Giving tennis more than a shot

Indian Wells – Bring The Round-Of-16! (2)

The bottom half really brought interesting matches yesterday, as you can see with an analysis in two parts (and the fact that we were able to see all the singles matches). You can find the first part here, and the top half analysis here (from yesterday).

 

Rafael Nadal vs Alexandr Dolgopolov

Rafael Nadal made more than one person smile when he mentioned, after his third-round win, that his round-of-16 opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov, is “a crazy player”, but we cannot say he’s wrong. The Ukrainian is, after all, known for his very unorthodox style of play, which results in many winners, but also (and especially since the beginning of the season) an incredible amount of unforced errors. His style makes him very unpredictable, for opponents and fans alike.

 

Yesterday’s match was no different.

 

Alexandr Dolgopolov and Marcos Baghdatis: an erratic but so entertaining battle

If there is one thing to say about the match that opposed Alexandr Dolgopolov and Marcos Baghdatis, it is that it was to be a very unpredictable match, both players able of the better and the worse, usually all in the same match. This made for a very open battle, which is what we were treated to for 2:20 of sometimes incredible, sometimes head-shaking tennis, from both players.

 

Dolgopolov started strong. Trying to recover from a mysterious physical condition, to which he alludes often on Twitter without giving too many details (is it his blood condition, is it something else, we don’t know), Dolgopolov has been in a relative slump since the Australian Open but has been fighting like the very devil to get back on the winning track. He had played a topsy-turvy second round match against Steve Darcis and despite a strong start against Baghdatis, it appeared that it is something to which we would, again, be treated.

 

The only difference is that this time, we were able to see it. From unbelievable winners to absolutely puzzling errors, both players gave us quite a bit of entertainment, with Dolgopolov starting strong in all sets, losing his advantage in the second, and coming near to losing it again in the third, as Baghdatis’s level had dropped considerably after taking the second set. However, Dolgopolov nearly let the Cypriot come back into the set by failing to serve out the match at 5-2, he who had chances to break and give himself a 5-0 lead two games before.

 

Finally, after a strong hold from Baghdatis, Dolgopolov was able to serve out the match and earn a 6-4 5-7 6-4 win to reach the round-of-16:

 

Rafael Nadal without too many issues

The match opposing World no 2 Rafael Nadal to his countryman Marcel Granollers was an uneven battle, even on paper. We all know that when they meet their legendary countryman, all Spaniards seem to freeze and Granollers was no different.

 

Rafael Nadal did not waste much time to defeat his countryman Marcel Granollers and book his spot in the round-of-16 (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

Nadal quickly took advantage of Granollers’s shaky start to fly away with the first set, 6-1. The second set started with all the makings of the first, Granollers dropping serve in the very first game, but quickly recovered and got well back into the match, making the set a more contested affair and very entertaining to watch, as we know the kind of aggressive game Granollers can bring when he’s in full confidence.

 

We were not disappointed and I must say that the last game of the match kept me on the edge of my seat, as Nadal really had all sorts of issues closing out the match, something highly unusual from him. After a long game, Nadal prevailed, 6-1 6-4 and booked his place in the round-of-16.

 

Today, against Dolgopolov, I don’t know what to expect. The Ukrainian is so unpredictable lately that it is impossible to know which Dolgopolov will take the court: the high-voltage one who hits winner after winner and fights a crazy fight to stay in a match, or the sloppy and erratic one. My guess is both, and that he will, indeed, also keep Nadal guessing for a while as well.

 

However, my guess is that Rafael Nadal will win and reach the quarter-finals once again.

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs David Nalbandian

To me, this will be an open match and a possible upset. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did have an easy way to the third round, with Michaël Llodra retiring once again against him with only five games gone into the first set, but was made to work very hard in the third round. As for Nalbandian, he is in great shape since the beginning of the season and was very impressive again yesterday when he defeated ninth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic in a very good battle.

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fights off veteran Radek Stepanek

Jo-Wiilfried Tsonga was made to fight a mighty fight to get the better of veteran Radek Stepanek in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open (Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

To be honest, I thought that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would quickly dispatch Radek Stepanek. It was without taking into account the knack of the 33-year-old to fight his way into matches in a very old-fashion, but so nice to see, way.

 

Tsonga, on the other hand, was very erratic in the beginning of the match, lucky to have his powerful serve to get him out of tricky situations at time. The same went for Stepanek, who played very high level tennis to take the set not only to the tiebreak, but to take it easily from the no 6 player in the world, 7-2, thus causing Tsonga to smash his racquet in frustration.

 

However he tried, Stepanek could not maintain this high level throughout the match and if the second set was a little more even, with the Czech losing serve at only his last service game of the set, thus making Tsonga serve it out, the third set quickly became a formality for the Frenchman, as Stepanek was completely out of gas, thus confirming the 6-7(2) 6-3 6-2 win of the sixth seed.

 

A first top 10 win since 2010

The last time David Nalbandian defeated a top 10 player, it was in Toronto, when he defeated then no 5 Robin Söderling in three sets in the round-of-16 of the 2010 Rogers Cup. It is that kind of form that he brought to his match against Janko Tipsarevic last night. Nalbandian served wonderfully, particularly in the first set and the last stages of the third, but one bad service game in the second gave the break and advantage to Tipsarevic to force a third and decisive set.

 

However, the rest of Nalbandian’s game was particularly impressive, and he played like the top 10 he was before all the injuries came plaguing him. Quick on his feet, with a touch that only he can bring when close to the net, he also benefited from the very erratic play of the Serbian in a lot of key moments of the match to snatch a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win.

 

If he brings that game on court today against Tsonga, I think that an upset is highly possible for Nalbandian. However, we know that Tsonga doesn’t have two consecutive bad matches very often. This should then be a battle to watch with attention.

 

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