Friday, 31 March 2017

Kyrgios to play Federer in Miami

Nick Kyrgios has another chance to play Roger Federer - let's hope Miami doesn't strike him down with food poisoning like that suffered in Indian Wells, which prevented a quarter final clash with the Swiss master.

Now, with his win over Sasha Zverev in a terrific three set battle, Kyrgios has booked a fascinating semi final with Federer.  It almost was a quarter final to decide who would play Tomas Berdych, because the Czech player had mounted a tremendous comeback against Federer after an opening set thrashing 2-6.

From being fragile on serve, Berdych was untouchable in set two, winning nearly everything on his first delivery.  Playing catch up, Federer found himself down two break points in the eighth game and Berdych converted the second.
No problems serving it out to level the match at a set apiece.

The third set was as close as one could imagine, each combatant able to conjure up a break of serve.  Federer has an incredible tie break record and all bets were on him to close out the quarter final when twelve games couldn't separate the two.
However it was Berdych who took a point off the Swiss serve to lead five points to four and serve for the match.
One serve and it was 6-4 with two match points.  He couldn't seal the deal on the first, and the second was on the Federer serve.

Give Federer half a chance and nine times out of ten you're done.  Here was another instance.  From 4-6 Roger won four straight points to win the tie break, the set, the match, and break the heart of Tomas Berdych, a player who had done almost everything to deserve victory.

The women's semi finals were played and provided further proof of the high class of tennis exhibited by an increasing depth of those on the WTA Tour.
Caroline Wozniacki is playing as well, or better, than she did when she ascended to number one in the world all those years ago.

Beaten by Karolina Pliskova in the Doha final, Wozniacki appeared destined for another loss to the world number three after an absorbing first set was taken in style by Pliskova 7-5.
Undaunted, Wozniacki backed her strategy and her talent and broke down the Pliskova game for the next two sets, winning them 6-1 6-1.
Pliskova's weapon misfired badly in set two, her first serve percentage a pitiful 29%.  Wozniacki wasn't broken at all and didn't even face a break point in set three.

It would be a mistake to put this result down totally to a Pliskova failure rather than a 

Wozniacki triumph.  Both players had many highlights but the Danish twelfth seed was on fire and her pressure won out.

Johanna Konta was equally as impressive when defeating Venus Williams to reach her first Miami Open final at her second attempt.  Both players thrilled the crowd with their willingness to attack and although it was over in two sets,  the contest was close throughout with lots of exciting exchanges and winning shots.

Konta defeated Wozniacki in their only meeting at this year's Aus Open, but to predict the result of the Miami Open final with any certainty would be foolish.  The only thing close to certain is a quality tennis match awaiting us.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Konta and V Williams in Miami semis

World number one Angie Kerber has once again been frustrated, beaten at the quarter final stage of the Miami Open.
With 12 wins and 7 losses, and one semi final appearance in Dubai her best result in 2017, the top spot taken from Serena Williams is fast becoming a statistical rather than factual representation.
Interesting that it was Serena's sister who stopped the Miami run of Kerber with an impressive straight sets victory.

Venus now has a semi final appointment with 10th seed Johanna Konta, whose revival against 3rd seed Simona Halep deserves praise.
Halep took the opening set 6-3, winning an incredible percentage of points on her second serve, and had the chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the second set.

Konta was only two points from defeat before managing her revival, taking the set to a tie break which she eventually won 9 points to 7.
The deciding set was an exhibition from Konta, as Halep lost all focus and the match.
3-6 7-6 6-2 and the Australian born English player will be hard to stop from here.

Of course, others have just as valid claims, and they feature in the first of the semi finals.  Second seed Karolina Pliskova and 12th seed Caroline Wozniacki have performed well throughout the tournament, and their respective quarter finals were no exception.

Pliskova exacted some revenge for her unexpected quarter final loss to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the Aus Open in January by eliminating the Croatian here 6-3 6-4.  Ten double faults from Mirjana didn't help.
Wozniacki beat Lucie Safarova in her quarter final 6-4 6-3, and was especially solid on her serve in the second set.  She will need that in her battle with Pliskova.

One of the men's semis is confirmed and it is a surprise.  Rafa Nadal would not have picked Fabio Fognini as his opponent in the final four.
Fognini knocked out second seed and last year's runner-up Kei Nishikori in just over an hour.  This is unseeded Fognini's second appearance in a Masters 1000 semi final.
Nadal reached the final four by dismissing 13th seed Jack Sock 6-2 6-3.

The other semi final will be decided with two quarter finals, one from the old stagers Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych, the other from NewGen - Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios.
Federer last played, and beat, Berdych en route to the Aus Open crown in January, while Kyrgios played Zverev for the first time just a week or so back in Indian Wells with the Aussie prevailing.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Zverev and Kyrgios serve warnings

As expected,  the highlights on the second Monday of the Miami Open centred on two men's third round matches.
Yes Federer played del Potro and great expectations surrounded that clash.  However it was one way traffic, with the Argentine unable to crack the Swiss serve, Federer easing to a straight sets victory.

It was John Isner v Alexander Zverev and Ivo Karlovic v Nick Kyrgios that excited the South Florida crowds.
Isner served 28 aces throughout his match and he and Zverev had their serves broken only once each, both in the opening set.
Three tie breaks decided the contest, incredible serving a consistent feature.

Isner won the opening set but it was the young German who bounced back to claim the second and third tie breakers and earn a fourth round meeting with top seed Stan Wawrinka.  Stan cruised through his third round match with unseeded Malek Jaziri, winning 82% of points on his first serve.

Nick Kyrgios defeated Ivo Karlovic in three sets, and the statistics are imposing.  Always difficult to break the Croatian serve, Kyrgios managed to convert one of two chances in the first set.  Meanwhile he won all but one point on his own first serve.
Karlovic frustrated the Australian in set two, saving seven break points, and sending it to a tie break. Despite being in control for the most part, Kyrgios lost focus in the tie break and Karlovic levelled the match.

The deciding set was dominated by the serve again, and this time the tie break was all Kyrgios, seven points to two.
Kyrgios won 6-4 6-7 7-6, a tight scoreline, but he created opportunities that should have made the win somewhat easier.
92% of points won on first serve. 68% won on second serve.  9 break points on the Karlovic serve, only one converted.  

Next up is a round of sixteen clash with 8th seed David Goffin.

