Thursday, March 26, 2015

On vacation until April 4

   I'll be on vacation until Saturday, April 4. Thank you for reading NorCal Tennis Czar.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Djokovic overcomes nerves, tops Federer for title

Novak Djokovic tied Roger Federer's record of four Indian Wells titles.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS -- Take heart, hackers.
   Even the best players in the world -- indeed, of all time -- get nervous on the court. Sometimes dental-surgery nervous.
   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and former No. 1s Roger Federer and Jelena Jankovic all had the yips on Sunday in the finals of the BNP Paribas Open.
   Only Djokovic survived. 
   For the second straight year, Djokovic beat Federer in three sets for the title. This one -- 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2 -- wasn't as close as last year's 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) thriller.
   It was the first time in the tournament's 40-year history that the same two men have played in the final in back-to-back years.
   Djokovic's fellow Serb, Jankovic, also has won the BNP Paribas Open. But the 2010 champion, plagued by injuries recently, let Simona Halep off the hook in the second set and finally wilted in a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 loss.
   Halep, 23, became the first Romanian to win a Premier Mandatory tournament, the highest level on the women's tour besides the Grand Slams, and earned the biggest title of her career. She also pocketed $900,400, as did Djokovic, and became the first woman to win three titles this year.   
   Djokovic, in his prime at 27:
   --Became the 12th player in the Open Era, which began in 1968, to win 50 tour-level titles, breaking a tie with his coach, International Tennis Hall of Famer Boris Becker.
   --Equaled Federer's record of four Indian Wells crowns.
   --Became the first man to win Indian Wells twice in a row since Federer reeled off three straight titles from 2004 to 2006.
   "It's kind of a golden era in men's tennis right now, and I'm very proud to be part of it," said Djokovic, who improved to 18-20 against Federer. "I believe that a big part of my success is those matches that I have had with Rafa (Rafael Nadal) and Roger. Those two guys made me a better player."
Simona Halep won the biggest title of her career.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Djokovic had a break point for 5-2 in the second set, but Federer saved it with a service winner and held for 3-4. Federer then broke Djokovic's serve with the help of a double fault at 30-30 for 4-4 and forced a tiebreaker.
   Djokovic double-faulted three times in the tiebreaker, including twice in a row to hand Federer a 6-5 lead. The second-ranked Federer took advantage, closing out the set on the next point to the delight of the announced crowd of 16,988 in 16,100-seat Stadium 1.
   "We are all humans," Djokovic said. "We all fail under pressure sometimes. It's completely normal, even though I have so much experience. Roger, as well.
   "But it's important to bounce back. It's important to regroup, let it go and move on to the next mission."
   Heck, Nadal appears to be a nervous wreck before matches, bouncing his knee up and down while sitting in his chair.
   After the tiebreaker, television cameras caught Djokovic's hand shaking while he took a sip of water.
   "It was exactly what you saw," Djokovic confessed. "So, yeah, it happens sometimes, I guess. The body has reactions and movements that you're not in control of.
   "It was a tough tiebreaker for me. It was frustrating, and I just went through emotions. But I managed to calm down in the third set."
   Not entirely. Djokovic broke serve for 2-0 but handed it right back, double-faulting at deuce and then netting a backhand. On the changeover, Djokovic smashed his racket.
   "I could tolerate the loss of the break in the second set and maybe the tiebreak loss, but I couldn't tolerate that third break that I lost at 2-love," Djokovic admitted. "But you go through these emotional ups and downs. I just said, 'OK, this is it. Let it go. Now I have to focus and stand up in a minute and play my best.' "
Federer addresses the media after losing to Djokovic
in three sets in the Indian Wells final for the second
straight year. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Indeed, after Federer held for 2-2, Djokovic won four straight games for the match. Federer double-faulted for 2-4 after leading 40-15. Djokovic's reaction?  
