Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

3-17-17 Jack Sock

By Leighton Ginn

INDIAN WELLS — With a kick serve that stayed out of Kei Nishikori’s sweet zone, Jack Sock advanced to his first ATP 1000 semifinal with his 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 victory Friday at the BNP Paribas Open.

“Kick serve especially on these courts is deadly for me,” Sock said. “So that was a big part of the game plan for me today going in. If Kei is hitting the ball in the strike zone, he is going to beat pretty much anyone in the world and can on any given day.

“For me, it was all about trying to get him out of that slot and let him not be taking balls at his hip and waist and dictating play. So the kick serve for me today was crucial, first and second serve, and that’s what I used it a lot.”

The Sock-Nishikori match started at 2 p.m., the hottest part of the day, and Sock said the conditions played into his strategy, based on what he saw from fellow American John Isner.

“I think every player knows, everyone that watches knows the day and night difference and how lively the ball is, how much it gets up on these courts,” Sock said. “There’s a tremendous difference. I saw when John was playing the other night, from day to night for him is an eight-inch difference on his serve.”

Sock will face four-time BNP Paribas Open champion Roger Federer in Saturday’s second semifinal. It is Sock’s best showing in singles, but he’s also had success in doubles at Indian Wells, having reached the finals the past two years.

He won the doubles title in 2015 with Vasek Pospisil. The duo combined to win the Wimbledon title as well.

Also in 2015, Sock reached the fourth round of singles at the BNP Paribas Open before getting knocked out by Federer in straight sets. In his previous three Indian Wells performances, Sock never won a singles match at the BNP Paribas Open.

But it was more than just the results that made 2015 a turning point for Sock.

Prior to Indian Wells, he had pelvic surgery that knocked him out of the start of the 2015 season, which turned out to be a blessing.

His brother Eric suffered pneumonia and Lemierre’s syndrome a bacterial infection in the throat. With complications, Eric had to move to ICU and was on a ventilator. He nearly died.

Eric survived, and Sock dedicated that 2015 run to him.

It also changed Sock in significant ways.

“There were definitely a lot of things going on outside of tennis,” Sock said. “I think it helped me grow outside of tennis, outside of the tennis court, which has helped me in these past few years.

“I think that’s why my results have trended in the right direction. I have realized, yeah, I love tennis, it’s my career, you know, it’s my job, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. But since his illness and everything, it’s kind of helped me take a step back and realize life is bigger than tennis, for sure. I think it’s helped me enjoy every moment out there, as well. It’s helped me relax on court a little bit.”

Doppelganger 1: tennis player Jack Sock, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

3-15-17 Jack Sock

 

By Leighton Ginn

This blog is done as sort of a public service announcement for people attending the BNP Paribas Open. If you are out and about and think you see American tennis star Jack Sock, don’t assume it’s him.

He has a resemblance to Queens of the Stone Age lead guitarist and singer Josh Homme, who was also grew up in nearby Palm Desert.

I had covered Sock a little more closely the last few years, and only hit me at this year’s tournament his resemblance. So I was wondering if he ever got that.

“I don’t know who that is, and I hope that’s a compliment,” Sock joked.

Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

So for the tennis fans who follow this blog, here’s a little background on Josh Homme:

He was originally in the band Kyuss before starting Queens of the Stone Age in 1997.

Their third album, 2002’s “Songs for the Deaf,” featured Foo Fighters front man and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. The album produced the hits “No One Knows” and “Go With The Flow.”

Their hit song “Little Sister,” from their fourth album, “Lullabies to Paralyze,” features a driving cow bell. It helped inspire a classic moment on Saturday Night Live in 2005 with Will Ferrell.

 

Six of their albums have been nominated for Grammys.

In 2009, Homme was part of the super band Them Crooked Vultures, that also featured John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Grohl. Their hit “New Fang” won a Grammy for best hard rock performance.

Homme also founded Eagles of Death Metal with high school friend Jesse Hughes. In 2015, Eagles of Death Metal were playing the Bataclan in Paris, France when terrorist came in and killed 89 people. Colin Hanks directed an HBO documentary “Eagles of Death Metal, Nos Amis (Our Friends)” that premiered in February.

The year Roger Federer is having, his preseason goals seem ridiculously low as a return to No. 1 seems possible

For more on Jack Sock, read my blog on his quarterfinal victory over Kei Nishikori at the BNP Paribas Open.

Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

 

 

 

 

 

Venus Williams couldn’t turn it around, falls to Elena Vesnina in quarterfinals

3-16-17 Vesnina

By Leighton Ginn

Elena Vesnina has been following Venus Williams closely, so she knew there could be trouble in that third set of the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal on Thursday, based on history.

“I saw previous matches that she was down with match point with a set point, and I was like, ‘Uh-Oh, it’s coming back again. I’m going to be another victim of Venus,'” Vesnina said laughing. “I don’t want. I want to win this. I want this match.”

Vesnina was able to hold off Williams, despite down love-40 on her serve in the final game, holding on for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory to advance to the semifinals. She will face Kristina Mladenovic, the lowest seed in the semifinals. No. 3 Karolina Pliskova will face No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the other semifinal.

In her post-match press conference, Williams alluded to having an injury issue that had slowed her up.

“I would just like to be healthy just like the next human being,” Williams said. “You beat your body up in sport, and I want to play these big events. I don’t want to be at home watching. It’s frustrating either way, not to be 100 percent or to watch at home. Which one do you choose?

“I chose to be here. That was my choice. I gave it my best today, and I’m looking forward to playing her again, hopefully healthy and 100 percent, and will have an opportunity to really show what I can do in these kind of matches.”

Vesnina noticed that Williams didn’t seem like herself early in the match.

“In the first set, it was a little bit unexpected,” Vesnina said. “When I was up 3-Love in the first set, she was missing some easy shots. She looked tired and slow on the court. Then, all of a sudden, she started moving around, hitting great shots, winners from all over the place.”

In Friday’s semifinal, Vesnina knows she’s got a tough match against one of the hottest players on tour. And after her quarterfinal win, Vesnina had a doubles match to play.

“It’s going to be difficult match, but on the other hand, it’s very exciting to play the semifinal match here in Indian Wells,” Vesnina said.

 

 

 

 

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

3-15-17 Kyrgios

 

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

3-14-17 Federer

 

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