The women's quarter finalists have been decided, with the top three seeds leading the charge.  Angie Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep are joined by Johanna Konta, Venus Williams (winner over 7th seed Kuznetsova), Caroline Wozniacki (winner over 6th seed Muguruza who retired ill), Lucie Safarova (winner over 4th seed Cibulkova) and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Nadal wins from 0-6 down

To take a set off Rafa Nadal is an achievement.  To do it without surrendering a game is  unthinkable.  Philipp Kohlschreiber completed the unfathomable in their Miami Open third round opening set.  Nadal had an acceptable first serve percentage but the German 26th seed punished it, winning 67% of the points.
Kohlschreiber converted each of his three break points and had the fifth seed on the ropes.  

Never count Nadal out.  He turned the match on its head with a dominant second set, winning all but two points on his serve, and half of the points on Kohlschreiber's serve. The 6-2 result squared the contest and the serving from Nadal was even better in the final set - 90% first serve.  All points won on first serve. 
Kohlschreiber served well too but the only break came the way of Nadal who progressed to the fourth round 0-6 6-2 6-3.

This is one tournament yet to be claimed by Nadal, and his hopes of filling that gap improved with the withdrawal of Milos Raonic with hamstring troubles.
Joining Nadal in the round of sixteen are second seed Kei Nishikori, thirteenth seed Jack Sock and five unseeded players - Nicolas Mahut, Jared Donaldson, Fabio Fognini, Donald Young and Federico Delbonis.

Third round women's matches were completed, and all the seeded players in action progressed except for Madison Keys, who was a surprise straight sets victim at the hands of Spain's Lara Arruabarrena.
Samantha Stosur took the full distance to overcome Shuai Peng, while Angie Kerber, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Simona Halep and Johanna Konta each took only two sets.
In the only unseeded match Risa Ozaki defeated Julia Goerges to reach the round of sixteen with Kerber and co.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Federer and del Potro set to meet

More rain in Miami but not enough to prevent the completion of the day and night schedule.

Dominic Thiem was the shock exit from the men's draw, eliminated by the Croatian talent Borna Coric, who has promised so much but is yet to deliver on a consistent basis.  At only 20 years of age he could use 2017 as his breakout season.

The big guns managed to book third round spots without too much trouble.  Top seed Stan Wawrinka, fourth seed Roger Federer,  eighth seed David Goffin and twelfth seed Nick Kyrgios all won in straight sets, although Kyrgios lost the first three games of his match against Damir Dzumhur before waking up to win ten of the last thirteen.

Juan Martin del Potro won his match to set up a mouth watering clash with Federer.
Two big serving third round clashes to look forward to are John Isner v Alexander Zverev and Ivo Karlovic v Nick Kyrgios.  Don't expect too many long rallies.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands delighted American fans by continuing her giant killing run, knocking out 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  It wasn't the biggest upset in the women's event though.  
Surprise Aus Open semi finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni gave fifth seed Aga Radwanska an awful thrashing 6-0 6-3, and Radwanska has just slipped deeper into her serious form slump.

No such issues for Dominika Cibulkova, Caroline Wozniacki, Barbora Strycova and second seed Karolina Pliskova, all with straight sets pathways to the round of sixteen.
Garbine Muguruza joined them but only after dropping the opening set to Shuai Zhang.

Some great fourth round matches are set up including Wozniacki v Muguruza, and the all Czech clash between Pliskova and Strycova.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Muguruza great escape

Not a good day for a number of the fancied players in the Miami Open.  
Grigor Dimitrov, Marin Cilic, Lucas Pouille, Pablo Carreno Busta, Steve Johnson, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Pablo Cuevas all lost their second round matches after first round byes did them no favours.
Kei Nishikori, Rafa Nadal and Milos Raonic survived the carnage as the three highest ranked male players on court this day.

Despite losing Johnson, the US is still well represented in the third round with Jack Sock only needing six games before the retirement of Nishioka and the ousting of seeded players by Donald Young and Jared Donaldson.
Sam Querrey and John Isner are expected to join them tomorrow, although qualifier Frances Tiafoe may find it harder given his opponent is Roger Federer.

Elena Vesnina did finally fall to Ajla Tomljanovic, though it took three games longer than Ajla would have wanted, and a rain delay on match point.
The Garbine Muguruza comeback against Christina McHale was not the best tennis ever seen in Miami but it was compulsory viewing.  Resuming their delayed match, McHale held serve easily to lead 6-0 4-2.

Unable to produce her power game consistently, and still committing too many unforced errors, Muguruza relied on her reserves of determination to force herself back into contention, playing more conservatively, but still willing to attack if it was appropriate.

A second set tie break turned the match, Muguruza saving a match point en route to levelling things at a set all, 8-6 in the breaker.
McHale broke early in the decider, but Muguruza finished the better, completing a 0-6 7-6 6-4 victory.

Angie Kerber and Simona Halep both won, as did Svetlana Kuznetsova, Johanna Konta, Madison Keys and Venus Williams.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Rain falls in Miami as does Svitolina

The weather interrupted play in Miami and it rained on the parade of a couple of highly regarded players in second round matches.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands thrilled fans with her upset win over 9th seed Elina Svitolina.  Not so fortunate was fellow US seed Coco Vandeweghe, ousted by qualifier Jana Cepelova in three sets.

Other seeds to fall were Australian Dasha Gavrilova (23) and Croatian Ana Konjuh (29).
Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina is on the verge of defeat to Croatian born Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.  Their match was stopped with Tomljanovic serving at 5-3 and 15-15 in the deciding third set.  Ajla won the last contest between the two in the second round of Roland Garros 2014.

Christina McHale is ready to deliver the final blow to sixth seed Garbine Muguruza when play resumes.  The American has an extraordinary lead 6-0 3-2 with a break of serve in the second set.  Nothing is certain though with the Spaniard and a different approach may yet turn things around.

Of course it wasn't all bad news for the top players with Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova, Aga Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advancing to the third round.

The final men's first round matches were due to be completed, but rain prevented some from being played.  First sight of the seeded players will still come tomorrow though after first round byes.  
Nishikori, Nadal, Raonic, Ciclic and Dimitrov will be on show, plus Sock and Johnson who will headline a number of Americans.  Qualifiers Ernesto Escobedo and Jared Donaldson join Donald Young and Taylor Fritz as first round winners from the US.

