Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The amazing Tommy Haas

How impressive has Tommy Haas been this week?  I mean, when this Miami tournament started who would have chosen Tommy in their semifinal bracket?  I thought he might challenge Novak Djokovic, who hasn't really found his groove this whole month.  But even after the thumping in the first set, followed by a break in the second, once he surrendered the break back I really thought Novak would do his #1 thing and get on a roll.  Sure, Tommy had some help from a lot of uncharacteristic errors from his opponent, but at the same time his level of play was just amazing.  Some of saves he got at the net, stretching and really giving himself for the big win, showed his passion for the game and the incredible talent he has.  

A lot of times after a big win over a top player a lower ranked player, who has given their all for the victory, will have a major falter in their next match.  Tommy Haas has been around for a long time, though, and he showed his experience and the way his game has really been peaking against a tired Giles Simon, rolling over him in an hour with a 6-3 6-1 victory.  Will his almost 35-year-old body have what it takes to take it a step farther with a win over David Ferrer, who needed three sets in his win over a resurgent Meltzer?  I like to think that Tommy's motivation level, with a day of rest for his old bones to recover, will be enough to make it to the final of this Masters 1000.

A year ago Tommy Haas was ranked 145 in the world.  With this advancement into the semifinals he will crack the top 15 for the first time since January 2008.  If that isn't inspiring I don't know what is, especially given the fact that he is in his mid 30s.  I mean, Andy Roddick hung up his racquet on his 30th birthday.

The week started out kind of ho hum for me with Federer not participating.  However, this exciting development has reignited my interest.  Also, to be honest, it has given me more hope for Roger Federer's game in the months to come.  I have been rather discouraged by his results in the last six months, winning no titles after such amazing results in the fall of 2011 through summer of 2012.  But even if he goes through a slump for a bit, he's still a young pup compared to what we have been seeing this week and he should have lots of glory moments left for he and his fans to enjoy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The wrap on Indian Wells

All credit to Rafael Nadal for what he has accomplished in his comeback - winning three of the four tournaments he entered.  I certainly didn't expect him to be the one holding the trophy at the end of his first hard court tournament.  Del Potro seemed to have things in hand in the final, being up a set and a break, but he faltered a bit in the middle of the second set and once Rafa got on a roll he just kept going.  Really quite amazing.  And Maria Sharapova was certainly on fire in her straight forward match against Wozniacki.  There really was nothing Caroline could do with Maria not only firing on all cylinders, but also playing great defense.  The match I was happiest about was seeing Bob and Mike Bryan finally make their breakthrough to win this elusive title that they hadn't yet been able to win in their illustrious career.  And since I had the chance to watch the Bryan Brothers and also their opponents live on a smaller court earlier in the week, it was especially fun to watch them in the final.

Speaking of watching live, I want to share just a bunch of random pictures taken by either myself or my friend  throughout our four awesome days spent on the grounds of Indian Wells.  It was an incredible experience in every way and I was sad to see it end.  Already looking forward to next year!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Semifinal action in Indian Wells

Wow, what a match by Juan Martin Del Potro to give Novak Djokovic his first defeat of the year and make it to his first BNP Paribas Open final.  He  played some amazing tennis, coming back from 0-3 in the third set to win it 6-4.  Though he had done so well to pull out the second set, when he was immediately broken in the third I thought the world #1 had it wrapped up.  However, Delpo had other ideas and really began taking it to Novak with some awe inspiring shots.  It reminded me of his form in 2009 when he beat the great Roger Federer in the U.S. Open after being down a set and a break.  

Back in 2009 when he won the U.S. Open he had also taking out Nadal before beating Federer.  Is he in good enough form now to take out Djokovic and Nadal back to back?  He has played two long three set matches in the last two days, while Nadal had fairly easy two set victories in his quarter final and semi.  Does JMDP have enough left in him to beat Rafa, who has quickly come back into his own pre-injury form?  At this point I would predict Nadal will pull off his first hard court victory since 2010, but I also predicted Djokovic would easily win the third set, so you just never can tell.

