This is a guest post by Ruari Grant. This post was also published on the AndBeThere blog. You can connect to us via:

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As always, I would like to thanks Tennis-Buzz.

All the best players in the world came to Indian Wells for the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year, and over the last couple of days it all came to a head with some of the most spectacular matches of the season. You can read here about how the four semi-finallists made it to that stage, namely Nadal cruising past Federer in the quarters. 

Indian Wells Final – Nadal Beats Del Potro

Well this perhaps wasn’t the final we were expecting – being Nadal‘s first hard court tournament in a year and with Djokovic in Delpo’s half of the draw, it wasn’t all that likely, but they were clearly the two best players this week. Nadal came out with all guns blazing, racing out to a 3-0 lead; but Del Potro would then take control, winning 9 of the next 11 games, using those huge groundies to devastating effect. Despite taking a 3-1 lead in the second and demonstrating incredible feel around the net on several occasions, he would start to flag just as Nadal’s level moved up a gear. The Spaniard wouldn’t look back, dominating the rallies from then on, and eventually coming out a 4-6 6-4 6-3 winner, falling to the ground more than once in disbelief at this incredible achievement. 

This is the third time he’s taken the title in Indian Wells, but is saying that this is one of the best victories of his career. Indeed few would’ve forecast this win given his lack of match practice on this surface and the quality of the opposition. He was particularly pleased with his movement, having said previously that some days it’s good and some bad. He will now miss next week’s Miami Masters to go home and recuperate ahead of what is looking like it could be a very successful European clay court season. It’s also worth noting that this win was significant for a number of other reasons. It marked his 600th tour match win, it was a record 22nd masters title, and he will now move back to number 4 in the rankings, restoring the ‘big four’ in the top four spots.

As for Del Potro, his highlight of the week was obviously the back to back wins against Murray and Djokovic. Despite losing to Nadal in the final, this was a big break for him and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win a masters tournament in the near future, as well as move up perhaps even breaking into the top four in the rankings.

Indian Wells Semis Roundup

Nadal beats Berdych

The first semi saw Nadal continue his incredible comeback against Berdych. I thought that the Czech player might potentially score a big win here – he’s about due a win over the Spaniard, and has been well on top of his game of late. However Nadal demonstrated just how tough he is, and came through 6-4 7-5. Berdych actually served for the second set, however he just couldn’t find his first serve and got broken back. From that point he wouldn’t win another point, with Nadal’s agressive tennis proving too much. 

Obviously the Spaniard was delighted to make the final, stating that it was more than he could’ve hoped for; personally I think the win over Berdych was pretty important, as he has the kind of game – flat hard power that can be dangerous to Nadal if he’s not careful. Berdych was clearly disappointed afterwards – though semis in a masters is still a solid result he said that he’s really looking to push on in these tournaments, and he does need to start beating the top 4 a bit more often. We shall see what next week in Miami holds…

Del Potro beats Djokovic

Perhaps the best match of the tournament was also the biggest upset of the year. Delpo ended the world number one’s 22 match winning streak here in the semis, coming back with a 4-6 6-4 6-4 win. In the first set Djokovic proved to be marginally too strong, eventually managing the decisive break in the tenth game after piling on the pressure. However he needed to use every facet of his all-court game to come through it, and from that moment on it would be Delpo demonstrating his variety. 

We’re not really used to seeing sloppiness from the Serb but he lost his serve in the first game of the second. Though he broke straight back, that famously huge Argentine forehand would then come into play and Del Potro began to dominate. Despite the odd moment of brilliance from the Djokovic backhand, he wouldn’t look back, hanging on to take the set. 

The momentum would change again though, with Djokovic fighting as he always does, and taking a 3-0 lead in the decider. He couldn’t hang on to it though and once the Argentine broke back and his forehand started firing again, he took control and Djokovic had no answer as the match eventually slipped away from him. 