The locals will also be cheering Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend and Shelby Rogers in second round women's battles.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Pliskova has weapons to take Miami

Angie Kerber has regained the number one world ranking, or more correctly Serena Williams has surrendered it to her by virtue of not competing in Indian Wells.  Serena is not swinging her racquet in South Florida either, which would normally make Kerber outright favourite for the Miami Open.

However Angie has yet to demonstrate the form that enabled her to reach three of the four Grand Slam finals in 2016, capturing two.
Instead this year the chocolates have been shared amongst a variety of women with eyes for Kerber's mantle.

Karolina Pliskova has two titles, as does Elina Svitolina.  Elena Vesnina won just last week in Indian Wells and Svetlana Kuznetsova was a close runner-up,  putting both in contention again.
Others with consistent results on the board in 2017 are Caroline Wozniacki, Kristina Mladenovic, Venus Williams and Dominika Cibulkova.

First round matches are being played in both the women's and men's draws at the moment, with all the seeded players having a bye.
Assuming second round success for the seeds, there will be some interesting match ups for the ladies.

Kerber looks to be fairly comfortable in her early matches, possibly facing Daria Kasatkina and Kiki Bertens as toughest contests in reaching a quarter final.  There she is likely to be confronted by either Kuznetsova, Venus Williams or Mladenovic,  previously mentioned as form players on the tour.
The winner of this quarter is the probable finalist, as she would be asked to defeat the winner of the weakest quarter of the draw.

Simona Halep is the third seed, and has little tennis to back up her claims in Miami, while eighth seed Madison Keys is fronting up for only her second tournament since recovering from surgery.
Johanna Konta is capable of better than recent showings and could be the one to pop up from this section, while Timea Babos did win in Budapest recently, albeit in a lower class field.

The bottom half of the draw has some exciting potential matches.  Garbine Muguruza could very well be meeting Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round, as should Elena Vesnina have to battle Dominika Cibulkova (now number 4 in the world - a career high).
Difficult to pick the semi finalist from that quality section.
I lean towards Wozniacki but any of the four would not surprise. 

Who will fill the fourth semi final spot ?  Karolina Pliskova has to be favourite, and her biggest hurdle will not be from 5th seed Aga Radwanska, because I believe the Polish player will have been ousted by 9th seed Elina Svitolina in the fourth round. (or maybe by someone else earlier)
Aga's season is, by her lofty standards, a disaster to this point.  She has dropped to 8 in the world, the lowest she has been since 2011.

Possible early thorns in Pliskova's side could be Yulia Putintseva or even countrywoman Barbora Strycova.  However, if the second seed can find consistency on serve as she had at the start of the year,  this tournament should be hers to lose.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Who can stop Federer in Miami ?

Over this week and the next the Miami Open is being contested - a Masters 1000 event on the ATP Tour and a Premier Mandatory event on the WTA Tour.

In a major blow for tournament organisers and for the public, the world numbers one and two, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will be missing, as too will world number two Serena Williams.
However, the fields remain strong, with the finalists from last week's Indian Wells tournament among many with reasonable claims for success in Florida.

Stan Wawrinka, disappointed runner-up in California, finds himself the top seed in Miami, and won't be happy that he is drawn to meet his vanquisher, Roger Federer in the semi final.  Before that possible match, though,  there are other likely hurdles, including Alexander Zverev in the round of sixteen, and either of Nick Kyrgios or David Goffin in the quarter finals.

Federer is playing some wonderful tennis at the moment, but even his path to Miami success is not smooth.  It should be del Potro in the third round, and Bautista Agut or Querrey won't be easy fourth round tasks.  Still, hurdles expected to be cleared with not too much stress.

One part of the draw which is particularly intriguing is the Nadal / Raonic quarter.  Rafa will be hurting from his thrashing at the hands of Federer in Indian Wells and happy not to have to meet him here unless it is the final.
First he will need to overcome Philipp Kohlschreiber in round three and probably Grigor Dimitrov in the round of sixteen.
A Raonic / Nadal quarter final depends on the Canadian third seed more than likely having to pass tests from Mischa Zverev and Jack Sock.

Second seed Kei Nishikori, 2016 finalist, has on paper, a somewhat lightweight section of the draw to navigate.  However, Fernando Verdasco is a dangerous prospect early in tournaments for top seeds, and Pablo Carreno Busta is potentially problematic if Nishikori meets him in the fourth round, given the Spaniard's excellent performance in Indian Wells.

The Draw Gods have allowed the possibility of another Fedal final, but I suspect that it may be Federer v Nishikori.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Vesnina and Federer claim titles

Stan Wawrinka was playing better and better as the tournament progressed, and all non Fed fans (about 14 at last count) were hoping the third seed would peak in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
No chance.  Stan stuck to the script as he has done in all but a few of the matches played against the perfect one.

Wawrinka obediently watched his master serve competently enough, but applied no real pressure, especially to the second delivery.
In fact the opening set was nothing to write home about - Federer couldn't be bothered doing much with the Wawrinka serve for the first four tries, but once he had gained a 5-4 lead he put some effort in and Stan crumbled to a 4-6 opening set loss.

Credit to Wawrinka for breaking the Federer serve immediately in set two, but Stan saw his 2-0 lead shrivel up and die with Federer upping the ante in so small measure.  Three straight games and Stan playing catch up for the rest of the set.
Roger served strongly for 6-5 and the best Stan could hope for was a tie break.  He didn't manage that, broken again in the last game of the set, and as it happened the match.

Roger Federer, in a Djokovic-like start to the year, has parcelled up both the Aus Open and the first Masters Title in Indian Wells.
With Murray and Djokovic both missing from Miami, you'd have to think that is Federer's for the taking too.
If he stays fit, a return to number one later in 2017 is not that fanciful.

The women's final was far and away the better tennis match.  Elena Vesnina was looking the winner of the first set until she lost it, and from that point always was on the comeback against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The never say die attitude, combined with some exhilarating shot making, put this revival up with the best of 2017 so far.

Vesnina was quicker out of the blocks, leading 2-0 before Kuznetsova awoke to her problems and struck back hard.  Vesnina shot ahead again by a break and even held a set point, but Kuznetsova was calm under the pressure, taking it to a tie break and winning it, the final point a lucky net cord.

