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Indian Wells: the first few days

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TENNIS – Both the ATP and WTA tours have stopped in the US for just over 3 weeks of action with the first stop being the desert location of Indian Wells California. The biggest “shocker” of the tournament thus far will have to be the early exit of 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka who lost in straight sets to American Lauren Davis 6-7, 0-6. Cordell Hackshaw

 

Both the ATP and WTA tours have stopped in the United States for just over 3 weeks of action with the first stop being the desert location of Indian Wells California, BNP Paribas Open (March 6 – March 16). This event, the most attended tennis event outside of the majors, is always special for fans as it gives them an opportunity to see many of their favourite players in one place at a fairly decent price. These premier hardcourt events are also the last stops before we head into the clay court season which culminates at the French Open in May. However, despite its desert locale, the tennis action at the BNP Paribas Open has been somewhat cold for the most part over the first 3 days. The biggest crowd draw thus far has been the doubles match up of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka v Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. The 2011 finalist and 2008 Olympics gold medalists Swiss duo won 6-2, 6-7, 1-0.

The biggest “shocker” of the tournament thus far will have to be the early exit of 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka who lost in straight sets to American Lauren Davis 6-7, 0-6. Azarenka who was clearly hampered in the match, later admitted that she is suffering from nerve damage in her foot which has been plaguing her for some time. She added that she may have been a bit too stubborn to have not adhered to medical advice to not play this event. Despite this upset, other top women’s seed managed to hold their own to move through to the 3rd round: Agnieszka Radwanska (2), Simona Halep (6), Jelena Jankovic (7), Sara Errani (9), Carolina Wozniacki (10), Roberta Vinci (13), Carla Suarez-Navarro (14), Eugenie Bouchard (18), Alizé Cornet (22), Lucie Safarova (26) and Magdalena Rybarikova (31). A pair of qualifiers Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova took out seeded players Kristen Flipkens (19) and Kaia Kanepi (24). They will be joined by Annika Beck who took Elena Vesnina (30). Two time champion (2002 and 2007) Daniela Hantuchova (29) was also upset by Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets in the 2nd round.

With this being a 96 field draw and seeded players getting a bye into the 2nd round, Days 1 and 2 had some interesting match ups for the avid tennis fan. Russia’s Vera Zvonareva (2010 Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist) saw her comeback to top level play cut short when Shuai Peng of China took her out in 3 sets. Peng went on to lose to Bouchard in the 2nd round. Fellow Russian Nadia Petrova had to retire from her match against Silvia Soler-Espinoza after just 2 games. While on the subject of veteran players trying to get back in major form, 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone took out young German Mona Barthel in the 1st round. She will face her opponent in that major final, Sam Stosur for a place in the 3rd round. Promising players of the likes of Julia Goerges and Monica Niculescu are also through to the 2nd round. Other results saw the comeback efforts of Andrea Petkovic and Urszula Radwanska halted by Camila Giorgi and Aleksandra Wozniak respectively.

There were many young up and coming players also in action in the 1st round here at Indian Wells. Great Britain’s Heather Watson won over the 16-year over Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Although Watson lost in the 2nd round to Aga Radwanska in straight sets, it was a good effort against the top player. Not surprisingly, the United States put forward many of their young talents in the field. Shelby Rogers, Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe and Taylor Townsend all won their 1st round matches. Fellow Americans Victoria Duval, Alexandra Kiick, Alison Riske, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Christina McHale and Vania King were not so lucky. Keys went on to lose to Vinci in 2nd round.

On the men’s side, main draw action began on Thursday and like the women’s draw, the top 32 seeds were given byes into the 2nd round. Veteran and two time major winner, Lleyton Hewitt proved that he still has something left in the tank when he took out his countryman Matthew Ebden in 3 sets. Another veteran on tour Mike Russell of the US took out his fellow countryman Donald Young. Russell was joined by his compatriots Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison and Tim Smyczek in the 2nd round. Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin won over Benjamin Becker in straight sets. It must be noted that it was a very lackluster performance from the German in this match up. There were so many careless errors from his racquet that at times it looked as though they were intentional. Nonetheless, a good win for the Frenchman.

Other winners included Radek Stepanek surprisingly over Denis Istomin. Stepanek will get for his 2nd round opponent, world’s number 1 Rafael Nadal. Speaking of Nadal, Lukas Rosol won his 1st round encounter and will try for another major upset as he faces Andy Murray in the 2nd round. Jeremy Chardy, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Ivo Karlovic and Juan Monaco also moved through to the next round. Tour veterans such as Feliciano Lopez, Jarkko Nieminen, Teymuraz Gabashvili, Nikolay Davydenko, Julien Benneteau and Victor Hanescu are also through to the 2nd round where they will all face seeded players.

The top seeds begin play on Saturday with Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and recent Australian Open champion Stanislav Wawrinka all set to play. The tournament is sure to come alive from here on end or so one would hope.

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Novak Djokovic Confirmed For Olympics But Del Potro Pulls Out After Medical Advice

The Serbian will be bidding to win gold in Tokyo later this year for the first time in his career.

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This year’s Olympic tennis tournament has been given a boost after officials confirmed world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be playing at the Games.

 

The 19-time Grand Slam champion had been contemplating whether to play at the event or not amid ongoing COVID-19 conditions. Djokovic previously said he would reconsider travelling to Tokyo if fans weren’t allowed to attend. Since that comment, organisers have given the green light for up to 10,000 domestic fans to attend Olympic venues. Although foreign fans are banned from attending this year due to the pandemic.

