Sat, Mar 19, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Nadal struggles to Indian Wells win

SOME YOU WIN...In the women’s tournament, China’s Peng Shuai gave Maria Sharapova a fright, while Caroline Wozniacki benefited from her opponent’s misfortune

AP and AFP, INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA

Rafael Nadal celebrates winning a point in a third set tie-break against Ivo Karlovic during their match on Thursday in Indian Wells, California.

Photo: Reuters

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal struggled past big-serving Ivo Karlovic 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7) on Thursday to reach the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals for the sixth consecutive year.

Nadal, who won on his third match point when Karlovic’s forehand sailed long, set up a semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro today. The Argentine progressed when his opponent Tommy Robredo of Spain withdrew before the match because of an abductor muscle strain.

“The match was the first one that I felt really that even if I play well, I can lose,” said Nadal, who will be aiming for his third title at Indian Wells. “That’s always hard to go on court with this feeling.”

Nadal led 5-2 in the tiebreaker before Karlovic tied it up with a backhand volley winner. The Croat came up with the same shot to spoil Nadal’s first match point.

Nadal set up his second match point with a forehand that landed just inside the sideline, but his forehand error allowed Karlovic to tie it 7-7. Nadal’s forehand winner in the corner gave him a third match point and he finally converted on Karlovic’s error.

“You lose a set against Karlovic and you are under pressure the rest of the games,” Nadal said. “In the third, I didn’t have chances. His serve was unstoppable. In the tiebreak I was really nervous. I returned fantastic in the tiebreak, but I didn’t put one first serve on the court.”

Karlovic had hardly been playing like his No. 239 ranking. He beat three seeded players to reach the quarter-finals, and pushed Nadal before finally losing.

On the women’s side, top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki reached the semi-finals when Victoria Azarenka retired with a hip injury while trailing 3-0 in the first set.

Wozniacki next plays Maria Sharapova, who outlasted China’s Peng Shuai 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to reach her first semi-final of the year after missing the last five weeks with a viral illness.

Sharapova needed more than two hours to overcome Peng in a match that featured 13 service breaks. They traded breaks in the first four games of the third set. Serving at 3-2, Sharapova won the final four games of the match, clinching it with an inside-out forehand off Peng’s second serve.

“I was playing really well for the first set and a half and then really let her back in the game,” said Sharapova, who had 13 double faults. “She’s a really aggressive player and puts a lot of pressure on from you the first point, and if you’re not the one doing that it becomes dangerous. The most important thing is I got myself together and I focused and regrouped.”

Peng, ranked 36th in the world, was not disheartened by her loss.

“I was really happy to get into the quarter-final here, but I think today Maria played a tough match,” Peng said. “In the third set I have a chance, but she play well.”

“I just have to keep going, and there are a lot of things I have to improve on. I will just try to practice more and keep going,” she said.

Wozniacki was up 2-0, 30-0 when Azarenka called for a trainer.

The Belarussian lay on the court and had her upper left thigh massaged before she took a 10-minute medical timeout.

Azarenka returned with her left thigh wrapped. Wozniacki resumed serving and won the next two points to go up 3-0 before Azarenka signaled she was done.

During their match, a Japanese flag was tied to the chair umpire’s tower and written on it in black marker was, “Our thoughts are with you! Caroline and Victoria.”

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