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Tenaciously Tennis


Indian Wells 2012: A Fearsome Flu and Fresh Faces

It’s been a weird few days at Indian Wells with a ferocious flu taking down scores of players, trainers, and even journalists, while new American talent has been breaking through to the final few days of action in the California heat. The stomach viruses’ victim count so far is estimated at approximately 30, including stars Vera Zvonareva and Gael Monfils.

The flu’s latest casualty? American wild card Jamie Hampton, 22, who couldn’t deal with the cramps and fatigue. She retired during the third set versus World No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska. It’s too bad; Hampton seemed to find her game despite trailing 3-0 in the final set. She enjoyed the momentum by taking the second set 6-4. Ultimately, illness proved too much. Hampton should leave feeling proud. Ranked No. 99, she’s making a serious breakthrough into the big leagues and the third-round is a quality advance. Hampton took out former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in round one and Jarmila Gajdosova in the second.

Said Hampton: “At the end of the second [against Radwanska] it hit me and I knew it was coming. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.” And this type of thing has happened in the past for the up-and-comer; she’s suffered from cramps five times already in her young career, forcing her to quit the match. Yet she says she “hydrates and eats the right way, according to a Ticker post on Tennis.com. A visit to a specialist  is in her future, which is a good call for a player who can definitely do major damage if she keeps the fuel going for further upward trajectory.

Bowing out in another close match was the No. 32 seed and New Jersey-native Christina McHale. The giant killer — think Cincinnati 2011 and my shameless self-promotion here — added Petra Kvitova to her list, taking out the World No. 3 in round two. The 18th-seeded Angelique Kerber, the surprise 2011 US Open semifinalist, however, proved to be a little too much to handle, edging past the 19-year old 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4). McHale, although not quite as new a face as Hampton, summons the fresh and hopeful feelings of where American women’s tennis is going in a time of crisis. The Williams sisters aren’t getting any younger, and their typical absence at Indian Wells this week always makes it even more pronounced. Regardless, expect a top 20 ranking for McHale by the year’s end (if not by the time Roland Garros rolls around).

In other WTA news, Ana Ivanovic has pushed past the stomach bug and her own insecurities, downing former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets with her huge forehand. The No. 15-seeded Serb might finally be ready to go on a roll and reclaim her rightful place in the Top 10 after confidence issues sapped her game post-Roland Garros victory 2008.

On the men’s side, American Ryan Harrison, 19,  has advanced to the final 16. He’s had huge success at Indian Wells in the past, advancing to the fourth round last year after securing a solid win over Canadian Milos Raonic (before losing to Roger Federer in straights). This year, it’s been more of the same. He took out Guillermo Garcia-Lopez just like in 2011, while also claiming solid wins over Viktor Troicki and Flavio Cipolla. Up next: the No. 13 seed Gilles Simon, who’s entirely beatable if Harrison can keep calm and not let the Frenchman’s tricky counter-punching style unsettle his power.

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Young, Vandeweghe among Americans in Australian Open Qualifying

I am proud to say that the following post is Tenaciously Tennis’ 200th. After just over a year of blogging, I’m excited to begin coverage of the 2011 season. For more on the blog’s first birthday, see here.

With the Australian Open, the year’s first major tournament, set to begin next week, the qualifying tournament is underway. On the ATP tour, players are already fighting it out on court for precious spots in the main draw. Donald Young and Coco Vandeweghe are among the American players seeking their place in the major via the qualifying rounds. While Young is seeded 15th, Vandeweghe enjoys the top spot in the tournament.

A former boys Australian Open champion, Young is ranked 129th, after earning his highest ranking, 79th, in 2008. Already into the second round of qualifying after defeating Germany’s Dieter Kindlmann in straight sets, he faces Alberto Brizzi of Italy next. Young is joined by sixth-seeded Ryan Sweeting, Alex Kuznetsov, Bobby Reynolds, Tim Smyczek, and Kevin Kim. Alex Bogmolov Jr. and Michael Yani have yet to play.

The 115th-ranked Vandeweghe, winner of the 2008 girls’ US Open, joins compatriots Irina Falconi, Jamie Hampton, Madison Brengle, Julia Cohen, and Sloane Stephens. The women still need to start their first round, but I see Vandeweghe and Stephens making a splash to advance to the main draw. For more on Stephens, who I saw play at the 2010 US Open, see here.


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