Tuesday, 20 March 2018

del Potro and Osaka surprise to win IW titles

The finals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells produced two champions, both of whom defeated the favoured player in their matches.

Naomi Osaka dropped the opening service game of the match, but after that was in complete control of Daria Kasatkina (20).

Kasatkina had displayed the best tennis throughout the tournament, but in the semi final was pushed to the limit by Venus Williams. Osaka, by contrast, took top seed Simona Halep to the cleaners in their semi final, and was clearly peaking at the right time.

Her powerful game was unable to be challenged by Kasatkina in much the same way Halep failed.

Errors flowed from the Russian racquet more frequently as the match progressed.

The many winners from Osaka came predominantly from her forehand but as her confidence rose the backhand became almost as lethal.

The serve was dominant, only one break point needing to be saved after the opening game. Breaking serve in the eighth game, the Japanese number one cruised to a 6-3 lead.

In the second set, Osaka lost just three points on her serve throughout.

She broke the Kasatkina serve twice to lead 5-1, and there was no problem serving out the match 6-3 6-2.

This was the first title for Osaka, and what a big one to capture as the breakthrough.

The Miami Open follows immediately , and it is also a Premier Mandatory tournament. The draw there is harsh for Osaka, with Serena Williams as her first round opponent. If she wins that, fourth seed Svitolina is the second round challenge.

Although now ranked 22 in the world, Osaka is unseeded in Miami as seedings were assigned prior to today.

13 of the past 14 Indian Wells Masters 1000 titles had been won by either Federer Djokovic or Nadal, and Juan Martin del Potro had yet to win any trophy at this level, so the Argentine entered the 2018 final against top seed Federer as the underdog.

However, like Osaka had done with Kasatkina, del Potro (6) outplayed the favourite Federer in the opening set. His renowned forehand was working well, and while Federer was targeting the backhand, that obvious tactic wasn’t bearing much fruit. Instead the sixth seed was, for the most part, moving Federer around the court and drawing him into error on sufficient occasion to break serve once and take the set 6-4.

Thereafter the match was decided with tiebreaks.

Set two gave del Potro a match point at 8-7 in the tiebreak with Federer serving, but a South American forehand error saved the top seed, who proceeded to win the next two points as well and win the set.

Set three saw Roger break and serve for the match at 5-4.

He had three match point chances and must have had celebrations in the back of his mind. Not so fast thought del Potro who saved them all and eventually levelled at 5-5.

The tiebreak included two double faults from Roger, and that was enough for Juan Martin to coast to victory 6-4 6-7(8) 7-6(2).

With his maiden Masters 1000 triumph, del Potro adds another chapter to his tennis story and moves up to number six in the world rankings.

Without his past injury woes, he is now back where he always belonged, challenging amongst the elite in men’s tennis.

Federer lost, but only just, and should start favourite in Miami.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Federer and del Potro in dream IW final

The two men’s semi finals were played on Day Eleven of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

One was close and lasted 140 minutes, the other was a quick straight sets win.

Roger Federer (1) was involved in the three setter with unseeded Borna Coric and no one expected the trouble found by the Swiss ace, five time champion here previously.

In the opening set, Coric hit the ball consistently with great depth and power, finding Federer out of position on more occasions than normal, and the error count from the top seed was also unusually that of a mere mortal.

Coric broke in the eleventh game and served out the set to lead 7-5.

This was the first set lost by Federer for the tournament, and only the fourth dropped for the year.

Breaking Federer immediately in set two, Coric maintained his advantage through seven games, and was serving for a 5-3 lead.

However, Federer was now back to his intimidating best, and Coric began to struggle with his serve.

Wrapping up the last three games, Federer levelled the match 5-7 6-4.

Although Coric once again was ahead a break in the decider (twice), it was Federer who had the poise when required and he ran out the victor 5-7 6-4 6-4.

The 17-0 start to 2018 is the best for Federer in his decorated career, moving past his incredible 2006 where 16-0 was his beginning.

The opponent for Federer in the Indian Wells final will be Juan Martin del Potro (6), who made light work of Milos Raonic (32) 6-2 6-3 in the second semi final.

