Kristina Mladenovic defies past to reach BNP Paribas Open semifinals

3-16-17 Mladenovic

By Leighton Ginn

Judging my her previous four appearance at the BNP Paribas Open, it would be a stretch to predict that Kristina Mladenovic would make a deep run at Indian Wells.

And on Thursday, it seemed unlikely that she would get past Carolina Wozniacki, a former champion and No. 1 player that she had never beaten in three previous meetings.

But this isn’t just any tournament for Mladenovic.

She beat Wozniacki, the 2011 BNP Paribas Open champion,  3-6, 7-6, 6-2 to reach her first semifinal. Earlier in the tournament, she beat No. 4 Simona Halep, the 2015 BNP Paribas Open champion.

Coming into the tournament, Mladenovic had won a title in Russia and reached the finals in Acapulco right before coming out to Indian Wells.

“It feels great, obviously. It’s a lot of matches and it’s like the longest kind of string of winning matches I had so far in my career, and it feels great,” Mladenovic said. “Every day I go out there on the court, in the gym practicing, it’s for moment like that. So I’m not getting too excited. I’m just super satisfied that I am on that kind of stages right now and trying to use my chances.

” Yeah, I’m enjoying my time on the court, and very happy.”

Mladenovic will face Elena Vesnina, who beat Venus Williams 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 on Thursday.

Until the first set Thursday, Mladenovic hadn’t lost a set in the tournament. With the victory, Mladenovic will crack the top 20 for the first time in her career.

To get to the semifinal, Mladenovic took a big gamble in the second-set tiebreaker by coming in to serve-and-volley.

“Because every time I would serve good on the backhand, she would go very deep and return well,” Mladenovic said. “I was, like, ‘Okay, let’s just be creative here.’ And it paid off, and it gave me a chance to fight in the third set. I think the third set was the best game of today for me.”

 

 

 

Nick Kyrgios doesn’t think he’s a bad guy, if you put it in perspective

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By Leighton Ginn

Tennis fans who know about Nick Kyrgios are not ambivalent about him: They either love him and the sublime talent he posses, or they get annoyed by his antics.

There were the comments to Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend and another player, or the accusations of tanking matches. Commentator John McEnroe has harshly criticized Kyrgios for his lack of dedication to the sport, once suggesting he retire.

“I don’t think I’m a bad guy at all. Honestly, like, I have had a couple of mix-ups in the court, but that’s in the heat of the battle, but that’s when you’re competing or you’re angry,” Kyrgios said. “Off the court, I haven’t done anything against the law. I haven’t drink-drive, haven’t shot someone, I haven’t stolen. I’m not a bad person. In the scheme of things, you put it in perspective, I’m really not a bad person.”

If he’s not bad, he does have his moments.

But the talent is there.

Kyrgios recorded his second consecutive victory against No. 2 Novak Djokovic in two tournaments. He’s also picked up wins against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Of the three, they have a combined 44 Grand Slam singles titles.

“I’m very impressed him taking out Novak, back-to-back weeks, on Novak’s best surface,” said Federer, who will face Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. “I hope it’s going to lead to something great for Nick that he realizes if he puts his head down and focuses (so) that he can bring it day in and day out, week in and week out.

“That’s maybe going to take a bit more time … because when it matters the most against the best and in finals, he’s there. Eventually he will need that, but that’s a great quality to have already now.”

For fans who overlook the behavior, Kyrgios also has a go-for-broke style that will endear people. On Wednesday, Kyrgios remained aggressive with his second serves to keep Djokovic at bay.

“I have lost some matches from it. I have won some matches from it. I’m okay if I go for it,” Kyrgios said. “It’s a high percentage for me to go big under pressure. That’s my game style. If I miss, I miss, but I know I went down playing my game.”

 

Roger Federer cruises past Rafael Nadal in 68 minutes to advance to quarters

3-15-17 Roger

 

By Leighton Ginn

INDIAN WELLS — After having some difficult moments the day before against Steve Johnson, Roger Federer just anticipated he would have his hands full against long-time rival Rafael Nadal.

As it turned out, it was one of his most dominant.