   "He's human, too," Djokovic said, eliciting laughs from reporters. "I felt huge relief, to be honest. I saw I'm not the only one double-faulting under pressure."
   After Djokovic held at 15 on a 130-mph (209.2-kph) ace for 5-2, Federer fell behind 0-30 on his serve and was broken again, this time on a runaround forehand that sailed wide to end the match.
   "It was disappointing to sort of let it slip away, and next thing you know, the match is over," said the 33-year-old Federer, who never mentioned nerves during his news conference. "Novak did well to sustain the lead for most of the match. I think he found an extra gear at the end."
   Jankovic, recovering from a torn leg muscle, wasn't sure she'd be able to play in the BNP Paribas Open. The 30-year-old veteran had only two days of light hitting before the tournament and competed with her right thigh wrapped.
   Jankovic, who built a home in Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, also missed the last three months of 2014 with a back injury. 
   Both Halep and Jankovic are one-time Grand Slam runners-up. Halep lost to Maria Sharapova in last year's French Open, and Jankovic fell to Serena Williams in the 2008 U.S. Open.
   All five matches between Halep and Jankovic have gone to three sets. Halep leads the series 4-1, although Jankovic had match points in two of her losses.
Jelena Jankovic, the 2010 Indian Wells champ, leaves the
court after falling to Halep, top right. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Even though Sunday's contest began at 11 a.m. under overcast skies, it was a grueling affair that featured long rallies and 18 service breaks (nine by each player). The match lasted 2 hours, 37 minutes as the temperature reached a high of 86 degrees (30 Celsius).
   "I don't know how I won today because I didn't play my best," conceded the third-ranked Halep, who compensates for her small size (5-foot-6/1.68 meters and 132 pounds/60 kilograms) with consistency and tenacity. "I just wanted to fight until the end because I think that is the most important thing for my style, for myself."
   Like Djokovic, Jankovic led by a set and 3-1.
   Explained Halep, who advanced to the final when Serena Williams withdrew on Friday night with a knee injury: "The first set was strange for me because I didn't play a match for three days. It's really tough to go straight to the finals."
   Furthermore, Halep took a medical timeout after the first set for foot blisters.
   Jankovic was two points from winning while serving at 5-4, 30-30 in the second set, but Halep won three straight games to level the match.
   "I think at the end of the second set, I got a little bit nervous," the exceptionally friendly, down-to-earth Jankovic, who rose from No. 21 to No. 17 in the new rankings, said in her raspy voice. "I got a little bit tentative, and that was my big mistake. ...
   "We all get nervous. It's part of being a professional athlete. It's just a matter of how you control it. I let those nerves take the best out of me. That shouldn't happen."
   Jankovic, 5-foot-9 1/2 (1.77 meters), lost her last four service games in the second and third sets.     
   "My arm was super heavy," admitted the 5-foot-9 1/2 (1.77-meter) Jankovic, who committed nine double faults overall. "I could not even lift it. I don't know if you guys know, but if you play sports and get nervous, this is what happens. ...
   "I mean, I'm human. I was so excited to (try to) be the champion once again like I did in 2010. Unfortunately, it didn't happen."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Djokovic to play Federer in 'ultimate final'

Novak Djokovic routed Andy Murray 6-2 6-3 in the
semifinals at Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS -- Roger Federer is most closely associated with Rafael Nadal.
   After all, Federer owns a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and Nadal is tied with Pete Sampras for second with 14.
   But the most compelling rivalry in men's or women's tennis might be Federer vs. Novak Djokovic -- even with Federer approaching the end of his career at 33.
   Djokovic and Federer -- ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively -- will meet for the 38th time and in the BNP Paribas Open final for the second straight year after recording straight-set victories today.
   "It's the ultimate final right now that I can have," Djokovic, 27, said after beating fourth-ranked Andy Murray today by the surprisingly one-sided score of 6-2, 6-3. "He's probably the (opponent) that is in the best form. In the last 12 months, he's been playing some of his best tennis."