Things were dire for Vesnina as she fell behind 1-4 in set two, but instead of accepting defeat, the fourteenth seed rattled off four straight games. Serving for the set, Vesnina failed the test, but she created another opportunity by breaking Kuznetsova for the third successive time.  This chance was taken and the match was levelled at a set apiece.

When Kuznetsova broke serve in the sixth game of the decider, Vesnina once more looked defeat in the face.  And once more she lifted.  From 2-4 Elena Vesnina won the final four games of the match, claiming her third career title, this by far the biggest.
6-7 7-5 6-4 three hours of entertaining tennis.
A ranking improvement for Vesnina to 13, a career high at the age of 30.

All Swiss mens final

After confirmation of an all Russian women's final, the men's BNP Paribas Open semi finals in Indian Wells resulted in an all Swiss final.

Stan Wawrinka, the tournament's third and highest remaining seed, ended the Californian run of Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in just over an hour.  The first set saw Pablo with a first serve percentage of 83 compared with Wawrinka 63. 
It didn't matter because Stan won 40% of points on the Spanish first serve, and 70% of points on his own second serve.

One break in the eighth game - his second chance - for Wawrinka was the difference on the scoreboard - the Swiss player faced no threat to his serve.  A one set lead 6-3.

Set two was more dominant from Stan.  Although his first serve percentage was poor to very poor, he still won 16 of 19 points when serving.
Again no break points were faced by Stan, but Pablo was broken twice, and the match ended 6-3 6-2 in favour of the Swiss.

Jack Sock was the last hope for America, but it only took four games for that hope to begin to be crushed by Roger Federer.  The Aus Open champion broke Sock to love, dominating from the baseline and capitalising on some untimely US errors.
A second successive break for 5-1 and it was a simple matter of serving out the first set.  Federer won twice as many points as Sock for the set which was sent FedEx to Switzerland for the cost of just one game.

Jack Sock version 2.0 was sent out for set two battle, and battle it was, neither player willing to give 2.54 centimetres.  Points won on first serve were a fraction below 90% for both combatants, 
The obvious tie break eventuated and Sock took an early lead 3-1.  Not good enough though and Federer won six of the next seven, displaying tennis of a standard hopefully matched in the final against Stan Wawrinka.

Federer defeated Sock 6-1 7-6. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

All Russian womens final

Day 12 at Indian Wells and the women's semi finals were contested, but not before Roger Federer and Jack Sock became the last of the men's semi finalists.

Federer was gifted his spot thanks to a severe bout of food poisoning experienced by his scheduled opponent Nick Kyrgios.  Sock reached there the traditional way, through winning a tennis match.

Having already eliminated Grigor Dimitrov in three sets earlier in the tournament,  Sock dismissed fourth seed Kei Nishikori, also in three sets. 
Sock has lost both his matches against Federer, including a fourth round encounter in this same tournament two years ago.  Maybe the third time will be different.

The 2017 women's final will be an all Russian affair, something unseen in Indian Wells since 2006 when Maria Sharapova defeated Elena Dementieva.
This year, Svetlana Kuznetsova will play Elena Vesnina for the title.

Kuznetsova outlasted the highest seed left in the event, Karolina Pliskova (3) in two tie breaks.  Pliskova fought back from two breaks down in set one, and 6-2 down in the tie break, only to lose the set on her own serve.
The second set was a close fought battle but Kuznetsova played a much better tie break.  Pliskova was unable to convert her powerful serve into sufficient free points, and Kuznetsova was more creative with her shot making.

Elena Vesnina gave Kristina Mladenovic the slip in both sets of their semi final, only to see her lead evaporate each time thanks to some fine tennis from the French racquet.  As she has throughout the tournament, though, the Russian 14th seed held firm.

The first set was highlighted by a solid first serve from Vesnina and an ability to win a great share of points off the Mladenovic delivery.
Set two and Vesnina claimed a two break advantage, serving for the match at 5-2.  Mladenovic broke back and began controlling the quality exchanges.  A second attempt to serve out the match was handled far better, and Elena Vesnina won her spot in the most prestigious final of her career, 6-3 6-4 the score. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Carreno Busta and Wawrinka into semi

The two men's semi finalists determined on Day 11 at Indian Wells both worked hard to reach the final four.

In a battle of the Pablos, Spain's Carreno Busta initially wiped the court with Uruguayan Cuevas,  in set one winning 75% of points on his own serve, while taking 55% of those with the South American at the line.
Cuevas had beaten Carreno Busta in the São Paulo semi finals just a fortnight ago (en route to winning the title), so this looked like the perfect revenge.

Cuevas lifted markedly in set two with a return of the Brazil form, pressuring Carreno Busta into error and levelling the match at 1-6 6-3.

In a riveting third set, the two exchanged one service break each before Carreno Busta faced the first match point at 4-5 30-40.  In a most committed fashion, Cuevas dived for a backhand, with no care that this was a hard court.  Carreno Busta saved the point with a regulation smash, and Cuevas for his effort received bloody knees and fingers.

Another match pint in the twelfth game was saved by Carreno Busta who proceeded to win the tie break 7-4 and the match 6-1 3-6 7-6.
Now a semi finalist, Pablo Carreno Busta had never previously made it past the third round of a Masters tournament.

Pablo will have to navigate past reigning US Open champ Stan Wawrinka, if he is to make the final.

Stan took three sets to finally have the better of Dominic Thiem.  
It wasn't an ideal start for Wawrinka, dropping serve in the opening game of the match, but he hit back immediately and the two played a high standard after that, apart from Thiem's deplorable first serve percentage, which he somehow managed to overcome.
Until the tenth game, where Stan pounced.  6-4 and Thiem under real pressure.

The Austrian response was expected and effective.  The first serve percentage was back with a vengeance, so much so that Thiem did not face a single break point for set two.  Instead it was Wawrinka who was placed under the spotlight - not that his level of tennis had dropped appreciably.
This match deserved to go three sets, and Thiem worked over the Swiss serve in the third game of the second set to force the decider.

Wawrinka won the first three games of set three but Thiem fought back again to level at 3-3.  No more service breaks for the match, although both players won some critical points which may have saved them.  In fact Thiem saved a match point at 5-6 and pushed the match into a tie break.
Stan played the tie break with far more composure and patience, and the relative inexperience of Thiem showed in the high pressure situation.
Wawrinka took the tie break 7-2 and the quarter final 6-4 4-6 7-6. 

Mladenovic and Vesnina impress

Day 11 ticket holders at Indian Wells received value for money as all four quarter finals played went the distance, two of the matches decided with a tie break.