Federer needed just 68 minutes to beat Nadal in a surprisingly easy 6-2, 6-3 victory Wednesday in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.

The ease was surprising, considering the two played a five-set classic at the Australian Open. Federer needed to rally in the fifth set to pick up his record 18th Grand Slam singles title.

“It was all about coming out and trying to play the way I did in Australia,” Federer said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that possible, to be quite honest, because the court is more jumpy here or more rough, so it’s hard to put the ball away.

“I said yesterday it was more a sprint than a marathon. So getting in the lead was crucial, and then staying on the offense and pressing was the goal for me.”

Federer will advance to the quarterfinals where he will face rising young star Nick Kyrgios, who upset No.2 Novak Djokovic for the second consecutive tournament and snapped his 19-match winning streak at Indian Wells, which included three consecutive titles.

While the Australian Open will go down as a classic match in a legendary rivalry, Wednesday’s match wasn’t as intriguing as Federer won so convincingly.

But over the last 24 hours, Federer didn’t think he could have such a commanding performance against Nadal, particularly after his struggles in a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Steve Johnson the day before.

“I don’t think we had quite the rhythm that we had in Australia, but we knew that going in. And I think he, especially from the baseline, he didn’t control the ball as well as he did in Australia,” Federer said. ” I actually surprised myself by the control I had on the baseline because, against Steve Johnson, I really struggled to control the ball. So I thought it was going to be even more crazy against Rafa with his spin and his lefty hook and everything. It was going to be much tougher.

“In practice this morning I hardly made any returns. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was going to be rough.  But then I came into the match and I warmed up with Rafa. In those five minutes, I was like, ‘whew, I’m feeling pretty good and the spin is not bothering me so much.’ So I wondered why that is. And that stayed like this during the match, as well.”

 

 

Novak Djokovic’s 19-match winning streak at Indian Wells comes to an end

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By Leighton Ginn

Novak Djokovic’s record run at the BNP Paribas Open came to an end Wednesday as he fell to Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6 (3). It was Djokovic’s first loss since 2013, ending a run of 19-straight wins.

“The run was amazing. I am very proud of it, obviously,” Djokovic said. “It had to end at some stage. Unfortunately, it was today. Nick, again, as he did in Acapulco earlier a few weeks ago, he served so well. Just wasn’t managing to get a lot of balls back on his serve, first and second, as well.”

Djokovic lost to Kyrgios 7-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals at Acapulco. With the loss, Djokovic will remained tied with Roger Federer with most titles at the BNP Paribas Open with four. Like Djokovic, Federer won three BNP Paribas Open titles in a row, but lost his opening match in 2007 to snap his winning streak at 18 matches.

Kyrgios will face Federer in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The schedule for Djokovic was difficult as he survived a grueling three-set match over Juan Martin del Potro, which he won 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, and had less than 24 hours to play Kyrgios. Asked by it on Tuesday night, and again Wednesday after losing to Kyrgios, Djokovic again said he didn’t want to comment on the scheduling.

As for the match, Djokovic said it was all about the serve with Kyrgios. Djokovic didn’t make anything easy for himself by getting broken in the first game of the match, which Kyrgios protected to win the first set.

“He obviously comes out playing his style, very aggressive, and just going for every serve, whether its first or second. It’s obviously very hard to play like that,” Djokovic said. “in this kind of conditions, it’s quite suitable for the server. Puts a lot of pressure on your service games. You know, you need to deliver and you can’t fold, which I did in the opening game of the match. Obviously, the dynamic of the match already went his way in the first and second game.”

 

 

 

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, a classic rivalry that will be contested on hump day, not championship weekend

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By Leighton Ginn

It is a rivalry that has had historical implications and established Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as two of the greatest players who ever played tennis.

So their showdown at the BNP Paribas Open will be unusual in that it will be contested on Hump Day, not championship weekend.

In a rare early-round matchup, Federer and Nadal will face ether other for the 36th time on Wednesday.

” I think everybody is going to watch that match, honestly,” said Garbine Muguruza, the women’s No. 7 seed. “Everybody likes Rafa. Everybody likes Roger. It’s history over there.”

Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5, while Federer outlasted former USC star Steve Johnson 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) to set up the rematch of their Australian Open final.

For Federer, he welcomes the challenge.

“That’s why I came here, play against guys like Rafa,” said Federer, who won an epic five-set final over Nadal in the Australian Open final. “I’m going to be excited now. Better be excited now. Otherwise I came for the wrong reasons.”

Giving the conditions and the round they are playing in, Federer said the match will be much different from their Australian Open final. Based on the round, Federer expects himself and Nadal to be a little more conservative.

“It’s going to be more difficult for both of us just to rip winners into the corner,” Federer said. “If you play at the early matches, you see usually the top guys not chase the lines so much. You give yourself some margins for error, really.

“So there is a bit of the unknown, which, I mean, is exciting maybe for the fans or you guys to see how we’re going to try to figure that part out. And then it’s a best-of-three-set match. This is more of a sprint than a marathon, not like in Australia.”

It is the first time they’ve faced each other before the quarterfinals since their first meeting in 2004 at Miami. That was a round of 32 match.

Nadal said he didn’t really enjoy having an epic rivalry played out in the fourth round. But when the draws came out last week, this quarter of the draw featured not only Nadal and Federer, but No. 2 Novak Djokovic, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. A few times in the press conferences, this quarter of the draw has been referred to as the “Draw of Death.”

“I think is unlucky part of the draw for everybody. I think part of the tournament, even if they can have good matches, is probably not the best thing to have that matches that early in the tournament. For the players is not good, because good players, for sure, going to go out early,” Nadal said. “Sometimes if top players are playing well, then they have the chance to go to the final rounds, no? In this case, doesn’t matter if everybody is playing well, because from our part of the draw, only one of us gonna be in that semifinals.

“So that’s tough, but that’s not happening every week. Only thing we can do to avoid that is be in higher position of the ranking.”

While Nadal might not be happy with the timing of the matchup, Muguruza said she’s just happy to see the match up again.

“Nobody cares who wins anymore. It’s just I want to see them play,” Muguruza said. “It’s so good to watch them play together same time on the court. Doesn’t matter. I just want to watch the match. I’m so fond of both of them. It’s so good they have this match tomorrow.”

 

 

 

 

Novak Djokovic wins opener, will face man who handed him a disappointing loss in the 2016 Olympics

3-12-17 Novak Djokovic

By Leighton Ginn

In 2016, Novak Djokovic had reached a career pinnacle, becoming the first man to complete a Grand Slam since Rod Laver did it in 1969.

Yet a few months later, he might have suffered his most disappointing loss of 2016 during a slumping second half of the year.

In the first round of the Olympics, Djokovic suffered a stunning first-round loss to Juan Martin del Potro, 7-6, 7-6.

“I felt like at that stage of my life, my career, that’s when I was playing my best tennis. Winning Toronto before that, everything was fine, and then just unfortunate circumstances as result of that,” Djokovic said, saying he had suffered a wrist injury prior to the match. “Surely I wanted things to go differently. But at the end of the day, I try to be grateful for whatever comes my way, because I know it comes with a reason.

“So after that, obviously I was not up to standard of the results that I have had in previous years. You know, last couple of months of ’16 were tough for me emotionally. I was struggling on the court to really find that comfort, find the confidence, as well.”

Djokovic will get another shot at del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion sometime Tuesday in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open. In the second round, Djokovic defeated Kyle Edmund 6-4, 7-6 (5), while del Potro defeated fellow Argentinian Federic Delbonis 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Two weeks ago in Acapulco, Djokovic defeated del Potro 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

“I have to give it all. That’s what it takes to beat this guy, who is – even though he is not ranked as high and he hasn’t played that many tournaments but definitely one of the best players in the world last year,” Djokovic said. “He’s tough player to beat. He’s big guy, big serve, big forehand. Definitely not the draw that you like early in the tournament and that you wish for, but it is what it is.”

At this point last year, Djokovic looked unbeatable. He had dominated like no other in his generation, which includes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who are the winningest and tied for second when it comes to Grand Slam titles.

