The most anticipated match of the 3rd round was the final match of the 3rd round. The great Roger Federer faced the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic. The crowd was buzzing right from the start and it was evident the players were locked in right from the start. In the first 12 games of the match, there was literally nothing separating Federer and Raonic. Both were holding serve with exceptional ease, and Roger could not even get many serves into play with how well the Canadian was hitting his biggest weapon. Expectedly, the match went to a tiebreak, where both men held their service points until 4-3 Raonic when he gained the mini-break. That was all he needed, and he served out the set to win the tiebreak 7-4. Was it upset time? Federer could barely get a return into play and would have to break the serve if he wanted to win.
The second set started with a bang, as Federer displayed some elite tennis to break Raonic's serve right away. The tide had turned, and the Canadian was struggling to get his first serve in play. Roger went on to capture the security break to go up 5-1, and went on to win the set 6-2. The question after the set was whether or not Raonic could reset himself and raise his level of play to where it had been in the 1st set, and after Fed left the court for a toilet break, play began again.
The decisive 3rd set was very even, much like the 1st set, until 3-3 when the Swiss Maestro gained the crucial break with a devastating backhand pass. Raonic hit a 136 mph serve out wide on the ad court, and Fed blocked it back like only he can. The ball landed just over the net, drawing the Canadian forward, and when he hit it cross to Roger's backhand, the Swiss whipped it up the line and followed with an encouraging yell. It was the only break that he needed in the 3rd set, and he went onto win the set 6-4.
|Picture credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok|
Both Federer and Raonic played exceptionally well and gave the crowd at Indian Wells a match they will never forget. The serving was elite, the big points were played well, and it was a very fun match to watch. The way both men were holding serve was reminiscent of a past day when courts were faster and much more emphasis was placed on finesse rather than power. Federer was in superb form and even though he lost the opening set, it was really one point that decided it. Raonic should not be disappointed, because he pushed the greatest player ever to his very best and brought the greatness out of him. The big difference in the match was the percentage of first serve points won. Federer won 88% of first serves and Raonic only 76%. That stat highlights how brilliantly Roger was returning because Raonic only lost one point (maybe two) in the first set when he got his first serve into play. Another key stat is that Fed won 3/4 break points, and in this tournament, has converted on 8 of 10 break point chances, a simply outstanding number.
Rafael Nadal had a simple match against countryman Marcel Granollers, winning 61 64. The first set was a total walk in the park, but Rafa was tested a little in the second set which is good to see. Juan Martin del Potro saved six set points to beat Fernando Verdasco 62 76(6). Verdasco held four set points and 4-5 and then two more in the tiebreak at 6-4 but he could not capitalize thanks to some slutch ply by the big Argentine. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back from a set down to beat Radek Stepanek 67(2) 63 62. The always unpredictable Alexandr Dolgopolov defeated Marcos Baghdatis 64 57 64 in over two hours of highly competitive tennis. As previously mentioned, David Ferrer was upset by Denis Istomin 64 63. The Spaniard was suffering from the illness going around the grounds, but I suspect playing clay court events after the Australian Open did not help matters either. The transition is not easy to make. #10 seed Janko Tipsarevic was taken out by David Nalbandian 63 36 63. Nalbandian is always a dangerous player because of his elite returning and ball-striking ability.
Match of the Day: Federer vs Raonic
Monday at Indian Wells featured the top half round 3 action, featuring Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Mardy Fish, 3 of the top 10 players in the world. Djokovic overcame South African Kevin Anderson 63 62 in well over an hour. Despite the scoreline, Djokovic was tested in nearly every game as the big Anderson was pummeling the ball, and the #1 had to be at his sharpest. For the most part, he was. He did not drop serve and saved multiple break points. In the night match, Tomas Berdych overcame crowd favourite Andy Roddick 63 46 62. The Czech played a very good match against an inspired Roddick. Andy, to me at least, seemed to be hitting the ball flatter and more aggressively, which is a great sign for his game. I wish him the best the rest of the year. Mardy Fish, who has been struggling so far this year, struggled even more when he lost to 24 year-old Australian Matthew Ebden 63 64. There was some controversy at the end of the match when Fish was serving at 4-4 deuce and he yelled out "come on" after he hit a volley, but he did so before Ebden made his play on the ball. The umpire was forced to call a hindrance, so Ebden won the point and then broke. He then served out the match. Fish did not shake the umpire's hand.
In other action on the day, John Isner fought through a close match with Juan Monaco 75 75. Gilles Simon beat Stan Wawrinka 64 64, and Ryan Harrison defeated the Murray-beater, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 75 64. Nicolas Almagro came through a tough 3-setter over Santiago Giraldo 46 62 76(2), and Pablo Andujar gets the dreadul task of facing Novak Djokovic in round 3 after beating Albert Ramos in straights.
Match of the Day: Berdych vs Roddick
Here is the lineup for Wednesday's Round of 16 action:
(1) Novak Djokovic vs Pablo Andujar
(2) Rafael Nadal vs (21) Alexandr Dolgopolov
(3) Roger Federer vs Thomaz Bellucci
*Bellucci received a walkover after Davydenko withdrew due to illness
(6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs David Nalbandian
(7) Tomas Berdych vs (12) Nicolas Almagro
(9) Juan Martin del Potro vs Denis Istomin
(11) John Isner vs Matthew Ebden
(13) Gilles Simon vs Ryan Harrison
It should be a great day of tennis. Federer should handle Bellucci easily, and on top of that, he will be great practice for a potential match with Nadal in the semis. All the favourites should get by, but there are some interesting matches. Dolgopolov is a very tricky opponent and he could give Rafa some trouble with his explosive game. Then again, Dolgo will be tired after playing a long match against Baghdatis, and Rafa is as fresh as a daisy. Tsonga could be pushed by Nalbandian who has played great tennis this week. And finally, my most anticipated matchup, Berdych vs Almagro. If you remember what happened at the Australian Open (where Berdych didn't shake Almagro's hand after getting hit with the ball), then you will be intrigued with this one. Overall, should be a fun day as we trim 16 down to 8.