By Jane Voigt
Maybe our expectations are all screwy.
We’ve heard nothing but fabulous reviews about the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with all its updates, like a walkway of a couple hundred Date Palms that makes you feel as if you might have flown, without ever knowing, to a mysterious plaza in the United Arab Emirates.
But then you catch a couple day matches, retire to the comfort of your hotel for a meal and evening viewing all stretched out comfy cozy on the king size bed, and the same sensation overcomes you, the one you felt court side earlier — These aren’t very good matches.
Take yesterday’s match between Maria Sharapova, the No. 4 seed and defending champion, and Qualifier Camila Giorgi, which you know by now Sharapova lost, 63 46 75. It was a ridiculous unfolding only bearable because of on-court tension.
Here was a 4-time Grand Slam champion across the net from a compact spark-plug of a woman unwilling to defer to Sharapova’s greatness and potential to blow her little Italian socks right off the Plexipave IW court. Sounds like a blockbuster, right? Hold on.
“I did not play a good match at all,” Sharapova admitted to the press. “I started very poorly. Never played against her, but she’s someone that doesn’t give you much rhythm. She’s quite aggressive.”
Sharapova double faulted 9 times and Giorgi 11 times during the match. A good coach might consider one double fault per set acceptable. The tall Russian hit three times that limit. And, Giorgi … well, forget it. She might be half the size of Maria, but her serve stung. And, she put all she had into second serves, to her credit, coming up with a healthy 43% for the match.
They performed their poor-serving show at the most inopportune moments, too. For example when Sharapova served for the match in the third. But don’t shine the spotlight on Giorgi too quickly. She needed two swipes at the ‘w’ to get the job done.
“It was a really good match,” Giorgi said in her press interview. “I think so. I mean, wasn’t too consistent, but was great.”
To be fair, sloppy play spread to the men’s game, too.
Andy Murray grabbed his back so many times yesterday you’d think he hadn’t had back surgery, that the pain was as real as prior to his trip to the hospital last fall. Murray, the No. 5 seed and reigning Wimbledon Champion, was a stratosphere from good tennis against Jiri Vesely — the youngest player in the top 100. Double faults from the Scotsman: 5. He’s lucky to have squeaked the win: 67(2) 64 64.
“The match was a frustrating match,” Murray began. “It was that sort of match where at no stage did either of us play well at the same time. I started well; he started off badly. He missed a lot of easy shots. Then he started playing consistent, and I started missing.”
Fabio Fognini (No. 13) and Gael Monfils (No. 23) should get an award. They chalked up 88 unforced errors, as they mystified the near-capacity crowd on the dazzling new Stadium 2 court yesterday. Breaks of serve were so frequent you might have thought this was an exposition, like for fun. But neither man smiled much. Fabio did carry on quite a conversation with himself at a changeover. He was asked later at the Tennis Channel desk what exactly he said out loud to himself. He couldn’t quite articulate the meaning. To be fair, if he could have answered in Italian the words would have flowed like pure extra virgin olive oil.
Neither man could grab the reins of the match. Monfils was up a break in the third and seemed to be on cruise control. Then … he hit a succession of double faults, ending his afternoon’s loss with 10. He connected with 8 aces, but no one likes a deficit. Scoreline 62 36 75. Fognini advanced to face Alexandr Dolgopolov (No. 28), the Rafael Nadal slayer.
So what’s going on?
Maybe it’s the heat and the slow courts, plus many haven’t played since the Australian Open. They aren’t match tough.
Here’s Rafael Nadal’s explanation. “I played bad. That’s all. I did all what I had to do to be in good shape. But since I started the competition here I didn’t find the right feelings. I played two opponents that probably didn’t help me to get the rhythm in the tournament. I lost today. That’s it. Life continues.”
Draw your own conclusions, but seems like nobody’s got rhythm.