When he won the French Open, Djokovic completed a career Grand Slam and a year-round Grand Slam, also known as the Nole Slam.

“Winning four Grand Slams in a row is definitely a life, career achievement. Probably the biggest achievement I ever had,” Djokovic said at the start of the tournament. “Winning the French Open for the first time and crowning that couple of years of consistent, high results was magnificent. I really gave it all and French Open was one of the top priorities the last couple years.”

But after the French, Djokovic’s play became uneven. While he did have the wrist injury, he also said there were issues in his personal life that derailed him.

“It took a lot of emotions and energy from me,” Djokovic said. “Took some time to reflect on things, and then I had to re-motivate myself, and getting back on track. Right now, it’s better than what it was, especially the second half of last season, particularly after the US Open. I had those moments where I wasn’t myself on the court. Now I’m in a better place. Now I hope and believe I’m going in the right direction.”

 

 

 

13-year-old Ben Jorgensen gets Roger Federer to list his favorites of his 18 Grand Slam singles titles

 

3-12-17 Roger Federer

By Leighton Ginn

Sometimes it takes asking a questions others wouldn’t where you will get an interesting and unexpected answer.

On Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open, Ben Jorgensen, a 13-year-old from Rancho Palos Verdes, asked Roger Federer if his Australian Open title, a record 18th Grand Slam championship, was his most special.

When it comes to comparison questions, players usually try to dance around it and not really answer the question. That wasn’t the case Sunday.

Federer ranked his victory over Rafael Nadal in February as one of his top five. And he listed other titles with out prodding.

“I don’t know if it beats my first one, because the first one, it was a dream come true, so that maybe beats everything,” Federer said of his straight sets win over Mark Philippoussis in the 2003 Wimbledon final.

“French Open, I chased that one. And then when it did happen, it was unbelievable what it meant to me and the support I got in Paris,” Federer said of beating Robin Soderling in 2009 for his only French Open title.

“I don’t know. Winning at the US Open against (Andre) Agassi, one of my big and best performance potentially, winning in that atmosphere, under that pressure, being World No. 1 and defending against him, who maybe people thought he was going to retire if he won,” Federer said of his 2005 title, which was his sixth.

“This one now after the comeback and the injury, it was by far the biggest surprise. It was more surprising than, say, my first one in ’03. But, yeah, every one is special. This one is right up there,” Federer said of his Australian Open title.

Jorgensen said he and his mother Christine were spending the day in Indian Wells, and he was at the Tennis Garden for 14 hours watching matches and asking questions in the press conferences all day.

3-12-17 Ben and Christine Jorgensen

 

 

With a new coach and a new outlook, doubles champion Vasek Pospisil upset No. 1 Andy Murray in singles

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By Leighton Ginn

INDIAN WELLS — Vasek Pospisil said comparing his doubles title at Wimbledon and Saturday night’s upset of No.1 Andy Murray is something he can’t really do.

But he can say that beating Murray 6-4, 7-6 is a high point of his singles career.

“Obviously to beat the No. 1 player in the world is incredible,” Pospisil said. “I mean, it’s the biggest win of my career, and I’m just thrilled right now.”

In order to get into the main draw, Pospisil had to play through qualifying. But since the off season, Pospisil made several necessary changes after struggling throughout 2016.

With the work he put in, Pospisil began to feel the drive that he was losing during his difficult 2016.

“I had a tough year last year for many, many different reasons. I feel the last couple months I really found my hunger and my motivation to be back on the court training hard again,” Pospisil said. “I have been very pleased with that, more than anything, the last few weeks, the last couple of months.

“I felt like a big result was coming, because I believe in my abilities, but just kind of had to put the pieces together again.”

One of his additions was Mark Woodforde, the doubles great who lives in nearby Rancho Mirage.

While Woodforde was one-half of the Woodies, one of the winningest doubles team that is in the Hall of Fame, Pospisil liked that Woodforde was a top singles player as well.

“He has a lot of wisdom and he’s been around for many years,” Pospisil said. “I felt like he could help me kind of discover more about my game and how I want to play. He’s been a great addition, and I’m very pleased with the progress that we have made so far.

