Del Potro d. Verdasco, 6-2 7-6
After a first set in which he outplayed Fer, DelPo faced more of a challenge in the 2nd set. Fer actually had 3 SPs on DelPo’s serve late in the 2nd set, only for DelPo to save them with his serves and FHs. Fer also missed a crucial opportunity to level the match when he netted a makeable FH.
While Fer missed those crucial points, it was also a showcase for DelPo’s ability to pull through in those nerve-wracking moments. This match ended up being a bit closer than I expected, particularly in the 2nd set. Fer did fire some truly explosive FHs in this match, but he also regrettably showed some of his more inconsistent side. Meanwhile, DelPo had his shining moments with his running forehands. All in all, it was a great win for the 9th seed. DelPo now faces Denis Istomin for a spot in the IW QF.
Istomin has actually notched quite a few surprise wins over the past few months, including wins over Gasquet, Roddick and Querrey. DelPo will need to stand his ground here.
In other big news, DelPo’s coach Franco Davin announced today that DelPo will play for Argentina in the Davis Cup QF against Croatia. This is a long-awaited decision, and it’s a favorable one for Argentina. What’s slightly worrisome is that Davin is also quoted as saying that DelPo understands the risks of possibly over-playing beyond his capacity, but he still wants to play for DC. The doctor who performed DelPo’s wrist surgery in 2010 accompanied DelPo’s team to Indian Wells, in order to perform a routine check-up. It seems he was consulted in DelPo’s ultimate decision to play. Let’s hope he stays healthy!
Istomin d. Ferrer, 6-4 6-3
This result was a surprise, to say the least. Then again, Istomin can be scary when he’s on with his game (as evidenced by his strong showing during his loss to Rafa at the USO in 2010). Ferru may not have been feeling his best, but credit goes to Istomin for the win here. It’s unfortunate that Ferru has not had better showings at IW during his career. Quite surprisingly, some of Ferru’s best results on HCs have come on the quicker surfaces.
In either case, that means DelPo faces Istomin for a spot in the QF. The Ferru upset qualifies as a big one, as DelPo had been quoted as saying in his post-match presser:
Del Potro, in the Spanish section of his press conference, includes Ferrer in the "peloton" (group) of players playing at higher level.—
Andrew Burton (@burtonad) March 13, 2012
Nalbandian d. Tipsarevic, 6-3 3-6 6-3
This was a very closely fought match and Nalby notched his first victory over a top 10 player in 19 months. Although I’m certainly no fan of Tipsy as a personality, his game has improved in recent months. It’s a credit to Nalby’s speedy footwork and his overall skills for pulling through here.
Time and time again, in his own way, Nalby proves his relevance to the sport. This is a big-time victory for the WC, especially ahead of his tough R4 against Tsonga.
I actually think the Nalby-Tipsy match-up is a good one, in the sense that they bring out each other’s strengths very well. Nalby came to the net and won impressive points, while each player drove each other to opposite ends of the court, leading to some exciting winners. The lobs were back in action for Nalby — I think he definitely has some of the finest touch when it comes to hitting lobs. There should be a Youtube video clip dedicated to that shot somewhere.
R4 HAIR MATCH: The Mullet-bandian vs. Jo-hawk
In any case, Nalby is into the last 16, where he faces a tough match against Tsonga. Nalby didn’t play IW last year, so he gains a minimum of 90 points for his IW appearance this year. That should move him up the rankings to 60-61, from his current 74, with still more points to gain at Miami (provided he stays healthy—he did not play Miami last year either). Nalby would have to overtake countryman Carlos Berlocq (at no. 38) in order to qualify for the Olympics (given the ruling stating a maximum 4 players from each country). It’s a tall task, but I hope it happens.
In other notable news, Rafa defeated compatriot Granollers in straight sets while Dolgopolov pulled through with a tough win over Baggy in three sets. Rafa and Dolgo will play a hopefully fun R4! Davydenko succumbed to the IW stomach bug and withdrew from his R3 against Bellucci, who will now face Fed for a spot in the QF. Fed had a brief scare during his R3 against Milosh, but he righted the ship and took the win in 3 sets.
Berdy defeated Roddick in 3 sets while the Aussie Matt Ebden defeated Fish. Both Americans went on their fair share of tantrums during their losses. Here’s hoping they recoup some of their form, if only so we’re subject to less of that boorish behavior. Berdy will now face a re-match with his new nemesis, Nico Almagro, with whom he had a non-handshake moment at the AO.