   Federer, who defused the powerful serve of sixth-ranked Milos Raonic 7-5, 6-4, said he's "happy I can still hang with (Djokovic). I must be quite honest, because he's in his absolute prime right now, and I enjoy the challenge of him. I hope he enjoys my challenge."
   Sunday's Djokovic-Federer showdown will follow the women's final between third-ranked Simona Halep and No. 21 Jelena Jankovic. ESPN will televise the matches beginning at 11 a.m.   Federer is 20-17 against Djokovic and 10-23 against Nadal. The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is pretty good, too, but Djokovic has won four of the last five encounters.
   Federer and Djokovic, meanwhile, have alternated winning their last eight matches. The span includes:
   --Djokovic's 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory in last year's Indian Wells final.
   --Djokovic's thrilling 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 win in the 2014 Wimbledon final.
   --Federer's withdrawal in the title match of the ATP World Tour Finals last November because of a back injury.
    --And Federer 6-3 7-5 victory in the last meeting three weeks ago in Dubai, where the Swiss star has a residence.
Roger Federer advanced with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Milos
Raonic. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "He's tough, as we know," Federer said of Djokovic. "He barely misses. He moves great. He makes you go for the extra shot. This is one of the great hard-court players we have seen in tennis."
   With a win on Sunday, Djokovic can tie Federer's record of four Indian Wells singles titles.
    "Of course, it means a lot to me or to any player to make history," said Djokovic, who's tied for eighth with eight Grand Slam singles crowns. "That's (extra) motivation, I can say. It doesn't play a decisive role on how I'm going to approach the match, but it does motivate me."
   Djokovic beat Murray for the sixth straight time, including a four-set victory in the Australian Open in January. This was the most lopsided score in the series, which Djokovic leads 17-8, since the Serb won  6-0, 6-4 in 2008 (not counting a second-set retirement by Djokovic in 2011).
   "I thought I played solid, with the right intensity from the beginning," said Djokovic, who's one week younger than Murray. "Good first-serve percentage (58). Got some free points there in the important moments."
   Murray still is trying to recover from the hoopla surrounding his 2013 Wimbledon title, ending a 77-year drought by British men, and from "minor" back surgery later that year. He trailed 3-0 in each set against Djokovic.
Vasek Pospisil, left, and Jack Sock
won their first Masters 1000 title.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "That obviously makes it tough against the best players," said Murray, the runner-up to Nadal at Indian Wells in 2009. "Novak didn't give me any free points at the beginning of either of the sets, and I made a few too many errors early on. Then I started to play a bit better and was able to push him a bit but not enough to make it challenging for him."
   Converting only 47 percent of his first serves didn't help, either, against the best returner in the game.
   "I didn't serve so well today compared to how I served for the rest of the tournament," Murray lamented.
   Similarly, Raonic was unhappy with his first-service percentage of 57 against Federer, who ran his record to 9-1 against the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Canadian.
   "I wish I would have served a higher percentage," Raonic said, "but I felt like when I was putting in my first serve I was doing a good job. I don't think I mixed up my second serve enough."
   Federer earned the only breaks of the match at 5-5 in the first set, as Raonic committed two unforced errors from 30-30, and in the opening game of the second set.
   "I'm very happy how well I'm playing," said Federer, who improved to 16-1 this year. "I feel good physically. Obviously, I feel refreshed after (a) holiday. I'm serving well, which is always crucial."
   Raonic wouldn't pick a winner. But he spoke for the tennis world when he said, "It will hopefully be something I can watch."
   In a matchup of teams with one Grand Slam men's doubles each, eighth-seeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada and Jack Sock of Tampa, Fla., edged unseeded Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-4, 6-7 (3) [10-7] for their first ATP Masters 1000 title. 
Sania Mirza, left, and Martina Hingis took the women's doubles crown
in their first tournament together. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Pospisil and Sock won Wimbledon last year in their first tournament together, and Bolelli and Fognini triumphed at this year's Australian Open.
