By Maud Watson
Just when many of us thought that Andy Murray was poised to step it up and perhaps legitimize his place in what some have dubbed “The Big Four,” he goes and loses in his opening match at Indian Wells. It’s no disrespect to his opponent, Garcia-Lopez, who played a solid match beginning to end. But no matter how you slice it, this was an unacceptable defeat for Murray if he wants to take that next step and win a major. It was also a surprising loss to say the least. He entered Indian Wells in a much more positive mindset than in 2011, and he was certainly in better form. The only positive for him is that he lost in the same round last year, so he’s not losing any points. Then again, he missed the opportunity to gain some ground on Federer. All eyes are sure to be on him in Miami, which marks the first real test of Lendl’s influence. The Scot needs to bounce back immediately, or he’s apt to revert back to the Murray of old.
Hang the Rulebook
Michael Llodra’s actions and words spoke much louder in Indian Wells than anything coming off of his racquet, with the Frenchman garnering a $2500 fine for verbal abuse towards some fans and officials. While it’s understandable that the governing bodies of tennis have a need to be uniform when doling out punishments, it’s still time to look at upping the fines for this type of behavior. It’s one thing for a player to swear in general, and it’s another thing when they’re leveling their anger at someone else. It also shouldn’t matter, as some have argued otherwise, whether the abuse is directed at an official on court or a fan. Nobody should have to put up with that, and unfortunately, it seems to be becoming a more frequent occurrence. Until the powers-at-be start handing down larger fines that will get more attention from the players, this type of behavior is likely to continue.
She’ll still solidly be ranked inside the Top 10 come Monday, but a teary-eyed Caroline Wozniacki appears to be falling apart at the seams. Her latest defeat comes at the hands of 2008 Roland Garros Champion Ana Ivanovic. An in-form Ivanovic has more than enough game to defeat the Dane, but the drubbing she handed her fellow former No. 1 was still surprising. It’s as though Wozniacki is unsure of what to do out there, and if she hasn’t figured it out already, that defense that took her No. 1 isn’t going to cut it anymore. The game is quickly passing her by, and she should take a page out of her friend Aggie Radwanska’s book by biting the bullet and letting her dad go in favor of a new coach. If she doesn’t do something soon, her ranking will only continue to slide.
It’s taken a few years, but Ana Ivanovic may be truly on her way to returning to the upper echelons of the game. After dismissing Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets, the Serb turned around and did the same thing to No. 7 seed Marion Bartoli. Ivanovic showed signs of returning to her top form at last year’s US Open, and she’s backing it up nicely here at Indian Wells. It’s difficult to imagine her getting back to the very top, but there’s no reason to think she can’t get back into the Top 10, or even Top 5, and earn a few more Grand Slam singles titles along the way.
The Invisible Opponent
It’s amazing that the BNP Paribas Open has been as enthralling as it has been, given that it has unfortunately been hit with a rash of withdrawals. The cause of the pullouts is a nasty virus that has attacked the men and women in equal measure, making itself felt in more ways than one. Fortunately, we’ve all continued to be treated to some world-class tennis, and fingers crossed that the virus hasn’t traveled with any of the sick players as they make their way to Miami for the second Masters 1000 event of the year. With a few more of the sport’s top stars signed up to compete, Key Biscayne is likely to be as exciting, if not more so, than Indian Wells.