Raonic relies on his big serve to a large degree, but in this match del Potro took the initiative, winning 24 of 27 points from his first serve, facing no break points, and breaking the Canadian delivery four times from five chances.

Fittingly two Grand Slam champions will play the final here, and they have clashed in finals five times in the past, del Potro winning three of those, the most prestigious the 2009 US Open.

Surprisingly the Argentine has yet to lift a Masters 1000 trophy, and Federer won’t make it easy for a first one on Sunday.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Kasatkina and Osaka in Indian Wells final

Two twenty year olds will contest the BNP Paribas Open women’s final at Indian Wells on Sunday.

Daria Kasatkina (20) was two points from exiting the tournament at the hands of Venus Williams (8) in their semi final but found her way to victory.

The bigger surprise was the crushing win by Naomi Osaka over Simona Halep (1).

Kasatkina raced to a 3-1 lead in the opening set before Williams adjusted her game, coming forward at every opportunity to blunt the effectiveness of the Russian shot making.

Winning four successive games, Williams led 5-3, but Kasatkina broke back for 4-5.

Venus won the set 6-4 thanks to a double fault and an errant forehand from Daria.

Nothing much separated the pair in set two, but it was the Russian who claimed two breaks of serve to level things 4-6 6-4. Williams was starting to leak more unforced errors, assisting in Kasatkina’s revival.

After trading service breaks at the start of set three, the players held serve through to 4-5, with Kasatkina to serve.

Until then it was Daria holding more easily. However, in the tenth game she was down 0-30 and Venus was close to victory.

Kasatkina simply won twelve of the last fourteen points, mostly due to Williams errors, and the match was hers 4-6 6-4 7-5.

That makes four straight wins over current top twenty players, each of whom are Grand Slam tournament champions.

Naomi Osaka interrupted the run of Simona Halep, whose only loss for 2018 had been the Aus Open final in which she was so close to triumphing.

After breaking Halep’s opening serve, Osaka was immediately given the same treatment and 3-3 was reached in set one.

From that point Osaka overpowered Halep, winning nine successive games. The Japanese number one had soaring confidence and Halep was unusually scattering errors all over the court due to the pressure being exerted.

6-3 6-0 and a second final for Osaka, this no doubt the bigger one of her career.

Osaka is now number 26 in the world, a new career high, up from her previous high of 40. It will be 22 should she win the final.

Kasatkina is now at a career high of 11, and will move into the top ten at 9 if she wins the title.

Her career high before this tournament was 19.

The remaining men’s quarter finals:

Milos Raonic (32) defeated Sam Querrey (18) 7-5 2-6 6-3

Juan Martin del Potro (6) defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber (31) 3-6 6-3 6-4

Men’s semis on Day Eleven will be:

Roger Federer (1) v Borna Coric 

Milos Raonic (32) v Juan Martin del Potro (6) 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Kasatkina on a roll - downs Kerber

The world is a happy place for Daria Kasatkina (20) as she continues to beat the very best tennis players in the world.

On Day Nine of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the 20 year old Russian didn’t just beat Angie Kerber (10) in a quarter final - she pulverised the former world number one and dual Grand Slam title holder.

The first set showcased all the shots that Kasatkina now has at her disposal, and the sheer confidence with which she is able to pick and choose when to play them.

The repeated forehand winners just had too much power behind them for Kerber to handle, and the timing of drop shots and angled backhands drew a number of errors from the German who only managed to win six points on her own serve for the set.

6-0 and Kasatkina was half way to the final four in just 22 minutes of wonderful tennis.

Set two was more of the same, although Kerber did improve, at least winning half the points on her serve.

Not nearly enough of a performance lift to bother Kasatkina who broke serve twice from two chances and won the quarter final 6-0 6-2.

Of her last 14 matches in 2018, Kasatkina has won 11, five of those against Grand Slam title winners, including the last three here in Indian Wells.

Sitting now at a live ranking of 14, a new career high, Daria will move to 11 should she beat Venus Williams (8) in their semi final.

Venus had too much class for Carla Suárez Navarro in the other quarter final decided on Day Nine, enjoying a 6-3 6-2 victory.

Meanwhile the first of the men’s quarter finals were held, with Roger Federer (1) tossing aside Hyeon Chung (23) 7-5 6-1 in one of them.