   Top-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Sania Mirza of India, playing their first tournament together, outclassed second-seeded Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-4 for the women's doubles crown.
   All four players are past Indian Wells doubles champion with various partners, and all except Mirza have won at least one Grand Slam women's doubles title (Hingis nine, and Makarova and Vesnina two each). Mirza, at least for now, will have to settle for her three mixed doubles crowns in majors.      

Friday, March 20, 2015

Serena withdraws; Raonic saves 3 MPs, upsets Nadal

Serena Williams addresses the media after withdrawing
from the BNP Paribas Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS -- It couldn't happen again.
   But it did.
   A Williams sister withdrew shortly before her semifinal in the BNP Paribas Open.
   Serena Williams, who had boycotted the tournament for 14 years, pulled out of tonight's match against Simona Halep with inflammation and pain in her right knee.
   Halep, seeded third, will meet resurgent Jelena Jankovic, seeded 18th, in Sunday's final. Jankovic, a former world No. 1 and the 2010 BNP champion, beat 24th-seeded Sabine Lisicki 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
   Halep, 23, is 3-1 against Jankovic, 30, with three straight wins. In addition, Jankovic is recovering from a torn leg muscle.
   Earlier today, sixth-seeded Milos Raonic saved three match points in a 4-6, 7-6 (10), 7-5 victory over third-seeded Rafael Nadal, a three-time BNP champion, in the quarterfinals. That prevented the first "Big Four" semifinals since the 2012 Australian Open.
   Williams' withdrawal was the third premature exit in the BNP Paribas Open in two days. On Thursday, qualifier Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine retired with an ankle injury with Jankovic leading 6-1, 4-1, and 32nd-seeded Bernard Tomic of Australia pulled out of his quarterfinal against top-ranked Novak Djokovic with a back problem and infected wisdom tooth.     
   Williams, 33, said she felt pain in practice two days ago and received an injection before her scheduled match, but it didn't help.
   "I have never done an injection before," a cordial, upbeat Williams told reporters. "I think if this was any other event, I probably wouldn't have considered it. I wanted to give 200 percent. It just wasn't meant to be this year."  
   Williams rated her pain level as "9 or 10" on a scale of 1 to 10 but said she needed only two days to recover. She added that she hasn't decided whether to defend her title in Miami, which begins next week.
   Williams addressed the fans in Stadium 1 about her injury and received mostly cheers and a few hoots. It was almost as if Williams was testing the crowd after the 1991 controversy.
Milos Raonic blasted 19 aces at up to 147 mph (236.6 kph)
in his victory over Rafael Nadal. Photo by Paul Bauman
   That year, Venus Williams withdrew 20 minutes before her scheduled semifinal against Serena with knee tendinitis. Fans were upset that they got a doubles match instead, and some suspected that Richard Williams had orchestrated the withdrawal so his daughters wouldn't have to play each other. Also, Richard Williams said fans directed racial comments at him.
   Serena, then 19, was booed loudly throughout the final against Kim Clijsters but won her second title in the tournament. Venus still hasn't returned to the BNP Paribas Open.
   The Serena-Halep semifinal was supposed to be the second match of the night session, following Jankovic-Lisicki. But because the afternoon match between Raonic and Nadal lasted almost three hours, the night session actually kicked off with a men's doubles semifinal. Williams-Halep was not replaced with another match or exhibition.
   Serena said she did not fear talking to the crowd.
   "I think both myself and the crowd have a great appreciation for each other, and I have really enjoyed my four matches here," she said.
   Regarding the irony of both sisters withdrawing from semifinals in the tournament, Williams said: "I don't make anything of it. I feel that was 14 years ago, and this is now. I did the best that I could at this event, and I really am happy to have put a lot of that behind me."
   When asked whether she will return next year, Williams said, "I think it's going to be a must."