I am looking forward to the women's final between Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova.  Caroline fought back from a set and a break down against Angelique Kerber with some very strange strategy of moon balls, yet also really upping her winner total compared to what we have gotten used to.  Against Maria Sharapova she better skip the moon balls and go for the winners if she wants a chance to once again lift the trophy at Indian Wells.

On another topic, I haven't done a blog post since Federer's uninspiring loss against Nadal in the quarter finals.  It was quite discouraging to see him obviously struggling so much physically to not be able to even come close to playing his game.  While it would have been easy for him to withdraw from this match, however, the always classy Federer knew what a great disappointment this would be for both the tournament and the fans after two ladies withdrawals in the same day and chose to put his own comfort aside to play, knowing he had little chance to win.  I continue to be impressed by Roger over and over again and can see why he was voted the 2nd most respected person, surpassed only by Nelson Mandela.  He now takes a 7 week break before he plays next in Madrid and hopefully he can get treatment for his back, a lot of rest, time with his beautiful family and then some good practice time to come back strong and ready to add some titles, which he so far hasn't been able to do in 2013.  Even though he lost earlier than I had hoped in Indian Wells I treasure the memories of seeing him play live.  

More pictures to come from my experience in Indian Wells next week.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Indian Wells from afar

I am home from hot sunshine, palm trees and amazing live tennis to dreary clouds, rain, evergreen trees, and watching tennis like everyone else on a screen instead of the incredible experience live in the stadium.  Almost immediately upon walking in the door I fired up my DVR to fast forward past early matches and get to the beginning of the one I had been thinking about all day - Federer/Wawrinka.  Not knowing how his back would be, especially after not showing up for his practice the day before (more on that later), for a while it seemed like it was going to be a straightforward win.  However, serving for the match Roger suddenly seemed to get tight and pretty much handed the game to Stan, who went on to take the second set.  I really didn't know what was gong to happen after that; it really seemed like it could go either way, especially after Roger got frustrated with not being allowed to challenge one of his own serves that was out.  Somehow he managed to hold it all together though, which Wawrinka didn't, ending the match with several errors and a break for 7-5 in the third for Fed.

It's hard to know how much his back issue was bothering Roger.  His serving looked a lot more normal than it had the other night after the obvious injury.  Surely it must have been a bit of a factor, however, and can't help but wonder, after three sets, how he will hold up for another match the very next day.

And what a match between Nadal and Gulbis.  There was some amazing tennis going on there!  I know everyone was wanting a Fed-Nadal quarter, which is what is going to happen, but I have to say I was cheering for Gulbis.  What an incredible job he has done in the last few weeks.  Hope he can keep it up.  As for the Fed-Nadal match it's really difficult to know what to expect.  I am certainly hoping for last year's semi rather than two years ago Miami, that's for sure!

Back to Federer's missed practice.  I was very excited to watch one last practice, knowing I would be heading home the next day and it would be my last time to see him.  I got to the practice court 45 minutes early and got the perfect seat.  It would have been closer than I had ever been to him.  All along, though, I couldn't help but wonder if he was actually going to show up, and as the minutes crept by I knew unfortunately it wasn't going to happen.  Though I wasn't necessarily surprised, I certainly was very disappointed, as it would have been a tremendous last day for my 2013 Indian Wells experience.  Even without that, however, it was a wonderful time and I got to have a lot of Federer highlights.  I will try to post a few more pictures of my experience in the lull between Indian Wells and Miami, as I have quite a few more pictures I haven't put up.  In the meantime, back to reality - work and trying to watch tennis in and around all the normal responsibilities of life.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 3 at Indian Wells

All right Federer fans, it's late and I'm tired from a delightful but exhaustingly full day at Indian Wells.  But I can't go to bed without a short post from my incredible day.