First up Kristina Mladenovic had to break a few personal records in her battle against Caroline Wozniacki.  The. French 28th seed had never beaten Wozniacki in their previous three meetings, and had never reached a semi final in a Premier Mandatory tournament.
After six games history was repeating itself with the Danish former world number one leading 5-1, having saved seven break points.  Wozniacki only had two chances and converted both.  Mladenovic did eventually break the 14th seed, just once from ten attempts, losing the set 6-3 but well and truly competitive.

Wozniacki broke early in set two, but both players always looked more secure when receiving and so it didn't surprise that each dropped serve three times on the way to a tie break.  Mladenovic won the tie break 7-4 and dominated the match from that point.  
Whatever happens now, Kristina Mladenovic will enter the world top twenty for the first time after this tournament.  Her 3-6 7-6 6-2 win has earned a semi final against Elema Vesnina.

Vesnina also achieved her first semi final at a Premier Mandatory event, and had to defeat Venus Williams in the process.  Armed with the knowledge of a positive head to head record against the Aus Open finalist, Vesnina started with a bang, taking full advantage of a sluggish Williams.  Once the first three games were in her tennis bag, the Russian 14th seed rode the momentum through to a 6-2 first set thrashing.

Instead of carefully playing her way back into the match, Venus began attacking, trusting her forehand which has brought her such success throughout her career.  Vesnina now had serious competition with which to deal, and to a certain extent she managed.  However, her reliance on second serves couldn't carry the burden for the whole set and Williams' weight of winning and error creating shots was reflected on the scoreboard 6-4.

Venus broke Elena in the opening game of the decider before the Russian took over, winning five of the next six games, and having three match points on the Venus serve in game eight.  Williams saved all three and forced Vesnina to serve out the match.
In an enthralling game, Elena was down 0-40 but saved all three break points, plus another three after that. Eventually it was Vesnina who happily held onto her serve to win 
6-2 4-6 6-3.
The women's semi finals are now decided:

Karolina Pliskova v Svetlana Kuznetsova 
Kristina Mladenovic v Elena Vesnina

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Pliskova and Kuznetsova into semis

The first semi finalists have been decided in the women's BNP Paribas Open draw in Indian Wells, California.

An all Russian match up saw eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova displaying some of the tennis that won her Grand Slam titles in 2004 and 2009.  Winning all but one of the points on her first serve in set one, Sveta ensured that Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was under pressure from the start.
The two break points created were both converted, in the first and last games of the set, and 6-3 was the result.

Pavlyuchenkova broke straight away in set two but Kuznetsova didn't appreciate the two game deficit and so denied Pavlyuchenkova another game.  The 6-3 6-2 victory shot Sveta into her first Indian Wells semi final since 2008, and avenged losses in the past two meetings with Pavlyuchenkova.

The second quarter final featured Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza.  
In each of the two sets, Pliskova grabbed the initiative and appeared certain to take advantage of leads in both.
However, Muguruza fought back strongly from 1-4 in set one, often using her confidence to come to the net and finish rallies.  A tie break eventuated, and this is where Pliskova reasserted control, rushing through 7-2 and taking a set lead.

Muguruza fell behind in set two and Pliskova led 5-2 with two service breaks.  Serving for the match, the Czech third seed was struck by a Spanish response highlighted by brilliant attacking tennis.  One of the breaks was retrieved, and Pliskova failed in her second attempt to serve it out.

Another tie break was required, and sadly an engrossing battle was stopped when at 5-6 Muguruza served a double fault.
Pliskova won a terrific match and for the second successive year reached the semi finals of Indian Wells.

Men's quarter finals were decided and for the second time in their two meetings, Nick Kyrgios has beaten Novak Djokovic, preventing the number two seed from defending his title.
Kyrgios now has the chance to defeat Roger Federer, who had a surprisingly easy win over Rafa Nadal.

Other quarter final matches will be:

Pablo Carreno Busta v Pablo Cuevas 
Stan Wawrinka v Dominic Thiem
Jack Sock v Kei Nishikori 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Djokovic all class

The second Tuesday of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells served up an embarrassment of riches, especially the men's third round matches.
Although Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer were on display, it wasn't the Australian Open finalists who provided the greatest tennis delights.

Rafa certainly continued his fine vein of form with a straight sets victory over fellow Spanish mate Fernando Verdasco, while Federer found things much tougher, unable to break the Steve Johnson serve, and relying on his excellent tie break record to win, also in two sets.
It will be another Nadal Federer clash, this time much earlier in the round of sixteen.

Taylor Fritz joined Johnson as another American to bow out, a three set loser to Tunisian Malek Jaziri.
Better news for locals came from the racquets of Donald Young and Jack Sock. Young followed up his win over Sam Querrey by eliminating 14th seed Lucas Pouille, while Sock came back from a break down in the third set to end the hopes of Grigor Dimitrov (12).
Fourth seed Kei Nishikori sliced his way through another opponent, only prepared to donate four games to Gilles Muller, and will play Young in the fourth round.

The two matches which stood way above the rest were old hands Djokovic v del Potro and young guns Kyrgios v Zverev.
Zverev did some good things, mostly in the second set, but the way Kyrgios was serving, not many players could have touched the Australian.  He never faced a break point, but dominated the German who was heavily reliant on his second serve.

The warning to others on the tour was that other parts of the Kyrgios game, especially his volleying, were as sharp as they have been for some time.
The second set was a much closer contest, and the break only came in the final game of the match.

Djokovic and del Potro are proven performers at the highest level, and they did nothing to diminish their reputations in another match full of class and breathtaking shots.  
Djokovic opened proceedings by dropping his serve, but from that point the first set was his.  Ahead 7-5, the Serb momentum was halted by an Argentine comeback and the second set was vintage tennis from the pair.  del Potro grabbed two breaks of serve from the few chances available and levelled the match.
Three sets was appropriate.

Djokovic stepped it up in the decider and attacked relentlessly,  pulling off some of the finest shots of the tournament.  He broke twice more and faced no break points himself, to win his way into the fourth round 7-5 4-6 6-1.
A second clash with Nick Kyrgios within a fortnight awaits.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Indian Wells reaches 4th round

The final sixteen in the women's draw have been decided in Indian Wells and the first half of the men's third round matches have been completed.