   Raonic needed 2 hours and 58 minutes to subdue the valiant Nadal for the first time. Raonic had been 0-5 against the Spanish star, although the last meeting, in the quarters at Miami last year, went to 6-4 in the third set. Nadal won the first four encounters in straight sets.
   In Saturday's semis, the sixth-seeded Raonic will face No. 2 Roger Federer, and No. 1 Novak Djokovic will play No. 4 Andy Murray.
   Federer, who owns a record four Indian Wells titles, dismantled No. 9 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-0. Djokovic and Murray advanced on Thursday.
Nadal, who was plagued by health problems last year, is getting
closer to top form. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Federer is 8-1 against Raonic. But, just as against Nadal, Raonic extended the victorious Federer to 6-4 in the third set in their last encounter. That occurred in the Brisbane final in January.
   Djokovic leads Murray 16-8, including a four-set victory in the Australian Open final in January. Murray, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, is still returning to form after undergoing "minor" back surgery in September 2013.
   With Nadal standing practically in the next country to return serve on many points, the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Raonic blasted 19 aces at up to 147 mph (236.6 kph) and saved six of the seven break points he faced. He was broken for the only time in the tournament to trail 2-1 in the first set.
   All of the match points against Raonic came on his serve in the second-set tiebreaker. He converted his first serve on the initial two match points, winning on a forehand approach and an overhead. There wasn't much Nadal could do about either.   
   The third match point, at 10-9, was another story. Raonic missed his first serve and hit -- by his standards -- a powder-puff second delivery at 101 mph (162.5 kph). Nadal mis-hit the return into the net with a forehand.
   "That was a big mistake," conceded Nadal, 28. "That's the only (regret) during the whole match."
   The left-handed Nadal missed three months last summer with a right wrist injury and underwent an appendectomy in November. He ended a nine-month title drought in Buenos Aires on clay three weeks ago.     "Maybe with more victories on my shoulders, (after) being outside of the competition for several months, maybe I will win that match because I will not play a return like this," Nadal said.
   "But is normal that you are a little bit more nervous in that moment than usual. It's true that I didn't compete at that level of intensity for a long time. This is a big improvement for me. I was very focused, playing with positive energy for three hours." 
   Raonic broke Nadal for the only time in the match for 6-5 in the third set on a floater that landed just inside the baseline. By the time Nadal retreated to the ball, he could only flick a backhand long.
   Raonic then served out the match. He showed little emotion during the battle or afterward.
   "That's just the way I am," said the 24-year-old Canadian, widely considered as a potential Grand Slam champion. "It's really great what I was able to do today, and I'm very happy with it, but I don't let myself get caught up, because this isn't where it ends. There is a lot more that I want to achieve this week.
   "It's always about what I need to do next to get better. It's always been like that."
   Raonic took some pleasure in ending talk of a "Big Four" semifinals.
   "I guess (it's nice), because you want to prove people wrong in that sense," said Raonic, who won the last four SAP Open titles (2011-13) in San Jose before the tournament folded. "But I can't control what people say. I just try to get in my own system, in my own bubble, and focus on things that I do have control over." 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lisicki ousts defending champ in BNP thriller

Sabine Lisicki reacts after saving three match
points in a 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) victory over Flavia
Pennetta in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells.
Photo by Paul Bauman
    INDIAN WELLS -- Sabine Lisicki and Flavia Pennetta seemed like unlikely candidates to produce a classic today in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open.
   Sure, Lisicki reached the 2013 Wimbledon final at 23 years old, losing to Marion Bartoli.
   And, yes, Pennetta won last year's BNP for the biggest title of her career.
   But this was their first career meeting, Lisicki was 1-6 this year entering the BNP, and she hadn't won a match in the tournament in seven years.
   Meanwhile, Pennetta had broken down in tears during her three-set victory over second-seeded Maria Sharapova in the previous round.