Amid questions over Djokovic’s participation, the Serbian Tennis Federation has told Sportski Zurnal that he has pledged to play. It will be the fourth time the 34-year-old has represented his country in the Olympics. So far in his career, Djokovic has only won one medal which was bronze back in 2008. He also finished fourth in 2012.

“Novak has confirmed his desire to participate in the Olympic Games and we have already sent a list with his name on it to the Olympic Committee of Serbia. It will be forwarded from there,” the Tennis federation told Sportski Zurnal.

As it currently stands Djokovic is on course to achieve the calendar ‘golden slam.’ A rare achievement where a player wins all four Grand Slam titles, as well as the Olympics, within the same year. In singles competition the only person to have ever achieved this was Stefi Graf back in 1988.

“Everything is possible, and I did put myself in a good position to go for the Golden Slam,” Djokovic said after winning the French Open
“But, you know, I was in this position in 2016 as well. It ended up in a third-round loss in Wimbledon. This year we have only two weeks between the first round of Wimbledon and the finals here, which is not ideal because you go from really two completely different surfaces, trying to make that transition as smooth as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“So obviously I will enjoy this win and then think about Wimbledon in a few days’ time. I don’t have an issue to say that I’m going for the title in Wimbledon. Of course, I am.”

Del Potro’s comeback delayed again

There is less positive news for Juan Martin del Potro, who was the player who beat Djokovic to win a bronze medal back in 2012. The Argentine hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since June 2019 due to a troublesome knee injury. Back in March the former US Open champion said playing at the Olympics again was motivating him during his rehabilitation.

However, since then progress has been slower than what Del Potro would have liked. As a result, he has been advised not to play in the event and continue his recovery.

Delpo won’t be able to play the Olympics Games. The knee rehab is going well according to the doctor’s plan but he suggested Juan Martin to go on with his rehab process and training, and skip Tokyo 2020,” a statement from Del Potro’s communication team reads.

Since 2010, the former world No.3 and two-time Olympic medallist has undergone eight surgeries.One on his right wrist, three on his left wrist and four on his knee. He has won a total of 22 ATP titles so far in his career.

The Olympic Tennis event will start on July 24th at the Ariake Coliseum.

RELATED STORY: Why Are So Many Tennis Players Skipping The Olympics?

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Vasek Pospisil dispatches James Ward in Eastbourne

Vasek Pospisil is into the second round at Eastbourne.

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Vasek Pospisil (@TennisCanada - Twitter)

The Canadian won his first match on grass of the year beating the local favourite James Ward.

 

Vasek Pospisil is through to the second round of the Viking International ATP 250 in Eastbourne after beating the Brit James Ward in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 13 minutes on court number two.

“It was a good match, I played pretty well, I thought I served well and he is a tough opponent on grass because he has a tough first serve but I was pretty sharp and played well when I needed to and happy to get the win”.

It was the Canadian who had the first chance to break at 1-1 and he got the early break and that one break was good enough for him to serve out the first set.

The second set was much of the same and actually was identical to the first with the world number 66 getting the break to take a 2-1 lead but faced a breakpoint when consolidating the break.

Again that one break was enough for him to serve out the match and book his spot in the next round. This is Pospisil’s first win since the month and after the match, he spoke about how the last couple of months have been for him.

“It was good I just took a break from the tour just to refresh the mind and the body and I hadn’t seen my family in nine months so it was a good reset and I felt I needed a break to kinda be excited about touring and the covid conditions and now I’m back and I am happy to be back and I am playing well so it was a nice break.”

Pospisil will now face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the next round after the Spaniard beat the Swede Mikael Ymer in straight sets 7-5, 6-1.

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Daniil Medvedev Searching For Confidence Boost Ahead Of Wimbledon

The two-time Grand Slam finalist says he is not the same player as he was two years ago when he last played Wimbledon.

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When it comes to playing on the grass this year Daniil Medvedev admits that the biggest issue for him might concern the mental side of the sport as opposed to the physical side.

 

The world No.2 kicked-off his grass swing last week in Halle where he was stunned in the first round by Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the Tour in 2020, that was the first time the Russian had played a match on the surface in almost two years. Short on matches, Medvedev is back in action this week in Mallorca after taking a wildcard into the tournament.

“I like to play on grass, I just need to get some confidence in my game on the surface, because we didn’t play [on it] for two years. Two years ago, I was not the same player as I am right now,” Medvedev told atptour.com. “It is tough for me to say where I see myself, but I know I can play very good on this surface. I just need to find the right balance.”

Since he last played at Wimbledon, Medvedev surged on the ATP Tour by winning six titles with all of them being on a hardcourt. Furthermore, he also reached the final of the US Open in 2019 and the Australian Open this year. He is the first player outside of the Big Four to be ranked in the world’s top two since July 2005.

Despite his previous success on the grass, Medvedev admits he remains wary about playing on the surface and the conditions he may face.

“When I started playing on grass, I played in Challengers and even in [ATP] Tour tournaments on the outside courts, not on the central courts, and I can tell that the central courts are quite slow,” he said. “Especially the match I played with Gilles Simon at Queen’s [Club], we had rallies of 40 shots every second point. That is what makes it a little bit tougher.
“When I practise on practice courts, I feel like I am playing so good as the ball is so fast. Then I come onto the centre court to play the match, and the ball just stops after the bounce, and you have to adapt your game, so it can be tough. But I know I can play really well on grass.”

In Mallorca Medvedev has a bye in the first round. His opening match will be against either South Africa’s Lloyd Harris or France’s Corentin Moutet.

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