Micro-organisms continue to stalk the Coachella Valley. Francesca Schiavone became the latest player to fall victim to tummy bugs this morning, and journalists in the Media Center here at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden are thinking of asking for HazMat suits before they open their laptops. Well, that's a faint exaggeration, but there's a genuine whiff of nervousness: is a player's form normal headcasiness, or have they been zapped by the nasty virus?
I don't think we could put the defeats of the two senior US men, Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick, down to queasy digestive systems. Fish was upset in straight sets by Matthew Ebden: Roddick had an entertaining tussle with Tomas Berdych, who pulled away in the third set to record a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory.
Fish's match will be remembered for an interference call on the American late in the second set. Fish played a drop shot, and believing it was a winner, yelled "c'mon!" But Ebden has good wheels, and he reached the ball before the second bounce, causing the umpire to award the point to Ebden for deliberate interference. This was precisely the same rule which caught out Serena Williams in the WTA US Open final against Sam Stosur last year. Fish was distraught, and he declined to shake umpire Torralba's hand after the match. But Torralba was in the right: Matt Cronin and Doug Robson talked with veteran umpire after the match, and Armstrong said that if Ebden had a play on the ball he automatically gets the point on a deliberate shout by his opponent. Fish said he'd been trying to pump himself up, and acknowledged his fault by calling out before the point was over, although he did say he thought a let would make more sense in that situation. And he spoke at length about the disappointment he's borne at the start of 2012:
You know, you're just not sure.
I certainly am ?? since 2009 I certainly am the first of that, you know, just putting in the work. You know, I have been putting in the work. I have been around here a long time to realize that there are certainly highs and lows, you know.
You try to keep the highs as long as you can and keep the lows as quick as possible. There's no doubt that this is a low, for sure, for me.
Fish feels that he needs to find his ability to compete again:
I think I've lost that a little bit. You know, there are certain things that you want to ?? you know, you always want to improve your weaknesses. Mentally I felt like that was an area that I could improve in the offseason, and I tried.
I tried to improve that. We spoke to a few people, you know, mental coaches and things like this, and I don't think it worked, bottom line. So I'd like to get back to competing better, competing at a higher level, competing at a position where I am, and, you know, not giving these guys, you know, some of their best wins of their career just off me.
Andy Roddick had the support of a sympathetic Indian Wells crowd, but it wasn't much help in the first set: the American couldn't put a dent in Berdych's serve, and he was broken twice, the second time with a double fault on set point. The offending Babolat was duly shattered on the way to the chair. The second frame must have had a bit more zip: Roddick got into Berdych's service games, and worked a pair of break points in game seven, converting the second. The third set was one way traffic again, so Berdych goes through to face Almagro in R16.
It looked to me as though Roddick wasn't able to run balls down on the forehand side, but he refused to blame injury: "[I]t is what it is. I decided to play. He played better than I did....You know, I said, you know, three or four weeks ago I was going to try not to address it on a daily basis. If you play, you're fine. I played, I competed, and he beat me."
Roddick played both his matches at Indian Wells on Stadium 1, effectively the center court, but he's sanguine on where things will go if he isn't able to rejoin the top group of players:
I can't take all the benefits from the last 10 years and what it's given me for being out there and then shy away from it when things aren't going perfectly.
It's always fun to play on the smaller courts just because I guess I equate it to a guy going back and playing ?? you know, if he's gone on a world tour and he comes back and plays some bar or pub somewhere, it's probably fun for him.
I did enjoy that experience. But, you know, I know how it always works, and I don't think it's fair of me to take all the good things that come along with being that guy and then complaining about it when I'm not playing like that guy.
Today's order of play on Stadium 1 kicks off with Verdasco-Del Potro, then back to back WTA action featuring the two top seeds, Azarenka and Sharapova. Then it's back to the ATP with back to back Nadal and Federer, with Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki closing out the night session. Wozniacki prevailed in a long three set match against Sofia Arvidsson last night: time and again, the no 4 seed hung on in a point like a terrier clamped on to a favorite toy. I was impressed with the sheer athleticism of some of the gets, particularly her ability to generate depth off defensive shots retreating deep into the ad corner. Wozniacki's game is one of tennis' oldest: one more ball, point after point.
As always, enjoy today's tennis!