   Still, Lisicki and Pennetta played the match of the tournament, with Lisicki prevailing 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) in 2 hours, 40 minutes. Pennetta saved a match point serving at 4-5 in the second set, and Lisicki survived three match points on her serve at 4-5 in the third set.
   "It was great to be part of a match like that," gushed Lisicki, a German seeded 24th.
   Pennetta, a 33-year-old Italian, expressed mixed feelings afterward.
   "I think it was a really good match," said the 15th seed. "We played really well the third set both, and was a good fight until the last point. Everything happened tonight. Match point for one, match points for the other one.
   "Sport is like this. Tennis is like this. I'm happy about the match, but of course I am upset, because when you are there, you want to win it."
   Pennetta showed no signs of the emotional turmoil that overwhelmed her after the first set of her 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Sharapova, a two-time Indian Wells champion.
   "In that match, I just pass the point where you have to (let) everything out," said Pennetta, who never specified what troubled her. "Today, I was perfect in the court and ready to do the match and ready to fight, and I think I did that." 
Lisicki prepares to hit her powerful fore-
hand. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The match in 16,100-seat Stadium 1 began slowly with numerous errors and service breaks, but it picked up dramatically when Pennetta served 4-5 in the second set. From then on, the players engaged in many breathtaking rallies featuring laser groundstrokes.
   On match point against Pennetta, she missed her first serve. Lisicki pounced on the second delivery, but Pennetta kept the ball in play and won the point with a forehand passing shot down the line after a tremendous rally. 
   The crowd grew in the third set as the afternoon match extended into the night session. When Lisicki ripped a forehand cross-court passing shot after making several incredible gets, the fans gave her a standing ovation.
   "It's always great to play in front of a full crowd," Lisicki said. "That's what I play for. That's the best thing that can happen."
   Lisicki, who set the record for the fastest women's serve (131 mph or 210.8 kph) in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last summer, escaped the match points against her with a 117-mph (188.3-kph) service winner down the middle, a forehand cross-court passing shot set up by a strong serve, and a 111-mph (178.6-kph) service winner down the middle.
   "I just stepped up to the line and believed in my serve," Lisicki said of the three points.
   After Lisicki aced Pennetta with a slice out wide to end the thriller, she dropped to her knees and put her head in her hands. And after embracing Pennetta at the net and shaking hands with the chair umpire, Lisicki again put her head in her hands.
   Who could blame her, especially the way her year had gone?
   "I had a tough start to the season losing three close three-setters in a row," Lisicki said. "Even my preseason was good, and we had a feeling we were doing the right things off the court, working hard.
   "Somehow, it didn't pay off yet, but we kept working. I have a great team behind me. They kept telling me that I'm doing the right things and that they believed it will pay off. It's nice to see that it's starting to pay off finally."
Pennetta saved a match point while serving
at 4-5 in the second set. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Lisicki will face 18th-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in Friday night's first semifinal. Top-ranked Serena Williams, returning to the tournament after a 14-year boycott, then will meet No. 3 Simona Halep of Romania.
   Jankovic, a former world No. 1 who won the BNP title in 2010, defeated qualifier Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-1, 4-1, retired (ankle). Tsurenko had beaten three seeds in a row, including seventh-ranked Eugenie Bouchard and No. 10 Andrea Petkovic for the first top-10 wins of her career.   
   On the men's side, half of a potential "Big Four" semifinals is set.
   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic advanced when 32nd-seeded Bernard Tomic of Australia withdrew with a lower-back injury and infected wisdom tooth. No. 4 Murray improved to 10-0 against No. 12 Feliciano Lopez with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
   In Friday afternoon's men's quarterfinals, second-seeded Roger Federer will meet No. 9 Tomas Berdych, and No. 3 Rafael Nadal will take on No. 6 Milos Raonic.
   In tonight's men's doubles quarterfinals, eighth-seeded Jack Sock of Tampa, Fla., and Vasek Pospisil of Canada ended the two-year reign of top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan, 6-4, 6-4.
