Nadal, Sharapova out of Indian Wells

RISING STARS::The Spaniard and the Russian failed to defend their titles in California after being ousted by lower-ranked rivals Dolgopolov and Giorgi respectively

AP and AFP, INDIAN WELLS, California

Wed, Mar 12, 2014 - Page 20

Defending champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova were upset in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Monday.

First, Sharapova went down to qualifier Camila Giorgi, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, giving the young Italian her first victory over a top-five player. Then, Nadal followed on the main stadium court, losing 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) to Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.

Nadal staged a furious rally in the third, winning three straight games — including a break of Dolgopolov — to tie it at five before both players held serve to send the match into the tiebreaker.

They slugged it out from the baseline to a noisy soundtrack, with fans yelling and cheering. Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol watched nervously from Nadal’s box as his compatriot led 4-2, before Dolgopolov won three straight points to take a 5-4 lead. The Ukrainian then hit two forehand winners and came up with a big service winner.

“I had enough breaks to win the match, but I didn’t play enough well from the baseline then to be solid with my serve,” Nadal said.

The Spaniard evened it at five-all, but hit the ball long to set up a match point. Dolgopolov served what he thought was an ace, but it was called out. He challenged the call and it showed the ball barely missed tagging the T. Dolgopolov put his second serve into play and produced a cross-court forehand that the world’s top-ranked player could not return.

“It’s a moment for the people to be proud a little bit for someone from their country,” Dolgopolov said, referring to the political upheaval in Ukraine. “It’s good to make some results and make the people forget a little bit and have some happy moments in the news.”

Last month, Nadal defeated Dolgopolov to win the Rio de Janeiro title, but the Ukrainian has risen quickly in the ATP Tour rankings, going from No. 57 to 31st after a strong showing last month, during which he recorded three wins against top-20 players in Rio and made the semi-finals in Acapulco.

Before Nadal was sent packing, Sharapova committed 58 errors in her first loss to a player outside the top 30 since Wimbledon last year.

“She’s someone that doesn’t give you much rhythm,” Sharapova said. “She’s quite aggressive, but some shots she hits incredible for a long period of time. Sometimes they go off a bit. If I’m speaking about my level, it was nowhere near where it should have been.”

Ranked 79th in the world, Giorgi made it through qualifying to play Indian Wells for the first time and has now improved to 3-2 against top-10 opponents. The 22-year-old led 4-2 in the final set, but Sharapova broke Giorgi twice to tie it at five.

“I was trying to just play my game and maybe I accelerate more than the other set,” the Italian said. “I just play more aggressive.”

Giorgi then broke Sharapova at love before serving out the match, overcoming her 11th double-fault to set up match point. The victor had 48 unforced errors and 24 winners.

Awaiting Giorgi in the fourth round will be fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta, who beat No. 16 seed Samantha Stosur 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Tied four-all in the third, Sharapova was broken when her forehand was called long.

In the men’s singles, Andy Murray outlasted Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 in his second straight three-set match, while four-time tourney champion Roger Federer defeated 27th-seeded Dmitry Tursunov of Russia 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/2) with an ace on match point.

Murray had 47 of the 99 unforced errors during the nearly three-hour match in the heat of the Southern California desert.

Federer held on through two tiebreakers to beat Tursunov in what was not a dominant performance from the former world No. 1 and 17-time Grand Slam champion.

However, the match did showcase the confidence he has regained with a strong start to this year after a disappointing — by his standards — campaign last year.

“Now I feel like I’m in a good place. Zen on the court,” Federer said. “I know what my solid level is. Even if I won six and six today, I just feel like I was calm and served for the set — OK, got broken, still managed to stay calm.”

Federer broke Tursunov to open the match, but was broken as he served for the set at 5-4 before winning the tiebreaker. He recovered an early break in the second set before dominating in the second set.

Federer arrived in California on the heels of a victory in Dubai, where he beat Serb Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals and Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the final.

That win was his first title in nine months and backed up a solid semi-final showing at the Australian Open, where he posted wins over the UK’s Andy Murray and Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“It’s just good to beat top-10 players from time to time,” he said.

In the women’s singles, top seed Li Na downed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4, while the US’ Sloane Stephens beat 11th-seeded Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (3), 6-4.