Old School Indian Wells

BNP Paribas Open

Question of the day: can I sit through a tennis match under the brutal sun at Indian Wells? Answer: No. I lasted through the first set of the quarterfinal match between Jelena Jankovic and Alisa Kleybanova then retreated to the air-cooled media room to dry off my sweat drenched body.

JJ in her beautiful lime green majesty was playing first strike tennis with Kleybanova. That’s the polar opposite of grinding and a bit surprising considering JJ’s back story as a defensive player. Her serve is still tepid but the rest of her game is more expansive than it used to be.

And Kleybanova couldn’t take advantage of JJ’s serve anyway. JJ was up a break and serving for the first set at 5-3 when she hit two double faults to give Kleybanova a break point. Kleybanova then failed to return JJ’s next serve – an 84mph(135kph) kicker.

All credit to Kleybanova because she beat Kim Clijsters to get here but she played like someone who has one lower tier title. She failed to consolidate a break late in the second set by serving up two double faults then gave up her next service game after getting flustered by a deep ball that might have been out.

Passing thought: Who’d have thought that JJ would be in the top ten while her compatriot Ana Ivanovic was #28 and dropping? Another passing thought: Is there a better retriever on tour than JJ? Clijsters maybe but JJ is so graceful it’s just a beautiful thing to watch.

While I was waiting for the shuttle to go to dinner, a group of volunteers next to me was bemoaning the boredom of their jobs. There just aren’t that many people here this year. Today’s lineup offered one top ten woman and one top ten man only and this is the quarterfinals.

All in all I’d say it’s old school week here at Indian Wells. JJ’s run has put her into the semifinals without having to face Kusnetsova or Clijsters and now 30-year-old Ivan Ljubicic is in the men’s semifinals. He’s back hitting 134mph(216kph) bombs and, honestly, that’s the problem. Ljubicic beat a Novak Djokovic exhausted by Davis Cup, Federer is long gone and Davydenko left even earlier.

I’d even call Tomas Berdych old school. The last time he won a Masters event was 2005 and he hasn’t gone past the fourth round of a slam since 2007. I feel justified in the term. Berdych took out Fernando Verdasco and you wonder how serious everyone is treating the event this year. When Djokovic was knocked out he said he was looking forward to a few days rest before Miami.

Oh well, let’s settle in and see if Berdych can push Rafael Nadal as hard as John Isner did yesterday. That would make me feel better. Maybe Rafa and Berdych will have a fight. That’d be fun too. I’ll have the full report later.