   It was a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, also won by Sock and Pospisil. However, they fell to the Bryans one month later in the Cincinnati final. 
    The Bryans will play for the California Dream, Sacramento's new franchise in World TeamTennis, this summer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lopez, 33, upsets Nishikori to reach BNP quarters

Feliciano Lopez, ranked a career-high No. 12, slugs
a forehand in his victory over No. 5 Kei Nishikori.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS -- Feliciano Lopez is playing the best tennis of his career at the advanced age of 33.
   The Spaniard, ranked a career-high No. 12, took out No. 5 Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6 (2) today to reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in his 13 appearances.
   Lopez, a 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) left-hander, blasted 12 aces in the 95-minute match. Nishikori, the U.S. Open runner-up last September, played in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open for the first time. 
   "I had one bad game at 5-4 (in the first set)," the 25-year-old Japanese star lamented. "Until then, I was playing better. He was hitting good serves, but I had all the chances. But just one bad game at 5-4 -- I think that's all that matters in today's match."
   Lopez will meet fourth-seeded Andy Murray, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the windy 2009 final, in the quarters. The other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw will be No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic against No. 12 Bernard Tomic of Australia. In the bottom half, No. 2 Roger Federer will play No. 9 Tomas Berdych, and No. 3 Nadal will face No. 6 Milos Raonic.
   Djokovic and Federer eliminated the last remaining U.S. men in singles. Djokovic held off No. 18 John Isner 6-4, 7-6 (5), in the second match of the night session, and Federer dismissed Jack Sock 6-3, 6-2 in 69 minutes in the last match of the day session.   
Nishikori played in the fourth round at Indian Wells for the
first time. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Isner defeated Djokovic, 7-6 in the third set, in the 2012 semifinals at Indian Wells before losing to Federer in the final.
   The 33-year-old Federer, who owns a record four singles titles at Indian Wells, earned his 50th career victory in the tournament today.
   Still, it was an encouraging tournament for Sock, 22. Playing in his first tournament of the year after undergoing hip surgery in mid-December, he reached the fourth round of an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, the highest level other than the Grand Slams, for the first time.
   Tomic, also 22, outlasted 18-year-old countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
   Kokkinakis was trying to become the eighth teenager (since 1987) to reach the Indian Wells quarterfinals. Four of the others are in the International Tennis Hall of Fame (Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Jim Courier), and the other three will be (Nadal, Djokovic and Murray).
   Meanwhile, top-ranked Serena Williams and third-seeded Simona Halep advanced to a semifinal meeting.
   Williams defeated 27th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3 to end the Swiss player's winning streak at 15 matches. Halep topped 12th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to moved into the Indian Wells semis for the second straight year.
   The other two women's semifinalists will be determined on Thursday. No. 15 seed and defending champion Flavia Pennetta, another 33-year-old, of Italy will face No. 24 Sabine Lisicki of Germany. No. 18 Jelena Jankovic, the 2010 champion, will meet qualifier Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.

Ex-Sacramento champion banned for 15 years

Wayne Odesnik, playing in the Napa
Challenger last September, committed
a second doping offense. Photo by
Paul Bauman
   INDIAN WELLS -- Wayne Odesnik's career, it appears, is over after a second doping offense.
   The 29-year-old Floridian was suspended for 15 years after testing positive for several banned substances, including steroids, in December and January, the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and United States Anti-Doping Agency announced today.
   Odesnik, who won the 2007 Sacramento Challenger at the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club, served a one-year suspension in 2010 for possession of human growth hormone.
   A 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) left-hander, Odesnik is ranked No. 267 in the world. He reached a career-high No. 77 in 2009. 
   ''Bye bye Wayne... Good riddance,'' tweeted Andy Murray, a two-time Grand Slam champion.
   After beating Adrian Mannarino of France 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open, Murray said, "I think it's good for tennis to get him off the tour because we don't want that being part of the tour."