Federer dropped serve just once for the match (first set), while managing to crack open the Korean delivery twice in each set.

Chung lost the second set easily, but the scoreline doesn’t show that he had the same amount of break points - five - as Federer for the set. He just couldn’t convert.

Federer will play Borna Coric in the semi finals after the unseeded Croatian upset Kevin Anderson (7) in almost two and a half hours 2-6 6-4 7-6(3).

Yet another seed that Roger won’t have to face after he again successfully subcontracted a hit job, this time on Anderson.

Day Ten offers up a big serving quarter final between Sam Querrey (18) and Milos Raonic (32), and another interesting clash between Juan Martin del Potro (6) and the in form Philipp Kohlschreiber (31).

The women’s semi finals, to be played at night, will be the highlights though.

Naomi Osaka is enjoying what may well develop into a break out year.

At a mere 20 years old, she will face stiff opposition from top seed Simona Halep.

Another 20 year old Daria Kasatkina, seeded 20, will push Venus Williams (8) to the limit in the first of the semis.

This means we have the youngest pair of Indian Wells semi finalists since 2009 when the then 19 year old Vika Azarenka and 17 year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made the final four.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Halep and Osaka into Indian Wells semis

As the serious business of the BNP Paribas Open has come, and upsets have rendered several star names obsolete until Miami next week, Day Eight provided a sense of predictability for the most part.

The men’s fourth round matches were played, and each win was not a surprise, although achieving the success was not simple in all cases.

Kevin Anderson (7) was put through the ropes by Pablo Carreno Busta before eventually prevailing 4-6 6-3 7-6(6)

He will play Borna Coric in the quarter finals 

Borna Coric defeated Taylor Fritz 6-2 6-7(6) 6-4

Juan Martin del Potro (6) was in a deal of trouble against fellow Argentine Leonardo Mayer, down a set and a break, before firing back to win a quarter final spot.

Mayer won 83% of points behind his serve in the opening set and didn’t face a break point, whereas he created three chances to crack the Delpo delivery. He converted one of those to lead by a set.

The momentum carried Mayer to 3-1 in the second set, but del Potro was angry at this point and lifted his game to a level near where it should be.

A service hold, then a break, and it was 3-3. From there serve was held by both until the critical tie break in which del Potro took control to win easily and level the match.

The sixth seed continued to win the key points as he ran through the final set, using both of his break points to advantage.

The 3-6 7-6(2) 6-3 win was hard fought, but del Potro is well placed now, facing Philipp Kohlschreiber (31) in the quarter finals.

Kohlschreiber won his battle with unseeded Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4 7-6(1) in match which could easily have swung either way.

Other fourth round results:

Milos Raonic (32) was given a walkover by Marcos Baghdatis who withdrew through illness

Raonic will face Sam Querrey in the quarter finals

Sam Querrey (18) defeated Feliciano López (28) 6-3 6-4

This will be the first quarter final at Indian Wells for Querrey, and his first final eight appearance at a Masters 1000 event since Paris 2012.

Roger Federer (1) defeated Jérémy Chardy 7-5 6-4

The draw has opened up for Federer, as it often does, other players helping him by removing Grigor Dimitrov (3) and Dominic Thiem (5) from his section.

Roger will meet the quickly improving Hyeon Chung in the quarter finals

Hyeon Chung (23) defeated Pablo Cuevas (30) 6-1 6-3

This will be the debut quarter final at Masters 1000 level for Chung

The two women’s quarter finals played on Day Eight featured highly rated seeds against unseeded players, but neither match went to script for Simona Halep (1) or Karolina Pliskova (5).

Halep won the opening set against Petra Martic 6-4 thanks to a fine serving display in windy conditions.

The wind seemed to upset Halep more than Martic in set two and the top seed was down 2-5. This was rectified and a tie break was ultimately required. Martic at 5 points each revived her match hopes by winning the next two points and the set 7-6(5)

Down 1-3 in the final set, Halep powered her way back, winning the final five games and the match 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3.

She will play Naomi Osaka in the semi finals. Osaka thrashed Karolina Pliskova (5) 6-2 6-3

Their only previous meeting was in Toronto last year where Pliskova won in straight sets.