For me, this is Delpo’s best win since the 2009 US Open. In fact I’d say his game is better now than it was then – he’s added some good variety with that slice backhand; he kind of needed to given the wrist trouble on the two-hander, but it’s given him a host of new options. Anyway, Djokovic has been so dominant recently, and beat him fairly comfortably in Dubai only a couple of weeks ago, so this really is impressive. Hopefully it’s the start of some great things this season for him – with that bad wrist he’s been waiting long enough! Djokovic for his part was gracious as always in defeat, congratulating Delpo, and stating quite frankly that he didn’t deserve this one!

Well as always, Indian Wells has provided us with a top week of tennis. I personally can’t wait for Miami next week, and I’m expecting more good stuff from Berdych and Delpo. Without Nadal and Federer in the draw, it’s a real chance for others to move deep into a big tournament, and these two really seem to be the closest challengers to the big 4 at the moment. It could however provide the launchpad for someone else to break through! We shall have to wait and see…

This is a guest post by Ruari Grant. This post was also published on the AndBeThere blog. You can connect to us via:

Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Our Website | Flickr | Via Email

As always, I would like to thanks Tennis-Buzz.

A few rounds of top tennis have gone by since my post about the early part of the tournament, and there has been a lot of drama! Wednesday saw what was the biggest day of tennis the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has ever seen, with all the top seeds in action (apart from Ferrer who was already out). Well none of the seeds were massively troubled making it through to the round of 16; the one match I would like to mention though is the Almagro-Haas encounter. I picked Haas to make a slight upset, and  he didn’t disappoint, coming out on top 6-3 6-7 7-6 in an epic. Great tennis from both men, but Haas really just seems to get better and better with age, and maybe that extra bit of wiliness pulled him through.

BNP Paribas Masters 4th Round

The next round however would throw up some more noteworthy results. Unfortunately for Haas, his good run wouldn’t continue as he was demolished by Del Potro, winning just three games. Djokovic, Murray and Berdych all came through in straight sets too, against Dimitrov, Berlocq and Gasquet respectively. Incidentally Berlocq’s outrageously load grunting did get on the Scot’s nerves to the extent that he had quite a rant about it afterwards. I think you’ve got to take his side really, especially seeing as the grunting was particularly sporadic.

At the bottom of the draw, Federer had a close shave, getting past compatriot and friend Wawrinka 6-3 6-7 7-5. He really should’ve closed it out when he served for the match in the second, but you’ve got to credit Stan for upping his game, particularly with an incredible backhand pass to begin the game.

Rafa Nadal would later fix the dream quarter-final as he too had a close one, eventually beating the hard-hitting Gulbis 4-6 6-4 7-5, breaking quite a winning streak that the Latvian was on. Nadal said after that his knee wasn’t so great in the match but that he was particularly pleased with how he fought and toughed it out like the Nadal of old.

Tsonga and Anderson also both came through three setters, against Raonic and Simon. Tsonga was impressive, being hampered by injury early on but still getting the better of the Canadian powerhouse. Anderson will too have been very pleased with this win, further backing up his earlier defeat of fourth seed Ferrer. He really has upped his game this year since the Aussie Open and it’ll be interesting to see how much higher he can move in the rankings.

BNP Paribas Masters Quarter-Finals

Nadal beats Federer

The Blockbuster match was of course the Nadal-Federer affair. 2004 was the last time they met this early in a tournament, so it seemed a bit strange, and the last time they had faced off was a year ago in the semis of the same tournament, the Swiss winning in 2. Nadal came into this one stressing that he really didn’t believe he had the necessary level to win; but come match day he played a superb match, winning 6-4 6-2. Admittedly Federer was having some back trouble: he was able to serve full pace but was visibly impaired in his movement. Nadal mentioned later that Federer clearly wasn’t his usual self as he didn’t appear to fight at all in the second set. However this was still a huge plus for the Nadal comeback – something from which he will surely take a lot of confidence. Federer is sitting out of Miami this year, so hopefully he’ll have ample time to rest up an recover before he returns to the European clay. 

