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Tenaciously Tennis


Nadal Easily Advances; Upsets Ensue at Indian Wells

Rafael Nadal and John Isner raced through their third round matches, while the Serbs Novak Djokovic and Jelena Jankovic needed marathon three-set matches to advance. On the surprise-side, session ten at Indian Wells saw Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka lose, as Israel’s Shahar Peer advanced in three.

In Nadal’s match against Mario Ancic, the Spaniard wowed the crowed with shot after shot, making his established opponent look like a confused country-player. With his powerful top spin forehand, Nadal dominated Ancic with beautifully hit passing shots and curling forehands hit from outside the doubles alley that miraculously clipped corners of the court. In the end, Ancic looked completely baffled, bowing out, 6-2, 6-2. The third seed next faces the American giant, John Isner.

Isner beat friend and fellow Davis Cup partner, Sam Querrey, 7-6(3), 6-4, asserting his rightful place as the second-ranked American in the world. The question remains, can Isner push himself to the max and take down the defending champion, Nadal, in the next round. My prediction: probably not.

Djokovic looked to have an easy match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first set, but things intensified as Kohlschreiber’s one-handed backhanded and the California heat weighed down on the Serb’s game. Djokovic outlasted Kohlschreiber’s three match points and took the third set tie break to win, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(3). Next up is a harder test in Ivan Ljubicic, the twentieth seed.

Another Serb, Jankovic, looked to be all but out of the tournament against her lower-ranked opponent, Sara Errani in her 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 win. For the first set and most of the second, Jankovic would set the point up with one of her beautifully placed down-the-line backhands. However, she continually made unforced errors, allowing Errani to dictate play. In the second set tiebreak, Jankovic was up 6-1, until sloppy play ensued. Jankovic lost the next five points, but eventually took the set and the match.

Clijsters and Azarenka bowed out in surprising fashion. Clijsters lost to Russian Alisa Kleybanova 64, 1-6, 7-6(4), while Azarenka was defeated by Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 7-6(4), 6-2.

With Clijsters out, my prediction for a Belgian champion at the 2010 Indian Wells tournament comes to a close. However, there is the exciting possibility of a new winner on the west coast, which is just as powerful a storyline.

Azarenka’s defeat by Martinez Sanchez was a huge upset, showcasing the Spaniard’s beautiful variety, including drop shot returns, finesse volleys, lobs, and well-placed serves. All combined to throw off Azarenka’s powerful baseline game and end her hopes for a big win.

Other matches of note had Israel’s Shahar Peer versus Flavia Pennetta, Vera Zvonareva against Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, and Australia’s Sam Stosur meeting Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Peer came back from a difficult loss in the second set to take a commanding win in the third set, beating the Italian, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1. In the other match, 2009 champion Zvonareva put a stop to the Latvian’s strong run 6-2, 6-3, while Stosur out-hit the recent titlist, Pavlyuchenkova, in a lopsided, 6-3, 6-0.

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