Here Osaka dominated, breaking the Czech serve six times from ten created chances. Using the pace of Pliskova’s ground strokes to perfection, Osaka forced the fifth seed into error with her consistently precise placement.

Although she has lost to Halep in all three of their clashes, the most recent in the 2018 Aus Open, Osaka can feel confident ahead of the semi final, especially considering Halep has struggled in two of her last three matches.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Wozniacki and Cilic exit Indian Wells

Day Seven of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, saw the defeat of the number two seeds in both the men’s and women’s draws.

Marin Cilic (2) was dismissed by Philipp Kohlschreiber (31) in the third round 6-4 6-4.  The 2018 Aus Open runner up has, since the thrilling Melbourne final, only played in Rio de Janeiro, where he lost to Gaël Monfils in the round of sixteen, and here where again his tournament was cut short early.

However, with world numbers 4, 5 and 6 - Dimitrov, Zverev and Thiem - also gone from Indian Wells, Cilic will remain comfortably at number three in the world.

Kohlschreiber will play Pierre-Hugues Herbert who defeated French compatriot Gaël Monfils 6-2 3-1 (retired) in the fourth round.

This is only the third time the German has reached the round of sixteen in a Masters 1000 event - the previous occasions were also at Indian Wells in 2009 and 2011.

The other results to complete the third round:

Feliciano López (28) defeated Jack Sock (8) 7-6(6) 4-6 6-4

He will play Sam Querrey in the fourth round 

Sam Querrey (18) defeated qualifier Yuki Bhambri 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4

Qualifier Marcos Baghdatis defeated lucky loser in qualifying Dudi Sela 7-6(5) 6-4

He will play Milos Raonic in the fourth round 

Milos Raonic (32) defeated Joao Sousa 7-5 4-6 6-2

Juan Martin del Potro (6) defeated David Ferrer (29) 6-4 7-6(3)

del Potro is the only single figure seed left in the bottom part of the draw

He will play Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round 

Leonardo Mayer defeated qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4 6-1

Daria Kasatkina (20) defeated Caroline Wozniacki (2) and the 20 year old Russian is enjoying a golden run, in contrast to the poor start in Australia which reaped two opening round losses before a second round loss in the 2018 Aus Open.

The week after the Aus Open, Daria made the semi finals in St Petersburg, along the way defeating Caroline Wozniacki, only days after the Danish star had captured her first Grand Slam title.

A disappointing first round loss in Doha was more than compensated in Dubai, where Kasatkina was runner up to Svitolina after wins over top ten players Konta and Muguruza.

Daria has, with her win over Sloane Stephens, and now Caroline Wozniacki, here in Indian Wells, has this year alone defeated the 2017 Wimbledon, 2017 US Open, and 2018 Aus Open (twice) champions.

Her ranking has risen from 24 to what will be at least 15 after this tournament, and 9 if she happens to win the whole thing.

The really impressive thing about Kasatkina in her latest victory was her ability to come back from seemingly forlorn positions.

When down 0-3 in set one, taking six of the next seven games would have been deemed implausible against the might of Wozniacki, but it was done through limiting errors, a strength of Wozniacki, done better than the second seed.

Kasatkina also presented Wozniacki with problems thanks to a topspin forehand and sliced backhand which were on song.

Wozniacki predictably came back in the second set, where serve was broken regularly. At 3-2 and serving, Kasatkina lost complete momentum and the second seed won the bulk of the points to win three straight games and lead 5-3.

A sudden switch occurred with the Russian tearing up the court again with winners aplenty and causing stress once more to Wozniacki.

The last four games were Daria’s as was the match 6-4 7-5, and a third Premier Mandatory tournament quarter final awaits her - the previous being her main draw debut at Indian Wells in 2016 and last year in Beijing.

Her quarter final opponent here will be Angie Kerber (10) who smashed Caroline Garcia (7) to the tune of 6-1 6-1.

Other fourth round results:

Simona Halep (1) defeated Qiang Wang 7-5 6-1

Halep has an imposing 17-1 win/loss record in 2018, the solitary loss the Aus Open final.

