Indian Wells: Haas d. Chardy

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Scent from the potted flowers perched above the stadium walls was within range as Tommy Haas raced to his left and launched a backhand down the line that darted into the corner. The shot froze Jeremy Chardy, spiked a wave of applause from the crowd and a raised fist of excitement from BNP Paribas Open owner Larry Ellison watching from his court-side box.

A month away from celebrating his 36th birthday, Haas doesn’t have time to stop and smell the flowers in the desert—he’s too busy re-imagining the landscape on court. Moving beautifully and shifting gears shrewdly, Haas used his legs to extend points and his variety to torment Chardy in a 6-3, 6-4, victory that sent him into the Indian Wells third round.

Watching Haas when he's on his game is like pressing your nose closer to a painting to see the individual brush strokes on the canvas — you appreciate all the subtle strokes and fluid movement that creates the complete art. Alternating his slice backhand and one-handed backhand drive to confound Chardy at times, Haas probed with a series of slices, drew the center shot he wanted, then danced around his backhand lashing a forehand winner down the line to break for a 3-1 lead in the opener.

Serving for the first set at 5-3, a tense Haas lined a forehand long to face break point. Wrong-footing Haas with a deep inside-out forehand, Chardy set up for a mid-court sitter but whacked his forehand into the net and wailed in a primal scream of frustration at opportunity lost. A relieved Haas sprang forward from the reprieve, snapping a forehand volley winner for set point. Showing some spring in his legs, Haas spiked a smash to close the 39-minute opening set.

The 48th-ranked Chardy has a whippy forehand predicated on a windmill swing. When he gets the timing right, he can crank winners into the corners, but when he mis-times the shot or doesn’t apply the right dose of spin he can clank mis-hits. Haas mixed some heavier topspin with his devious one-handed slice backhand to try to disrupt the Frenchman’s timing. Haas jerked Chardy up-and back with a drop-shot lob combination to work through a challenging hold for 3-all in the second set.

The lone break of the second set came in the ninth game as Chardy, so close to net he could have kicked it, netted a drop volley to fall to 15-30. Haas bended a backhand pass up the line for double break point and Chardy, still stewing over his painful error, cracked slamming his Head racquet to the court in frustration. The break went with the stick when he splattered an error to hand Haas a 5-4 lead.

In the stretch run of his career, Masters 1000 matches are magnified for Haas, who beat Novak Djokovic in Miami last year, and showed the nerves rattling a pair of errors to fall behind 0-30 when serving for it. Exhaling, Haas hit a sharp-angled forehand crosscourt and followed with his fifth ace for match point. Chardy saved it with a flashy inside-out forehand winner. Two points later, Haas poked a forehand volley then belted a ball in celebration into the crowd, completing a 77-minute trip into the third round.

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