There’s lots to talk about after a very, very busy Wednesday at the Tennis Masters Indian Wells. I’ll lead with Roger Federer’s 7-6(4), 6-3 win last night over American upstart Ryan Harrison.
The match went true to form early as a nervous Harrison was broken in the very first game. But credit to the 18-year-old, Harrison settled in and really gave Federer quite a fight, even a fright. As I wrote yesterday, Harrison can play many different ways and last night he got to Federer a little by breaking the Swiss twice in the first set behind his all-out aggressive style.
“I kind of struggled in that first set because I knew that lead wasn’t real because it was more because of his nerves, so I think that’s what made the whole match be a bit tricky for me early on,” said Federer. “When I won the first set and I felt like I played a tough breaker, got out of some tough situations, is when I felt like, ‘You know what? Now I can play more freely.’ That’s how I played in the second set.
“I thought he played really well under the circumstances. It’s not easy coming out playing a night session against a top player, and I thought he did really well. He competed great. Believed in his chances. That’s exactly what he’s supposed to do. But he bounced back after a tough first game, and that was impressive to see.”
Overall, Federer just didn’t look that great. We saw Roger spray many forehands and backhands, horribly miss volleys and even throw in ill-timed double faults. And if he plays like that tomorrow night against his doubles partner Stan Wawrinka (who beat Tomas Berdych) and especially against Novak Djokovic on Saturday (if it happens) he’s not going to win.
For Harrison, the match was another indication that the baritone-voiced kid from Louisiana is going to be a serious factor in tennis for the next 10 years. And Ryan sounds hungry for more.
“Hopefully it was the first of a thousand,” Harrison said. “I’m not trying to be the guy who played one match against Federer that was a tight match, and I played well. He played well. There was a couple points here and there that made a difference. But I’m not planning certainly on this being the highlight of my career.”
Top seed Rafael Nadal also struggled but got through a spirited bid from Somdev Devvarman 7-5, 6-4. The Indian Devvarman is fleet a foot and can get a lot of balls back into play, so Nadal had to work for the win.
“He didn’t play well, but I played terrible in the beginning,” said Nadal of going down 2-0 at the start. “After that I improved a little bit, but the first set in general, for me, was really bad, because I wasn’t able to play aggressive with my forehand. I didn’t see [any] opportunity to go inside and to play the winner… It wasn’t a bad second set. That’s the most positive thing. I played much better in the end of the match than in the beginning.”
Tonight, I expect another tight match for Rafa against Ivo Karlovic. The 6-foot-10 Karlovic who is returning from a serious achilles injury, knocked out Nadal’s countryman Albert Montanes.
Rafa has beaten Ivo all three times but on the fast Indian Wells courts it should be a close match though Rafa should get through. And Nadal has never lost a match at Indian Wells in odd years (15-0 with two titles).
While Federer and Nadal struggle, Djokovic has been obliterating everybody. Yesterday the Serb crushed his countryman Viktor Troicki 6-0, 6-1. That’s three matches for Djokovic and he’s lost just six games vs. quality opposition. And he says he’s not playing his best! Scary.
“I don’t think I’m playing incredible tennis,” said Djokovic. “I think I’m playing really, really solid and getting a lot of balls back into the court and making my opponent play an extra shot… I think he had a very bad match in general. But I was very solid, and I keep on playing well, so this is what makes me happy.”
Djokovic, who has now won 17 straight matches (15-0 in 2011), now plays Richard Gasquet tomorrow afternoon. Yesterday, Gasquet scored the upset of the day beating 2010 finalist Andy Roddick 6-3, 7-6(5).
Going in I thought Roddick would force Gasquet into enough errors to pull out a win, but Gasquet was on the mark and the unfortunate reality for Roddick these days is when his opponent is playing well Andy gets into trouble.
“I think he outplayed me from the first ball. He was obviously very confident,” said Roddick. “I tried to force it and be more aggressive in the second, but when you play that way, it starts coming in bunches. You win in bunches and you lose in bunches. So it’s a little bit inconsistent. I think it caught up to me a little bit in the tie-breaker.”
Roddick now has 1,000 ATP points defend at Miami next week otherwise he’ll be looking up at the Top 10 in April.
Juan Martin Del Potro continues to impress. The Argentine is well ahead of schedule in his return and yesterday he took down Phil Kohlscreiber in two breakers. This afternoon Delpo meets Tommy Rorebdo who despite a groin injury did in Sam Querrey 6-1, 6-3.
Four games for Querrey against an injured Robredo is not how you want to leave the biggest tournament in your home state, but that’s what Sam did.
“I don’t think I played that well. Racquet didn’t feel great today,” said Querrey. “Just couldn’t get my rhythm. Couldn’t really sink my teeth into it. I couldn’t quite get it going.”
Fittingly, a disgusted Querrey left his racquets on the court after the loss. At this point Sam needs all the help he can get. So why not?
For Robredo, even if he is 100% I don’t see him beating Delpo in the quarterfinals this afternoon.
Also today, two more women’s quarterfinals are scheduled with Caroline Wozniacki against friend Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova is on at 6pm ET against Peng.
Tennis Channel once against will have the coverage starting at 2pm ET.
INDIAN WELLS THURSDAY SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
 C Wozniacki (DEN) vs  V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA
Not Before 1:00 PM
J Del Potro (ARG) vs  T Robredo (ESP) – ATP
Not Before 3:00 PM
 M Sharapova (RUS) vs S Peng (CHN) – WTA
M Knowles (BAH) / M Mertinak (SVK) vs R Federer (SUI) / S Wawrinka (SUI) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs I Karlovic (CRO) – ATP
D Hantuchova (SVK) / A Radwanska (POL) vs S Mirza (IND) / E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA
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