She will play Petra Martic in a quarter final 

Petra Martic defeated Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 7-6(4)

A breakthrough performance at a Premier Mandatory event for Petra

Naomi Osaka defeated Maria Sakkari 6-1 5-7 6-1

She will play Karolina Pliskova in a quarter final 

Karolina Pliskova (5) defeated wildcard Amanda Anisimova 6-4 7-6(2)

Venus Williams (8) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (21) 7-6(6) 6-4

She will play Carla Suárez Navarro in a quarter final 

Carla Suárez Navarro (27) defeated wildcard Danielle Collins 6-2 6-4

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Venus wins sibling clash

Taylor Fritz was in primary school when Rafa Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in their epic 2009 Australian Open semi final.

On Day Six in Indian Wells, the 20 year old American defeated Verdasco, and in doing so added another highlight to his growing CV.

Fritz has made the round of sixteen at a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time. Previously, he had never ventured past the second round at this level and never beyond the opening round at Indian Wells..

With plenty of years of improvement ahead of him, fans can expect that CV to become an impressive document.

The match opened with Fernando serving well, winning 15 of 18 points on his first attempts, and 80% on all his serves.

Taylor kept in touch, but it was Fernando who converted the sole break point available in the set to lead 6-4.

Situation reversed for Verdasco in set two as his first serve % dropped to a miserable 42%. Fritz, on the other hand, dominated, with 70% of first serves landing legally, and him winning 89% of points resulting from those deliveries.

Facing no break points himself, the crowd favourite broke Fernando twice to level the match 4-6 6-2.

The deciding set was close (1 service break apiece) and required a tie break. The breaker was not close, with Taylor Fritz blitzing Fernando Verdasco to win 4-6 6-2 7-6(1)

The fourth round challenge for Taylor will be another youngster, 21 year old unseeded Borna Coric, who upset 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in their third round encounter 6-1 6-3

Other third round results:

Roger Federer (1) defeated Filip Krajinovic (25) 6-2 6-1

Jérémy Chardy defeated Adrian Mannarino (20) in a battle of the Frenchmen 7-5 4-6 6-1

Hyeon Chung (23) defeated Tomas Berdych (12) 6-4 6-4

Pablo Cuevas (30) defeated Dominic Thiem (5) 3-6 6-4 4-2 (retired)

Pablo Carreno Busta (11) defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-1 7-5

Kevin Anderson (7) defeated Nicolas Kicker 7-6(1) 7-6(3)

The bottom half of the women’s draw came out to play third round matches, and the eagerly awaited battle of the Williams sisters was top of the list.

Serena had won the last three times they had clashed, each of those in a Grand Slam setting, the most recent the 2017 Aus Open.

Venus last beat her sister in the 2014 Canadian Masters semi final.

Last year she made the quarter finals here. It was her second appearance at Indian Wells after boycotting the event for 14 years.

In the 2018 BNP Paribas Open, Venus conquered Serena.

The opening set belonged completely to the number 8 seed, and maybe this was not a big surprise - the point of the tournament where Serena would eventually struggle - given her lack of match play and the increased quality of opponent. 

Venus won 37 points to 26 and achieved the only break, to lead 6-3

The second set was tighter, and though Serena was back in the match, it came after Venus claimed an early break, forcing the champ to play catch up.

The victory for Venus was 6-3 6-4, but Serena can take heart from her two wins which proved that with further tournament action she will once again take a power of beating.

Venus progresses to the round of sixteen, where she will tackle Anastasija Sevastova (21) who defeated Julia Goerges (12) 6-3 6-3

Other matches to complete the third round:

Wildcard Danielle Collins defeated wildcard Sofya Zhuk 6-4 6-4

She will play Carla Suárez Navarro (27) in the fourth round 

Carla Suárez Navarro (27) defeated Elina Svitolina (4) 7-5 6-3

Caroline Garcia (7) defeated Dasha Gavrilova (26) 7-5 6-4

She will play Angie Kerber (10) in the fourth round 

Angie Kerber (10) defeated defending champion Elena Vesnina (24) 7-5 6-2

Daria Kasatkina (20) defeated Sloane Stephens (13) 6-4 6-3

She will play Caroline Wozniacki (2) in the fourth round 

Caroline Wozniacki (2) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 2-6 6-3 in about 140 minutes of fascinating tennis.