|Milos Raoinic (l) versus Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their |
4th round match which ended on a controversial double fault
Unlike Saturday, where the temperature was merely balmy, a near-perfect 65 degrees most of the day, Wednesday's heat almost hot triple digits and the desert sun was brutal. And this was for the spectators! I can't imagine how tough it must have been for the players. One thing that the players got access to that spectators did not was shade. The picture I took above (with my iPhone 4S) shows you that Stadium 2 has no covered sections! This is really unacceptable for a tournament that is trying to seriously be considered the fifth slam.
The match between Raonic and Tsonga was a very interesting affair which was really lost by Raonic more than it was won by Tsonga. When Raonic was serving well, his serve was untouchable and it was rare to see Tsonga win even a single point in the Canadian's service games. However, towards the end of the 2nd and 3rd sets it seemed to me that Raonic got nervous and his service percentage dropped precipitously, leading to a sudden break and loss of set in the second set. The third set was pretty similar. Because Tsonga served first, he was able to hold to go up 6-5 and, again, Raonic's first serve deserted him and he is not even close to matching Tsonga in groundstroke production or movement so if the point starts on even terms with a second serve then Tsonga would wi the majority of those rallies.
However the match ended on a very strange note when on Raonic was break-point down and he hit a serve which was clearly long, and then he hit as second serve which was very close into the corner of the box that was also called out. The on-court monitors had been down for about 10 minutes so it was not surprising when the umpire announced that there was no challenge system available so the call would stand and Tsonga had won the match. The serve was probably out but Raonic had hit very few doublefaults all match long (and usually when he misses he misses by a lot) so it was just an unfortunate way to end the match. Final score was 4-6 7-5 6-4.
A lot of the matches went the distance on Wednesday, with Federer losing a 2nd set tiebreaker to Wawrinka but prevailing 6-3 6-7(4) 7-5 while Ernest Gulbis served for the match against Rafael Nadal but then lost 4-6 6-4 7-5. Thus, the much anticipated quarterfinal showdown of Federer-Nadal XXIX will be set up for tonight at 7pm PDT/10pm EDT when the two great meet for the 29th time (with Nadal sporting an 18-10 head-to-head advantage and Federer having beaten Nadal here at Indian Wells in the semifinals on a very windy night last year in Federer-Nadal XXXVIII.
The other highlight of the visit for me was watching Roger Federer on a practice court no more than 50 feet away from me. Despite the ridiculous heat at 12:30pm, there were hundreds of people sitting quietly in the sun watching Raja and his coach hit the ball back and forth for a half-an-hour or so.
Seeing marquee players on the practice court is a great feature of the BNP Paribas Open. On Saturday, I had also seen Marion Bartoli practicing with her new coach Jana Novotna, who seemed to be trying to do something to the Frenchwoman's "unique" (some would say bizarre) service motion. I also was in a mob scene when Rafael Nadal left his practice court session and my friend got his kid a signature by Tsonga.
Seven of the Top 8 seeds are in the quarterfinal, with only the steady David Ferrer being replaced by Kevin Anderson. The other matches are #1 Novak Djokovic versus #8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, #2 Federer versus #5 Nadal, #3 Andy Murray versus #6 Juan Martin del Potro and #7 Tomas Berdych versus Anderson.
On the women's side Maria Kirilenko is into her first semifinals with 5 consecutive 3-set wins in 2013, having beaten Agnieska Radwanska and Petra Kvitova in come-from behind fashion in subsequent rounds. In the first semifinal, Kirilenko will face her best friend on tour, Maria Sharapova who won a hard-fought match with sara Errani a little before midnight on Wednesday night.
The other semifinal will have Angelique Kerber facing the winner of the Victoria Azarenka versus Caroline Wozniacki match, which features the 2012 champion versus the 2011 champion. Azarenka is still undefeated, with 17 consecutive wins on the year. I'm pretty sure it's going to be 18, and cold very well get to 20-0 when she wins the tournament, although I think Sharapova may be able to stop her.
Should be an exciting weekend of tennis!