Angie Kerber almost joined Andy Murray as a top seed on the scrap heap, but recovered from a break down in the third set to escape against France's Pauline Parmentier.
Her expected semi final opponent, fourth seed Simona Halep, was not so fortunate.  In only her second match since returning from a knee injury suffered in St Petersburg in February, Halep wasted 19 of 22 break points against Kristina Mladenovic and lost in straight sets.

Also leaving the tournament was sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who has had a terrible 2017 apart from making the final in Sydney in January.  Her loss to China's Shuai Peng was her 6th from 13 starts this year.

Impressive wins were recorded by Madison Keys, playing her first tournament this year and Caroline Wozniacki, and their fourth round encounter should be a highlight.  Venus Williams and Lauren Davis ensured that, with Keys, three Americans will feature in the last sixteen.  Their wins over Safarova and Goerges were comprehensive.

After his impressive win over Andy Murray, Vasek Pospisil failed to back it up and fell to fellow qualifier Dusan Lajovic over three sets.  Roberto Bautista Agut had to withdraw before his match with Pablo Carreno Busta and Yoshihito Nishioka continued to make use of his lucky lose  entry by knocking out another seed.  

Tomas Berdych was the victim on this occasion and he will be kicking himself, letting a 6-1 5-2 lead slip.  Nishioka saved a match point in the tenth game of set two before proceeding to a 1-6 7-6 6-4 success.

Next for the Japanese player is third seed Stan Wawrinka, who overcame Philipp Kohlschreiber. 
Monfils, Thiem and Goffin also booked fourth round spots.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Cibulkova d Kr Pliskova in thriller

Daylight saving began on the West Coast, and the stars came out to greet the moment at the BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California.

Novak Djokovic needed to bring most of his best in order to quell a determined and quality performance from Kyle Edmund.  The second seed won in straight sets but the first set was only decided by a service break in the opening game, and the second set went to a tie break.
Things don't become any easier for Novak, his third round opponent being Juan Martin del Potro.  Delpo defeated fellow Argentine Federico Delbonis to set up a replay of the Acapulco clash just over a week ago.

Nadal, Nishikori, Federer and Kyrgios all had comfortable victories, but sixth seed Marin Cilic fell to young American wildcard Taylor Fritz after winning the first set.
Not so good for another American, Sam Querrey, who suffered a let down following his Acapulco triumph, losing to Donald Young.  At least for local fans, the loss was to another American.

Third round women's matches mostly went to plan, with Karolina Pliskova (3) finding a way past Irina-Camelia Begu, in spite of herself.  The wonderful serve was broken three times, and placed Pliskova in precarious positions throughout the match.  Fortunately for her, Begu gave back enough opportunities, including 17 break points, only four of which were converted, enough though for victory.

Svitolina, Muguruza and Kuznetsova won with varying degrees of difficulty, but 11th seed Johanna Konta failed her French test, and Caroline Garcia said au revoir.

The best tennis was saved for the last match of the night, with the remaining crowd treated to one of the finest matches of 2017.
Kristyna  Pliskova, yet to achieve the heights of her sister, but improving all the while, began her match against fifth seed Dominika Cibulkova as if she was the world number three.
Winning all but one point on her first serve, and consistently outplaying Cibulkova in their exchanges with punishing ground strokes, Pliskova broke twice and wrapped up the first set in a flash.

The left handed sister was ahead 5-3 in set two and preparing, it seemed, for fourth round action against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, when Cibulkova said no.  With her renowned Slovak grit and basic tennis smarts, Domi reduced the potency of the Czech serve and gained control of more rallies.  The break back occurred and a tie break too.

Cibulkova won the tie break, and the third set was stirring stuff.  Cibulkova broke early but Pliskova struck back immediately and then it was service holds from both until 4-5. Cibulkova, serving to stay in the match, had a number of game points but was thwarted on each occasion before Pliskova gained a match point.
It was saved and eventually the fifth seed levelled at 5-5.

Cibulkova broke to lead 6-5, but couldn't serve it out, and another tie break resulted.
Eventually it was Dominika Cibulkova, who prevailed on the third of her match points.
2-6 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

Kristyna Pliskova hit 54 winners and Dominika Cibulkova 41.
However the killer statistic was the 23 break points for Pliskova, 18 of which were saved by Cibulkova, who proved that she can win when perhaps she shouldn't.

Irrespective, this was just the third round and it felt like a match at the end of the tournament such was the quality.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Tsonga and Murray out

So much for all the action happening in the bottom half of the draw at Indian Wells.

The second round men's matches began with the top half, and these included sixteen seeded players afforded first round byes.

Two seeds fell straight away - Feliciano Lopez (30) to qualifier Dusan Lajovic and Ivo Karlovic (19) to lucky loser in qualifying Yoshihito Nishioka.
David Goffin (11) and Gael Monfils (10) both surrendered a set in their matches before booking third round appointments, and Stan Wawrinka (3) shrugged off a run of poor form to easily join them.

However the shocks came with the two players expected to meet in the quarter finals.
After a semi final in Montpellier and successive titles in Rotterdam and Marseille, seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was sent packing by Italian Fabio Fognini in a three set thriller.  After levelling the match with a convincing 6-3 second set, Tsonga traded a string of service breaks with Fognini but dropped one too many and now just has the doubles on which to concentrate.

Top seed Andy Murray, whose Aus Open fourth round exit was less than acceptable, can add the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells to his list of disappointments.  Dubai success quickly forgotten now as world number 129 and qualifier Vasek Pospisil proved more than a match for the Scot in two sets 7-6 6-4.
The advantage of the lighter side of the draw now belongs to Stan Wawrinka should he continue finding his best form.

Interesting combinations have developed in the doubles tournament, not least Rafa Nadal and Bernard Tomic.  Tomic has already lost his opening round singles to an American qualifier, extending his losing run to five, and once more bringing into question his attitude, something never asked of Nadal.
The odd couple won its opening round against Carreno-Busta and Sousa.

Eight women's seeds lost their first matches, all second round encounters.  None of the highest seeds departed (Samantha Stosur at 16 the most prominent exit),  although Karolina Pliskova (3) and Elina Svitolina (10) both had to recover from first set losses.  Pliskova was a break down against Monica Puig in the decider before surging to victory.

Venus Williams (12) needed to save three match points against former world number one Jelena Jankovic, before squeezing through a second set tie break to square the match.  Once level this year's Aus Open finalist raced away with the match 1-6 7-6 6-1.

