Djokovic sinks Fish in Exciting Pacific Life Open (3/08)

The Pacific Life Open once again brought all the best players in the world to beautiful Indian Wells, Ca.  For the second year in a row, the Pacific Life Open’s attendance topped 300,000, with the final total of 331,269. Attendance has grown by ten fold since the beginning of the event in 1976 when 30,000 people attended the tournament.  The all-time day (21,512) and night (16,386) session attendance records were set on Saturday, March 15, making this event the most-attended tournament in the world outside of the four Grand Slams. 

     In one of the best all around tournaments this event has ever had, Novak Djokovic (pictured below) came out the winner on the men’s side while #1 Ana Ivanovic (pictured below) won the women’s singles beating #2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. Lindsay Davenport played well but had to retire in her quarterfinal match vs. Jankovic who then lost to countrywoman Ivanovic. Kuznetsova ended Maria Sharapova’s unbeaten 2007 in a tough 3 set match.

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     Many matches went the 3 set distance while Andy Roddick became an early round exit losing 6-4, 6-4 in a tough draw match and draw with Tommy Haas.  Haas came in unseeded after his ranking dropped from his shoulder surgery and inactiveness.   He looked very sharp after his injury and is looking to get back into the top 10-20 as time goes on this year. 

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      The surprise of the tournament was American Mardy Fish (pictured above).  He came out of nowhere to reach the finals of this Masters Series tournament.  Fish came in ranked just below the top 100 but upset seeded players one after another.  After a first round win against unseeded German Florian Mayer,  Fish toppled two strong Russians- #31 Igor Andreev and #4 Nikolay Davydenko  in straight sets.  Then came Lleyton Hewitt from down under.  Hewitt had been playing some good tennis and was coming off strong wins vs. Sam Querrey and Mikhall Youzhny.   Hewitt lost the first set to Fish but rebounded to take the second.  The third set was like a yo yo but Fish prevailed 7-6 in the tiebreaker.  That win put him in the quarterfinals vs. the tough Argentine David Nalbandian.  In another very close match, Fish and Nalbandian each traded match points before Fish came through again in front of the roaring home crowd.  Then came the match that would end his run vs. Mr. Federer.  Nobody believed in their right mind that Fish even had a chance.  Predictions were would Fish get 6 games total in the match.  It turned out that Federer got only 5 games losing 6-3, 6-2 in one of the biggest tennis upsets in quite sometime.  Fish played flawless while Federer lacked his usual dominance and presence on the court.  I asked him after each of his matches about his health and he told me every time he felt fine.  He even mentioned his game had returned to his form of last year after he went through some health issues and dealing with Mono. I also asked Roger in one of the press conferences for his plans this year with the Davis Cup and the Olympics and he answered he plans to play in both and his country is important to him. He had many coaches and training in his Swiss homeland and feels it is important to help his country.  He had no answers for Fish and gave him a lot of credit. Djokovic ended the Fish run in the finals but not before that went to a 3rd set. as the Serbian was just too tough.  It seemed like Fish had the momentum after dropping the first set and then prevailing in the second set but it wasn’t meant to be. Still it was Fish’s best tournament ever and his ranking will improve tremendously. 

     Some of the other top 3 set matches in the dessert included Spaniard Tommy Robredo defeating Chilean Nicolas Massu in a close second round match up.  Ivan Ljubicic then took care of Robredo.  Federer then dispatched Ljubicic in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals.  His next match was going to be vs. Tommy Haas who had an impressive showing in this tournament. .  After Haas took care of Roddick,  he claimed 3 set wins over Verdasco of Spain and a revenge match vs. Andy Murray who beat him here last year.  That last match was big but it may have took a toll on Haas.  After a tough win, Haas was feeling confident leading up to his quarterfinal match with Federer.  However about noon time the day of the match, Haas withdrew with a sinus infection, which was very disappointing.  Many players would not complain about getting a day off but Federer mentioned it threw him off and he was out of sync in his match vs. Fish because of the walkover.  More 3 set wins included wild card Mario Ancic bouncing #12 seed Fernando Gonzalez who has been slumping.  Ancic then lost a 3 setter in the tiebreaker to Juan Carlos Ferrero.  Nalbandian then trounced Ferrero in the quarterfinals.  While Djokovic had a relatively easy time reaching the quarters dismantling Canas, and Wawrinka to reach the quarters, the other side featured two of the best matches.  Nadal beat Jo –Wilfried Tsonga to avenge his Australian open loss in a rugged, thrilling, shot making match 7-5 in the 3rd set.  This match was so entertaining as the young Frenchman gave Nadal all he could handle and served for the win before he was broken at 5-4.  Tsonga gave the crowd much pleasure from his all out play and emotion but fell short in the end.  He will be tough as time goes on and has reached the top 20 now.  He will likely be featured in the next Davis Cup vs. the USA. 

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Nadal (pictured above) next would face rival James Blake who has never lost to him.  There seemed to be a different energy as Blake split the first 2 sets with Nadal and then came out flat and Blake’s chances were not forthcoming as he lost 6-3 in the final set.  I asked James after the match about falling short and he was obviously disappointed but he said he had a few other good victories before the Nadal match and he had his chances but didn’t come through.  I asked what he plans to do next and he replied to go to Florida as he lives there to prepare for the Miami tournament before the Davis Cup on April 11-13th in Winston Salem, NC.  He had a nice lopsided win vs. Gasquet of France whom he will likely meet in one of the singles matches.   After the match in the pressroom, Nadal seemed happy and composed while answering questions. He admitted Blake was a tough opponent for him because he hits the ball so hard and makes him work.  He was very modest and gave Blake some great respect, which was very classy.
That set up what was supposed to be a spectacular semi final between Nadal vs. Djokovic but it was one sided as Nadal couldn’t keep up with the #3 seed and lost 6-3, 6-2.

In the men’s doubles, the Israeli team seeded #4 of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram beat the #3 seeded team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the finals.  The #1 Bryan Brothers lost in the 3rd  The women’s doubles team of Safina and Vesnina beat Yan and Zheng in the finals.  round to Mirnyi and Murray. This tournament had it all!  Great tennis, huge crowds, many upsets, beautiful weather and many exciting 3 set matches.  Don’t miss out next year and get your tickets early.

Next up is the Sony Erickson Open in Miami followed by the Davis Cup quarterfinals.  More information/results and tickets next year at www.pacificlifeopen.com

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