment: Juan Martín del Potro.
Del Potro thanks Lady Luck… he shouldn’t
World no 9 Juan Martín del Potro doesn’t have the easiest draw. In the third round, yesterday, he had to face the now always unpredictable Fernando Verdasco, who was brimming with confidence since his doubles title won (with David Marrero) in Buenos Aires. After all, just after that title, he won the Acapulco doubles (again with Marrero) and also reached the singles finals, where he was trounced by David Ferrer.
His demolishing of Ryan Sweeting, 6-2 6-2, in the second round, led us to think that it would be a very disputed encounter against the Tower of Tandil. However, Verdasco started the match abysmally, conceding a first break with one of his now proverbial double faults, making unforced error over unforced error, when he was not simply outplayed by del Potro’s winners, with the result of the Argentine taking the first set 6-2.
Verdasco recovered himself in the second set, which was more even, as not only did he raise his level, but Delpo’s dropped a little. The Spaniard served better, lowered his amount of errors, and gave Delpo a merry chase.
Serving to stay in the set at 4-5, the Argentine gave his opponent four set points, on which he was never able to capitulate, usually because of his own errors, although del Potro did fight well to save some of them.
In the tiebreak, Verdasco had two more set points, on which he could not, again, capitulate. At 6-6, Verdasco double faulted to give his opponent his first match point, on his own serve. Del Potro did not let his chance pass and served well to take the set, and the match, 6-2 7-6(6).
Afterwards, del Potro said that he has been lucky on some occasions. However, I think that it was just humble talk from an analytic point of view, as luck did not have much to do in Verdasco’s inability to convert his set points. However, it’s true that Delpo can’t afford to have a letdown today against Istomin, as the Uzbek, if he plays like he did against Ferrer, won’t let his chance pass.
This matchup with Istomin might not be the battle everyone expected, but it remains a very dangerous one for the Argentine, and one to follow. Del Potro starts as the heavy favourite, but Istomin showed that he’ll be there to fight and we know that, when in shape, he is a very tricky opponent and one to be wary of.
Roger Federer vs Thomaz Bellucci
Thomaz Bellucci went straight to the fourth round with a walkover, courtesy of a sick Nikolay Davydenko. I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse in disguise, as if he did, indeed, have an extra day’s rest, he is also facing one of the worst opponents to face in those situations: a very in-form Roger Federer.
Roger Federer tops Milos Raonic, but the youngster impressed
In form, Roger Federer assuredly is, despite his struggles with the virus over the last few days. He quickly dispatched Denis Kudla in the second round, but as we thought, he had to fight a patient fight to get the better of Milos Raonic last night.
Patience is a word that Roger Federer has learned early in his career in order to become the usually calm player we have seen on court ever since his rise to the top of the game. And patience is what he needed to defeat big-serving Raonic, who did not serve as big yesterday (in terms of ace count, at least, but still could rely on his choice weapon to get out of many tricky situations), but showed impressive resilience throughout most of the match, with the exception of a glitch in the second set, which helped Federer come back in the match in style.
The first set was a highly disputed serving contest between the two players, both generally winning their service games easily and not being able to do much on the opponent’s serve. It took one error from the Swiss mæstro in the tiebreak to give Raonic the chance to take it on his own serve, a chance he did not let go. Two big serves later, the young Canadian had won the tiebreak 7-4 and taken the first set.
However, we know that when facing someone for the first time, especially the most talented and difficult ones, Roger Federer takes time to study his opponent, which sometimes comes with the loss of the first set. Yesterday was no different and we saw it the moment the second set started: Federer had raised the level of his game and had figured out his young opponent’s serve pattern, thus feeding upon his power like we’ve seen him do countless times against Andy Roddick or Ivo Karlovic. As Raonic’s level had dropped a tad in this second set, it was much quicker than expected for Federer, who took the set 6-2.
The decisive set was much more even, as Raonic recovered and fought a valiant fight, but Federer’s experience triumphed in the end with a timely break and more fine serving from the Swiss, who sealed the deal 6-7(4) 6-2 6-4.
After the match, Federer was very complimentary of Raonic’s game, rightfully so, and predicted him a bright future. Again, rightfully so. Raonic impressed greatly last night, not only because of his great calm throughout the match (something we’re familiar with – and always awed by), but also in the improvements he brought to his game.
Does Thomaz Bellucci have a chance against Federer? He does, but not much, I think. Yes, Bellucci has played better until he injured himself in São Paulo, but Federer being who and what he is, and in good form, it will be very hard for him to cause the upset. Likely a straight-set win for Federer.
To be continued…
Else, it would be way too long. 😉