Tomorrow is star studded with the first matches for Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, del Potro, Nishikori, Dimitrov, and third round challenges for Pliskova (both sisters), Cibulkova, Muguruza, Kuznetsova, Svitolina and Konta.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Murray has gift draw at Indian Wells

For the first time since Melbourne Park in January, all the best players from the ATP and WTA tours have gathered together to hit tennis balls at each other in return for bundles of cash.  

Indian Wells will be without Serena Williams, however.  The world number one has withdrawn from this and also the next tournament in Miami.
Pulling out was late enough to require some fancy repair work to the draw, and beneficiaries are headed by Karolina Pliskova.

The number three seed has been moved into the position previously occupied by Serena, effectively giving her the top seed's run at the title.
Russian Daria Kasatkina is now seeded for the event, joining the other 31 seeds with first round byes.  Before the Williams news, she would have had to win her way to a second round match.
Funnily enough Daria will play another Pliskova, Karolina's twin sister Kristyna.

Not too many results have rocked California so far, but Lesia Tsurenko would have expected her Acapulco success to have carried on further than a first round loss to qualifier Shuai Peng.  
Ekaterina Makarova, Eugenie Bouchard and Alison Riske all lost matches to opponents with less credentials, but the major action won't begin until the top 32 join the fray in round two.

The men's draw is stacked in Andy Murray's favour.  Sitting at the top of the draw,  the world number one has Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Dominic Thiem and out of form Stan Wawrinka as fellow top ten players in his half. 

The bottom half has second seed Novak Djokovic, and he has the following top ten players with him - Kei Nishikori, Rafa Nadal, Marin Cilic, and Roger Federer.  Also there are Acapulco winner Sam Querrey, Aus Open semi finalist Grigor Dimitrov, Delray Beach winner Jack Sock, Montpellier winner Alexander Zverev, Dubai finalist Fernando Verdasco, and Marseille finalist Lucas Pouille.
Throw in Kyrgios and del Potro and it is easy to see that this is the most uneven draw in recent history.

The prospects of a third round match between Djokovic and del Potro and maybe a fourth round Djokovic v Kyrgios are terrific, but then there is the chance of Federer meeting Nadal in the round of sixteen.
Djokovic v Nadal or Federer could be a quarter final.

There is every chance that the matches of the tournament at Indian Wells 2017 for the men may be all played before the semi finals.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spain comes second - 3 times

As players from both the ATP and WTA tours prepare for the big Indian Wells tournament in California, five are celebrating significant victories over the weekend.

Andy Murray, extended his lead at the top of the world rankings after claiming the Dubai title, his first of 2017.  A scrappy start to the final, where Fernando Verdasco broke the first two Scottish serves, was fast forgotten as Murray swept through the final five games of set one taking it 6-3.
Verdasco had no hope in set two, winning only a single point on the Murray serve, and only half of those on his own.

Rafa Nadal is zero for two in finals this year, losing the Acapulco title to a dominant serving Sam Querrey.  The unseeded American threw down 19 aces in a display not unlike that reserved for Djokovic at Wimbledon last year.

The efforts of Verdasco and Querrey have been reflected in the rankings, where both have jumped back into the top 30 - staying there guarantees a seeding for Roland Garros in a few months.

Also in Acapulco, Lesia Tsurenko, the Ukrainian seventh seed, won her third career title, and in doing so, defeated each of the top three seeds.  Her final victim was second seed Kristina Mladenovic, the St Petersburg champion from January.

Australian Ash Barty has won her first singles title, capturing the ALYA WTA Malaysian Open.  Barty took a 17 month break from tennis at age 18, but now only 12 months into her comeback, she appears happier on tour, and is beginning to realise the potential shown as the 2011 Junior Wimbledon Champion.
Her straight sets defeat of Nao Hibino lifts Ash to a career high ranking of 92.

Meanwhile rain delayed the finish of the Brasil Open in São Paulo by a day, with Pablo Cuevas eventually coming from a set down against Albert Ramos-Vinolas to win for the third consecutive year. 
Albert joined Fernando and Rafa as defeated Spanish finalists.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Barty in 1st final - Kyrgios misfires

An Australian has won through to a final but it's not Nick Kyrgios.
The Malaysian Open is the scene for Ash Barty's first chance at a WTA title, and she has won her spot in the final by firstly surviving a qualifying match before ousting four main draw opponents, losing just the one set along the way.

Not only will Barty be eyeing a huge singles breakthrough, but her doubles partnership with Casey Dellacqua is once again proving among the best in the world, the pair qualifying for the final in Kuala Lumpur.  So it's been a busy and successful week for the brightest female prospect in Australian tennis.

Admittedly Ash has avoided any seeded players in the draw, but she has advanced further than the players who knocked out the likes of Carla Suarez Navarro and Caroline Garcia, so there is nothing to suggest that the Aussie could not have done likewise if necessary.

Barty will play the winner of the Magda Linette and Nao Hibino semi final.  She has never met Linette in a tour match before, and her only clash with Hibino was in 2013 in Tokyo, the Australian winning in straight sets.

Meanwhile in Acapulco, it appeared that Nick Kyrgios was set for a showdown with Rafa Nadal in the final, the Spanish second seed already there via a comprehensive victory over Marin Cilic.
Having broken the big Sam Querrey serve a second time to grab the first set, Kyrgios had all the running.

However, his concentration lapsed when ahead in his first service game of the second set.  Querrey seized the unexpected opportunity and broke for a 2-0 lead.  Kyrgios held in the third game but after that was a disaster.  Four straight games for Sam, and importantly breaking the Australian serve to win the set and be serving first in the decider.

Kyrgios was back on track and matched the American, with service breaks not even looking a remote chance.  The one break point which Kyrgios somehow managed to find on a Querrey serve was dealt with smartly, and Nick didn't face one at all - until serving at 5-6 when serving to stay in the match for a second time.
Out of nowhere 0-40, and a total misjudgement on the first match point saw Sam Querrey into the final.

Querrey has now beaten David Goffin, defending champion Dominic Thiem, and Nick Kyrgios, to reach the Nadal face off.  He must be rated a fair chance of taking the title.  Nadal hasn't won a hard court title for three years but has won this tournament in 2005 and 2013.

