Indian Wells CC (Wednesday)
We've continued to have players withdraw or retire for illness related reasons. Nikolay Davydenko was unable to take the court, conceding a walkover to Thomaz Bellucci. And Jaime Hampton, the young American wild card who's made a name for herself at Indian Wells, suffered painful leg cramps following intestinal illness and had to retire from a competitive match with 5 seed Radwanska.
Radwanska will now face Victoria Azarenka on Stadium 1. The tie has some added spice after Radwanska's open disdain for Azarenka's behavior in their Doha semi-final a few weeks ago. Azarenka twisted her ankle early in the second set, then acted (in Radwanska's mind) as though she was in mortal agony. SI's Courtney Nguyen described the hand shake as "ice cold."
At least Azarenka got to touch her opponent's palm. Nicolas Almagro went four sets in Melbourne with Tomas Berdych, and he's still waiting for an outstretched right hand. You may remember that Almagro decided to hit a passing shot late in the match directly at his opponent who is, it has to be said, a pretty big target. Berdych took the ball on the arm: he was so disgusted at Almagro's shot that he refused to shake his defeated opponent's hand at the net (and compounded his sin by telling the booing Aussie crowd that he was the victimized party).
I didn't see any international incidents on court today. Juan Martin Del Potro saved six set points against Fernando Verdasco in the second set, then took his own first match point in a straight sets win (you can read my match report here). Then I took in two sets of Dolgopolov-Baghdatis on Stadium 2.
This was a fun contest: the crowd was (I think) marginally rooting for Dolgopolov, but there were plenty of Cypriots exhorting Baghdatis on. Dolgopolov hasn't quite yet made the leap into the elite status, which means (if you come to one of these tournaments) that you should get a chance to see him play close up on one of the outer courts. Take it if you get the chance - he's a keeper. Quick as a whippet, Dolgopolov relies on variety of pace and spin to work a point rather than power and basic diagonal shot patterns. In one rally, I counted five different versions of backhand slice, one after the other, delicate changes of pace, height and side spin teasin Baghdatis.
Last up, I watched Federer-Raonic. Steve Tignor had Racquet Reaction duties. There were plenty of maple leaf flags waved by Canadian fans as Raonic took the court. The Coachella Valley is a popular second or retirement property purchase for many Canadians, and Milos said after the match that he was cheered by their support. They had plenty to cheer about in the first set: Federer couldn't get any kind of a read on Raonic's serve. Raonic created the only break point of the set, snuffed out by a Federer ace. The tie break points went on serve until 4-3, when Raonic outmanouvered Federer and forced an error deep in the deuce corner. Then the Canadian chose a veteran play: at 5-4 on his serve, he chose to serve and volley for the first time in the set, killing a backhand vollet stone dead for a winner. On set point, he threw down a 120mph second serve to the body, which Federer couldn't get back into play.
Federer responded immediately, earning his first break of the night with a clean forehand winner up the line. He would gain an insurance break when Raonic got pinned at the net under heavy fire, and Federer's final shot would have gone through Raonic if he hadn't ducked (if Berdych were at the net, we might have had fisticuffs).
The third set was on serve until Federer broke at 3-3, and he held his last two serves games without great trouble. I asked Federer after the match whether he was still under the weather, and he admitted that he wasn't yet 100%. He had been encouraged by the thought that Raonic was likely to keep the points short. Tom Tebbutt pressed him on why he'd left the court (for the second match in a row) after the second set. Federer thought the question odd: he'd been hydrating a lot and hadn't sweated much, so....
Federer has the last match of the day session today against Bellucci. Earlier on Stadium 1 we have Novak Djokovic against Pablo Andujar, Azarenka-Radwanska and Nadal-Dolgopolov. Today's evening session features Angelique Kerber against Nal Li, and the last match is Denis Istomin against Juan Martin Del Potro.
Almagro-Berdych gets us underway on Stadium 2, then John Isner takes on Matt Ebden, followed by Tsonga-Nalbandian and Harrison-Simon.
As always, enjoy today's tennis!