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ISNER in 'Final Four' of IW Singles & Doubles (with Sam)

Men's quarters, Women's semis


March 16, 2012 | 02:02 AM

Recap of Wednesday highlights:

Two of the The Three Tops playing yesterday and the highest remaining seed playing (#9 Del Potro) lost a set in their 4th round matches:

- Rafa made short work of #21 seed Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-2:

- Fed took a set to shake of the remnants of headache and body ache, beating Bellucci 3-6, 6-3, 6-3

- Joker made a slew of errors and dropped a 2nd set breaker to #45 Spaniard Pablo Andujar

- Delpo split a pair of breakers with #51 Denis Istomin (losing the 2nd 6-8) before closing 6-2

- Isner disposed of #91 Mathew Ebden (who'd upset Fish in the previous round), 6-4, 7-5

- Nalbandian defeated #6 Tsonga in 3 sets, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3

- Simon defeated Ryan Harrison 6-4, 7-5

- Almagro defeated Berdych 6-4, 6-0 with a barrage of winners

Men's Quarters:

ISNER (11th seed) outlasted #13 Simon in tonight's marquee match up, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. These two are evenly matched, as their previous encounter showed in the 4th round of last year's Open when John won in a very close 4 setter, winning fewer points but taking all 3 breakers. Tonight both players won 91 points, but John led only 11-7 in the ace department and each was broken 3 times (two more breaks for Isner than he suffered in his 92 service games against Mahut in Wimbledon '2010).

The question tonight was which player would make fewer costly unforced errors. They matched each other almost blunder for blunder, botching easy forehand kills on their way forward and shanking routine shots that killed points before they turned into rallies. Among Isner's most egregious mistakes were a high bouncing set up that an easy overhead would have pounded into the cheap seats, and a quartet of the worst drop shots I've seen one player make in a match he intended to win (two failed to reach the net, one was a drop volley that never had a chance, and one - which Simon managed to botch - bounced beyond the service line). From this point of view it had some entertainment value to me, and sitting in the 7th row with Xavier (my polyglot friend) helped clarify the Frenchman's frequent mutterings, which were as intense as ever even after he broke to lead 3-1 in the 2nd set. One of the few shots that John landed was in the final game at 15 all, when he finally connected solidly with a forehand deep to Gilles backhand corner to force a timely error.

Earlier, in the heat of the day, JOKER routined the off-form #12 Almagro today, who seemed to have used up all his winners yesterday in upsetting #7 Berdych, 6-4, 6-0. Let's hope John produced all his bad tennis tonight: except for a bad breaker last night, Joker has played and looked like a #1 seed throughout, losing but 2 games in 5 sets.

The other man playing like a #1 seed is RAFA, who's so far lost only 14 games in 6 sets. Maybe this will work against Rafa, who usually improves his form after a difficult test. Nalbandian may be that test tomorrow. The Argentine seems to be playing his toughest tennis in several years, having disposed of Cilic, Tipsarevic and Tsonga so far (all seeded), and is 4-0 in breakers in his four matches.

As for ROG, though he's holding serve as much as ever, his health hasn't allowed him to produce his best tennis. Unless he feels better and does so, back-to-back matches with Del Potro and Nadal will spell his demise.

WOMEN:

In contrast to the men's top two seeds, #1 Vika and #2 Maria have not looked their sharpest throughout.

In the two quarter finals this afternoon, Sharapova barely came back to beat #20 Maria Kirilenko, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2. And while Vika has won convincingly since her near disastrous opening collapse against #9000 Mona Barthel (her ranking's my best guess), her opponents have looked listless or worse. Radwanska, whom she beat 6-0, 6-2 in the quarters, may have been sick of the losing efforts this year, after losses to Vika in Sydney, Melbourne and Doha. Before that, Kuznetsova and Goerges bowed out with hardly a whimper, neither winning more than 4 games.

Just as pitiful today, #7 Marion Bartoli, the French girl with the two fisted shots from both sides (and the shadow stroking and hopping routine between points) had no bounce in her legs and no depth to her shots, setting #15 seed Ana Ivanovitch up to run her back and forth and take a routine 6-3, 6-4 victory into the semis. At her best, Marion is no rabbit, and today she hung her head between points and looked as if she needed an air sickness bag. After the handshake (or was it a fist bump?), Ana seemed to be wishing her better health without gloating about her revenge for last year's quarterfinal loss to Marion here (Ana had beaten her only once in their 4 matches in the last two years.

TOMORROW'S ACTION:

1pm Fed v Delpo (quarters)

3pm RAFA v Nalbandian (quarters)

6pm Azarenka v Kerber (semis)

8pm Ivanovic v Sharapova (semis)

FINAL WEEKEND SCHEDULE:

Super Saturday:

- both mens semis (Isner v Joker; Roger v Rafa?)

- both doubles finals

Isner-Querrey play #2 Mirnyi-Nestor for a spot against defending champs Rafa and Mark Lopez, who took out the #6 seeds 6-2, 6-0 this afternoon. I was embarrassed for all doubles professionals by the tennis of losers Frystenberg and Matkowski.

Rick

BNBNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells 3.1


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