Kyrgios serves up a storm

I am a Novak Djokovic fan and so was disappointed to see him bow out of the Acapulco tournament at the quarter final stage.  However, always wanting to see great tennis, and being Australian, the disappointment is mitigated somewhat.

Yes it was Nick Kyrgios who handed the world number two his marching orders in their first ever meeting, and although I have consistently supported Nick's tennis brilliance, it has been difficult because he compromises his prodigious talent with unnecessary immature contributions.

Not this match.  Here was all the talent for all to see, against the best returner of serve, along with Agassi, in the modern era.  Serious Kyrgios, serving with a confidence eerily bringing back memories of Sampras.  There were several impressive things to take out of the win for the Australian, not least the fact that he defeated Djokovic playing well.
The best player in the world absorbed the pressure of 25 Kyrgios aces in two sets, and plenty of  exhilarating winners, to hold his own serve comfortably throughout - almost.

Novak wilted twice under the pressure - in the first set tie break where a double fault was the only outright mistake from the Australian racquet and the last game of the match where the Serb was broken to love.  

The only shot which failed Kyrgios was the drop shot which Djokovic punished on every occasion, but it mattered not.
Kyrgios can beat anyone when he is mentally switched on.  

There remains the "If only..." with a number of matters, and one of these surrounds finding and keeping a coach/mentor.  Someone to help deal with distractions, because Nick has yet to prove he can handle the spotlight properly singlehanded.

A win against Sam Querrey in the semi final would give Nick Kyrgios the chance to play Rafa Nadal for his first ATP 500 series title.
At the moment he is leading by a set but down two service breaks in the second, and needing to refocus quickly.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Novak over Delpo in three

Novak Djokovic, like Andy Murray in Dubai, has had to go the distance in his latest match in Acapulco. 
As many predicted, the second round encounter with Juan Martin del Potro was a crowd pleaser, with the Argentine opening in style.  His ability to pressure the world number two, as he had done in their previous meeting at the Rio Olympics, showed on the scoreboard, with two breaks of an inconsistent Serb serve in the opening set.

Djokovic returned well in the second set, and was able to use his array of winning ground strokes to full effect, nullifying the punishing del Potro forehand to a fair degree.  At a set all, the momentum was with Djokovic, and even when it switched back to del Potro in the decider, 4-3 with a break, the top seed didn't panic, instead lifting the level of tennis in order to sweep the final three games, breaking the Argentine serve twice in the process.

Djokovic earned a quarter final with Nick Kyrgios, the first match between the two, and a great chance for the Australian to learn some more, this time from the very best.
Kyrgios had a much easier path to the final eight,  dismissing Donald Young in two quick sets.

The winner will play the survivor of a quarter final between fourth seed Dominic Thiem and unseeded Sam Querrey, the latter having upset David Goffin in a second round crushing.

The other semi final will feature third seed Marin Cilic, who received a walkover from Steve Johnson, and his opponent is likely to be Rafa Nadal, the second seed taking the opening set against Yoshihito Nishioka, the conqueror of Jack Sock.

Murray survives a big scare

Dubai has turned into the Andy Murray benefit, with the best credentialed opposition falling all around him.

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Stan Wawrinka had departed the scene, and his exit was deemed so fashionable that fifth seed Tomas Berdych and sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut decided to follow his lead by losing second round matches to Robin Haase and Fernando Verdasco respectively.

Gael Monfils (4) remained the sole seed in the quarter finals in that section but he blew his chance with Verdasco continuing his charge in straight sets.
Haase and Verdasco are semi final opponents.

The biggest upset however was reserved for the great Roger Federer, fresh from his unexpected Aus Open triumph, and a comfortable first round win over Benoit Paire.  Having won the first set in quick time against Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, ranked 116, Federer trashed three match points en route to losing the second set tie breaker and let a 5-1 lead in the deciding third set tie break slip. Donskoy amazingly won the final six points of the breaker to leave Federer baffled, and having to add another current player to the list of those with which he trails head to head.  Nadal, Djokovic, Donskoy - an imposing trio.

Murray has reached the semis without playing a seeded player, Gilles Muller stumbling at the first hurdle, but Phillipp Kohlschreiber has played as if ranked much higher than his current 29.

The quarter final with Murray should have gone the way of the German number two, after he won the first set and had seven match points in the second.  However Murray knows how to extract himself from difficulty, and the elongated second set tie break which was resolved 20-18, turned the match dramatically.  In fact it broke Kohlschreiber - Murray raced through the final set and will play seventh seed Lucas Pouille for a spot in the final.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Andy and Novak are back

The top two men's players in the world are back in action but in different parts of the world.  With them are the Aus Open finalists.  Together they comprise what many once called the Big Four.

Acapulco, Mexico is alive with the presence of Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal.  The two greats have enriched the Abierto Mexicano Telcel draw which also features Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin, Nick Kyrgios, Juan Martin del Potro and Jack Sock.

Thiem is fresh from winning in Rio de Janeiro, taking just two sets to finish off Pablo Carreno Busta in the final.  Jack Sock also won last week, although his title came without needing to lift a racquet, Milos Raonic withdrawing from the final through injury.
The shock for Sock came after winning the opening set of his first round match in Acapulco.  He won just three more games against 86th ranked Japanese player Yoshihito Nishioka and instead of celebrating his return to the top twenty Jack is out of contention and remains in Mexico just to play doubles.

The other big names all won through to the second round where the match to watch above all the rest will be Djokovic v del Potro.

In Dubai, Andy Murray and Roger Federer are drawn to meet each other in the semi finals, but before that can happen some unfortunate lower ranked players will need to be removed from the reckoning.
Already Murray has taken just a small detour from his social activities to organise a farewell for Malek Jaziri 6-4 6-1, while Federer was happier once Benoit Paire left, 6-1 6-3 the exit orders.

Second seed Stan Wawrinka has been the spectacular departure from the UAE, losing his first round encounter to Damir Dzumhur in straight sets, barely offering any resistance in a forgettable second set display.

The Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco is a joint ATP/WTA show, and the WTA draw has Aus Open semi finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni as top seed.  Mirjana safely found a way into the second round, defeating Belinda Bencic, but Genie Bouchard was less fortunate, falling to Croatian-born Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
This was the first match in 13 months for Ajla, shoulder surgery having kept her on the sidelines.  Only a protected ranking allowed her entry into the tournament.

I'd suggest that on this occasion Ajla has upstaged her boyfriend Nick Kyrgios.