“Obviously everything takes time. So the first couple months we were still learning a lot about each other, and now it seems that things are going the right direction.”

 

 

No. 1 Andy Murray faces lots of questions, has few answers after another early loss at BNP Paribas Open

3-11-17 Andy Murray

 

By Leighton Ginn

Andy Murray didn’t have many answers for upstart Vasek Pospisil’s game, or for reporters following his 6-4, 7-6 loss in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. It was the third time Murray, who is the No. 1 player in the world, has lost his opening match at Indian Wells.

“I don’t know exactly why it is, because in practice here normally I play pretty well,” Murray said of his struggles in the California desert. “And then some years I played well. Some years  it just hasn’t quite happened for me. I don’t know exactly why that is. I don’t know if it is the conditions here. I really don’t know why I haven’t played my best here over the years.”

But Murray did have a good idea of why he struggled Saturday night against Pospisil as he had problems with his serve and was broken repeatedly.

The start of the year hasn’t gone well for Murray. He had also lost to Misha Zverev in the fourth round of the Australian Open, who plays a serve-and-volley game similar to Pospisil.

Murray didn’t think the style of play was a problem.

“My results in my career have been fantastic against serve-and-volley players, so, you know, maybe it’s something I need to practice a little bit more,” Murray said. “I have never really practiced playing against serve-and-volleyers in my career. But when I have come up against them, it’s normally been a game style I have enjoyed playing against.

“Today, it wasn’t so much the serve-and-volley that was the problem. It was my own serve, rather than not sort of getting enough opportunities when he was serving. So I think that was more the problem tonight.”

 

 

 

 

Venus Williams gets first win at BNP Paribas Open in 16 years, talks moving forward and being understanding

 

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By Leighton Ginn

INDIAN WELLS — The victory was a long-time coming for Venus Williams and came with a lot of drama.

Williams rallied from a 1-6, 1-4 deficit and fought off three match points in the second set to beat former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic for her first victory at the BNP Paribas Open since 2001.

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In 2001, Williams withdrew from her semifinal match against Serena Williams minutes before the prime-time showdown. During the finals, Serena was booed throughout, and much of it was also directed at Venus and her father Richard, who were in their court-side box.

It wasn’t until 2015 when Serena returned to Indian Wells, and Venus followed suit last year.

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However, Venus lost her opening match, which made Saturday’s victory her first in Indian Wells in 16 years.

“It was nice to get a win here after so very long. It’s very rewarding,”  Williams said. “The past is the past, but I’m happy that I was able to move forward and everyone was able to move forward. I had so much support today.”

Early on, it didn’t look like Williams would get her victory at Indian Wells as she was down 4-1 in the second and had to fight off three match points in the set.

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One match point haunted Jankovic. Williams was up at the net, creating an opportunity to end the match.

“I was supposed to play that cross forehand and the match would be over,” Jankovic said. “But I played down the line right to her and she made the volley winner. It was a big mistake on that match point, but this is sports. What can I do? I made bad choices, bad mistakes when it was most important. That is all.

“Overall, I had my chances, I had everything under control and I let it slip away. I got a little nervous and I made bad errors.”

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During the post-match press conference, Williams was asked about a variety of topics, including her thoughts on the controversial ending at last year’s tournament.

Tournament director Raymond Moore had made unfortunate comments about women’s players owing the men and they should get on their knees. Days later, Moore resigned his position amid the firestorm it created. Moore still works at the tournament.

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Venus Williams said she didn’t want to dwell on the event and was willing to move on.

“If I wasn’t willing to move on, I wouldn’t be back in Indian Wells. It’s no good to hang on to things,” Williams said. “The tournament really is a huge supporter of women’s tennis and a huge supporter of men’s tennis and just tennis in general. The women love playing here.

“I was happy that the tournament did stand for equality and low tolerance of inequality. I think sometimes people make mistakes. He probably didn’t intend — you don’t wake up in the morning and say that this is going to happen. I don’t think that’s how he was planning his morning. Sometimes things happen, and we all should understand that everyone can have a bad day, and we all can just get better.”