Berdych beats Anderson

Slightly less anticipated was the Berdych-Anderson quarter-final. Berdych proved far too strong for the South African in Melbourne earlier this year and the same was true on Thursday as he came through 6-4 6-4. As I’ve said before, the problem for Anderson is that they both play very similar games, but Berdych just does everything a bit better. I think the Berdych-Nadal semi is quite intriguing. Though the Czech hasn’t beaten the Spaniard in ages, he is really on a high at the moment, playing some of his best ever tennis. He really impressed, crushing Gasquet in straights. Though Nadal is playing remarkably well considering the circumstances, I think that Berdych is the kind of player who could exploit any weaknesses which remain in his movement. This could well turn out to be a breakthrough for Berdych, who hasn’t won a masters tournament since his lone victory in 2005.

Djokovic beats Tsonga

Djokovic raced through his quarter final, ousting Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 6-3 6-1 taking just 53 minutes. He is now on a 22 match winning streak; discounting that unofficial loss to Tomic in Hopman cup, he is undefeated this year, and will be wanting another season like his famous breakout year in 2011. He only dropped 5 points on serve throughout and credited his decision to focus solely on his own game. Tsonga was understandably disappointed at his performance; he was far too inconsistent to trouble the Serb at any stage. However the positive he can take forwards is a career first quarter final at Indian Wells. He will be hoping for a slightly quicker surface next week in Miami to better utilise his serve and forehand. 

Del Potro beats Murray

Djokovic will once again meet Del Potro in the semis, after the Argentine rallied to beat Murray 6-7 6-3 6-1 on Friday night. The first set was close, with no breaks of serve and Murray was able to come up with his better tennis when it really mattered. However he stuttered in the second, losing his serve to love in the first game as Del Potro’s level increased. The disparity between the two players just got bigger from there with Murray losing his serve three times in the final set. Del Potro seemed to manage the high temperatures better than the Scot – perhaps unsurprisingly, though Murray has just spent a month in Miami training hard. I guess his lack of match practice didn’t help – I’ll be expecting an improvement come Miami. Delpo takes a 2-8 head to head into his semi with Novak, and lost to him recently in the semis in Dubai in two sets. He will surely be hoping for an improvement this time around; personally I think he might take a set at best. Djokovic’s form at the moment is simply outstanding – I can’t see anyone beating him on hard courts any time soon. 

Check back very soon – I’ll be posting about the business end of the tournament – the four players left are arguably the top four in the world right now so it should make for some great tennis!

Li Na and Maria Sharapova secure their spot in the semifinals with victories over Agnieszka Radwanska and Elena Makarova.

Nicolas Almagro leads by two sets to love, serves three times for the match, but falls to David Ferrer in 5 sets. Nerves anyone?
Disappointing performance by Tomas Berdych who loses to gluten-free Djokovic in 4 sets.

Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na qualifies for the quarterfinals.
5th seed Angelique Kerber loses to Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Her next opponent: Maria Sharapova who dispatched Kirstens Flipkens 6-1 6-0.

On the men’s side, David Ferrer schools Kei Nishikori and will meet fellow countryman Nicolas Almagro in the quarters. Berdych beats Kevin Anderson.

Stanislas Wawrinka leads 6-1 5-2, serves to lead 2 sets to love, and then is a break up in the fifth set but Djokovic recovers to win 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 12-10 in about 5 hours. But of course he’ll be up and running in the next round, we all know his secret: his gluten-free (sarcasm on).

Day 8 matches to follow:
Caroline Wozniacki-Svetlana Kuznetsova
Victoria Azarenka-Elena Vesnina
Serena Williams-Maria Kirilenko
Bojana Jovanovski-Sloane Stephens
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Richard Gasquet
Milos Raonic-Roger Federer
Jérémy Chardy-Andreas Seppi
Gilles Simon-Andy Murray