Roger Federer lost to Marcos Baghdatis in the third round of Indian Wells on Tuesday evening: 7-5, 5-7, 6-7(4). Roger squandered two match points in the second set. He was up a break in the third. And he had a match point before the third set tiebreak! Unfortunately, Roger also had 46 unforced errors (to 41 winners.)
Roger played some extreme tennis in his two matches in the desert, his first since winning the Australian Open. Like the desert, itself, he was either blazing hot or dark and cold. The sun set early on his hopes for a title here, but – as the players say – sometimes you learn more from the losses than the wins. Tuesday evening reminded me of one of the key things that makes Roger Federer Roger Federer: He always plays to win, even if it means spraying his forehand and netting backhand after backhand. And it usually works for him in the big moments, such as his come-from-behind win vs. Tommy Haas at last year’s French Open. When it doesn’t work out, we’re still treated to those thrilling moments when Roger follows a couple ugly shanks with a breathtaking inside out forehand or an ace followed by a gravely “Come On!” Check out the 10th game of the third set last night. (If all this doesn’t work for you, repeat after me: “At least it’s not Wimbledon, at least it’s Baghdatis.”)
Both Roger and Marcos thought it came down to being passive/aggressive on court, though they assigned the roles differently (via ESPN):
Roger Federer: “I just couldn’t find the way to win. I was maybe one shot away, maybe wrong choices at the wrong time, maybe playing too passively.”
Marcos Baghdatis: “Roger was a bit too aggressive. He was missing a lot of balls. I was more calm than him.”
Marcos wasn’t so calm after his win over the world No. 1, his first in seven tries “Seven is my lucky number,” he said. (via bnpparibasopen.com)
Federer fans aren’t too jubilant after Tuesday night, but it’s hard not to smile at this reaction from Marcos:
“Best win of my career. I think that says everything. I cannot say I’m not happy. I’m very happy. A lot of emotions are going through right now. It’s the best win of my career. I lost a lot of matches against those top guys, and it’s a relief to win a match like that after being out for two years, having some tough moments. It’s a great moment for me. I’ll try to enjoy it.”
Here’s more from Federer’s press conference, which was a less festive affair:
“It was one of those matches where you play well most of the time, and don’t play well when you really have to. . .It’s a pity.“ (via The Sydney Morning Herald)
But Roger’s not beating himself up:
“It’s a very fine line. That’s why I don’t like to beat myself up too much after a match like that. You play good most of the time and then you don’t play so well when you really have to.”
“I just couldn’t find the way to win. I was maybe one shot away, maybe wrong choices at the wrong time, maybe playing too passively.” (Actually, Rog, you were one shot away – three times!)
And let’s not even talk about the tiebreaker, okay? “I should never be in a breaker, so why analyze the breaker?” (quotes via ESPN)
Carla Suarez Navarro faced a fate similar to her fellow one-hander in the last match of the evening. She was up multiple breaks throughout her match vs. Clijsters-clubber Alisa Kleybanova, but only managed to win the first set. Alisa fought hard for the 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 win – an epic battle that ended after 1:00 am.
Speaking of Kleybanova, many have remarked on her, uh, unique playing style. I had to laugh at Kim Clijster’s analysis from Monday night:
“She (Kleybanova) has not an easy technique to read, just because she — I don’t know what it is. I think she hits the ball late a lot of times, especially on the wide shots. It’s very hard to read. That’s to her credit. I mean, for her, a bigger girl, I think she moves really well.”
In other news, James Blake’s torrid run in the desert skidded to a stop today with a three set loss to Nicolas Almagro. Top seeds Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick all made it through in straights. Tsonga got past Montanes in three.
The women’s side held fewer major upsets than yesterday, with Wozniacki, Radwanska and Dementieva moving on to the quarterfinals. Sam Stosur took out the defending champ Vera Zvonareva, and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Yanina Wickmayer. Perhaps the biggest upset of the day was Jelena Jankovic’s routine 6-2, 6-2 victory over Shahar Peer.
The women’s Indian Wells quarterfinals are as follows: Kleybanova vs. Jankovic, Martinez Sanchez vs. Stosur, Radwanska vs. Dementieva and Zheng vs. Wozniacki.
In doubles action, Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal took out their buddies Feliciano and Fernando in the second round. Sam Querrey held no resentments towards his doubles partner, John Isner, after losing to him in singles; the Americans took out Andreev/Korolev. The women’s number one seeded team, Black/Huber, lost to Zheng/Chan.
Click here for more of Tuesday’s results.