When I found out Roger was playing the day session I decided I needed to splurge and spend the money to watch the daytime matches court side.  I sure am glad I did!  It was a wonderful day sitting 11 rows back from the court, right above where the players enter.  The day started out with Kerber defeating Wickmayer.  Next was supposed to be Rafael Nadal, which would have been a lot of fun to see.  Unfortunately his opponent, Leonardo Mayer had to withdraw with a back injury and Rafa ended up with a walkover.  I felt really sorry for his fans who had bought the pricey tickets just to see him.  Instead they moved over Blake/Fish vs. Raonic/Lopez, which ended up being a really fun match.  Wozniacki was next, one of my favorites, playing Vesnina in  pretty straight forward win for Caroline.  

And then the highlight of the day, Roger Federer vs. Ivan Dodig.  Watching him play court side is an experience that just can't be matched.  In spite of a very straight forward score of 6-3 6-1 I would say he wasn't playing his best, starting out at 0-40 in his first service game before finally managing to hold serve, and then really being handed the break with two double faults.  He managed to close out the first set and he started finding his game in the second set.  Out of the blue, though, all of a sudden I could tell something had happened and that he had tweaked his back.  Suddenly he wasn't serving normal and was even walking funny.  Thankfully he was still able to hit some beautiful winners to close things out quickly.  I was anxious to get back to my computer, though, and hear that he doesn't feel too concerned about it since he has some time before his next match. 

We closed out the day (after a very long wait in line) watching the Bryan Brothers play Isner-Querry and then the Murray brothers play Janowicz-Huey, which were both fun matches to watch.

Before I head to bed after a long day, here are a few pictures of the wonderful experience I had today:

 I have a lot more pictures but that gives you an idea.  And when I get home I will maybe post some that aren't just of Roger.  Tomorrow is my last day to attend the tournament and I hope to see him practice one more time if his back isn't bothering him too much.  If you are a Federer fan and haven't had the opportunity to watch him live I strongly suggest you do what is necessary to make it happen.  You definitely won't regret it - it's the tennis experience of a lifetime!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 2 at Indian Wells

Just a quick post before I head to bed after another glorious day at Indian Wells.  My first couple hours were spent waiting for and then watching the amazing Roger Federer practice.  He did a full one hour practice today, again with Steve Johnson.  Though I didn't have the best view, behind a fence and on the opposite side of the court, I was still able to witness some awe inspiring shots and get a few pretty good pictures.  I liked the turquoise shirt, which was a new color that I hadn't seen on him.

 After getting the most important part of the day taken care of I was able to watch a 3 set match with Murray coming back from a set down to win (my friend I am with is from Scotland, so Murray is her favorite - with Fed as a close second).  We also watched most of Radwanska's three set win against Cirstea, which had some really good quality tennis.  The exciting news at the end of the day was that we upgraded our general admission tickets for tomorrow to courtside and will be able to watch all the daytime matches from close up.  It's going to be a great day, as is any day when one has the privilege to see Roger Federer in person!!!  I will try to get as many pictures as possible to share with you all.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Day 1 at Indian Wells

What a great day today at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.  It was my first of four days to visit this amazing tournament, for the third year in a row.  We got there later than planned due to the incredible volume of people who were also heading to the site.  By the time we got in there and looked at the practice board I realized that Roger Federer was already on the practice court right next to me. Here are some of the pictures my friend and I took:

Roger looked as relaxed as ever and it was awesome to see him practice live.  He was hitting with American Steve Johnson, just for about half an hour.  We then watched a bit of the second set where Verdasco got beaten badly by Nieminen, a bit of Stosur, watched Isner unfortunately lose to Hewitt, and then the highlight of the day, Roger playing Dennis Istomin.  While we were quite high up in the stadium for this match there are no bad seats and we really got a good view of the amazing tennis Roger was playing.  He was definitely on his game, getting a break in the very first game.  It seemed there was no shot he couldn't do and I was reminded once again that there are some things that just can't be captured on TV, things that are just much more prominent in person - things like the way he moves around court, and the snap of his wrist and the whip of his arm on his forehand.  Of course we see these aspects of his game every time we watch him but it's somehow all the more impressive watching in person.  Here are a few of the pictures my friend took from the match (she's much better at photography than I am):

