INDIAN WELLS: Rafa Nadal and Maria Sharapova were both knocked out of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Monday after stunning upsets at one of the world’s biggest tournaments outside the four grand slams. Nadal was sent packing by Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, (7-5) after Sharapova fell to Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 as last year’s men’s and women’s singles champions both crashed out. Nadal blew a 4-2 lead in the deciding tiebreak after the Spaniard had fought his way back from 5-2 down in the deciding third set. Nadal, will now turn his attention to the Sony Open in south Florida.
Nadal beat Dolgopolov in the final of the inaugural Rio Open last month but the Ukrainian got his revenge on the world number one in the Californian desert. “I feel great, as after every win, of course. I beat the defending champion and the number one in the world,” said Dolgopolov, whose next opponent is Fabio Fognini after the Italian saved two match points in a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 win over Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Giorgi, a 22-year-old ranked 79th in the world, made the fourth round of the US Open last year as a qualifier, but her win over the world number five Russian was the biggest of her career. “I did not play a good match at all,” said Sharapova, who dropped serve eight times and committed 58 unforced errors. Giorgi will play her countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in the next round after she beat Australian Sam Stosur 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
There were no other major surprises although Britain’s Andy Murray was forced to dig deep to see off promising Czech Jiri Vesely and avoid a similar fate. The Wimbledon champion won 6-7, (7-2), 6-4, 6-4 but only after clawing back from the brink of defeat against the 20-year-old Vesely. Murray lost the opening set despite going up an early break but then struggled on serve against the left-handed Vesely, ranked 77th in the world. The Scotsman was broken six times in the match and trailed in both the second and third sets but fought back each time, reeling off four consecutive games to seal victory. Murray will play Canada’s big-serving Milos Raonic in the next round as he bids to win one of the few North American hardcourt titles to have eluded him.
Switzerland’s former world number one Roger Federer also advanced after he was pushed all the way by Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov before winning 7-6, (9-7), 7-6, (7-2). Federer, who won his 78th career singles title in Dubai earlier this month, will play either German Tommy Haas or Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the fourth round. “I feel like I’m in a good place,” said Federer, a four-time champion at Indian Wells.
Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka extended his unbeaten run this year to 13 matches with a ruthless 6-0, 6-2 win over Italy’s Andreas Seppi in just 49 minutes before joining forces with Federer in the doubles. China’s Li Na, the top seed in the women’s draw, had no problems booking her place in the fourth round, beating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4. Despite dishing up nine double-faults and having her own service broken twice, Li was far too strong and streetwise for Pliskova, wrapping up the win with an ace. Li is looking to win her first Indian Wells title and continue her great start to the year after capturing the Australian Open women’s title. Her next opponent is Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak, who defeated Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-0.
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