Tomorrow I  hope to watch Fed practice again and we will catch as many as we can of the great matches going on around the grounds.  But I will be waiting for Monday to come when I can watch Roger play his match again, not against one of his new challenges, Benneteau, but instead against Dodig, who took out Benneteau in straight sets.  I am hoping for a much closer view for this match but will need to wait to see if he plays the day or evening schedule.  Until then, I hope you enjoyed the up close and personal views and I will check back in in a couple of days.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Indian Wells is almost here!

As you can see from my new banner, it's time for Indian Wells!!  It's one of the biggest non-grand slam tournaments of the year and one that fans thoroughly enjoy coming to.  And that is definitely the case for me, as I will be heading to the sun kissed, palm tree studded area on Friday.  It will be my third year in a row and I can't wait!

My two experiences have been amazing!  The first year I had the privilege to watch Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka play doubles together from very close up.  That, along with watching Roger practice and just in general the first experience of being at this incredible tournament got me hooked.  Once you've been it's almost impossible to not be drawn back.  Last year I watched Federer play Milos Raonic from a very close distance, which was the tennis highlight of my life!  The biggest thing that stood out for me that I noticed watching so close up that's hard to catch on TV is the incredible athleticism as they tear around the court.  It was truly an amazing experience and I hope to watch Roger close up again this year, both in practice and in a match.

This year will be interesting due to the fact that Rafael Nadal has decided to play, which he was unsure about as he was waiting to see how his knee responded.  After his first three tournaments back on clay, winning two of those, the last with an incredible 6-0 6-2 victory over world #4 David Ferrer, I am very curious to see how Rafa plays in his first hard court tournament since his seven month injury lay off.  And of course Federer won this tournament last year, in spite of the fact that he started the week with he and his family being sick, having a fever during his first couple matches.  I sincerely hope he can step up and play his very best tennis before he takes an almost two month break before his next one in Madrid.  Novak Djokovic is playing some really superb tennis once again, not having lost a match so far this year (other than one that doesn't count in the Hopman Cup against Tomic in January).

For the women unfortunately we will be missing Serena and Venus Williams, who choose not to play Indian Wells, and Li Na, who is still out with an ankle injury.  The rest of the field will be there and will all be very motivated to do well at this very important tournament in their schedule.  

I will try to send a couple updates during my time in sunny California letting you know what it's like up close and personal.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bummer day for Fed fans

This was the way Federer fans felt today after Roger's very disappointing loss to Tomas Berdych in the semifinal in Dubai.  I really thought he was going to win this match.  He had played so well in the quarterfinal and it seemed he was back to the great form that had won him six titles last year.  It was all looking great in the first set, which Federer took 6-3, even though there were some very tight games.  The break came for Berdych in the second set but Federer was able to break back at 5-3 and take it into an eventual tiebreak.  The first disappointment came when he had three match points (one on his own serve) and wasn't able to take advantage of any of them.  The next disappointment was when he was pretty easily broken again in the 3rd set and never able to take it back.  

I wasn't able to fully concentrate on the third set due to some issues going on for me, but I could tell he was struggling anyway, which is difficult to watch.  I start getting a feeling of inevitability, which is very frustrating due to my optimism at the start of the match.  

Though I am able to shake off his losses easier than I used to, what I've been thinking about on and off all day is that since October there have been five tournaments which he had won the previous year and failed to do so the next time around.  Now I realize that we Fed fans got very spoiled over a nine month period of time where he was winning everything.  But seeing him not able to win any of these, not winning a title since August, starts to get a bit concerning.  I realize, though, that he is taking a bit of a different approach this year with more rest and practice time.  Though we haven't seen it pay off yet, I know he is looking at the long term results at this point of his career in order to keep playing longer.  Hopefully we will see some positives from this before too long, at least with a couple tournament victories during this year.