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Play Takes a Wind Fall

March 15, 2005|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

When the desert meets tennis, cover your eyes and hope for the best.

Tennis balls weren't the only flying objects at the Pacific Life Open on Monday. Winds gusting in excess of 40 mph created havoc with the umbrellas on the court, turning them inside out.

During the Maria Sharapova-Dinara Safina third-round match, the cap of one ball kid went flying across the court before the start of the third game. Players would step up to the service line at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and try to slip in a serve, almost like darting in and out of traffic lanes.

"It was the worst I've been in," top-seeded Lindsay Davenport said. "I've never held up for like 45 seconds just praying for one second of reprieve. It was bad."

Despite the weather woes -- wind being the supposed equalizer -- the top players adjusted, and conditions improved later in the afternoon and evening. Davenport defeated Meghann Shaughnessy, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, and the third-seeded Sharapova beat Safina, 6-2, 6-3, in an all-Russian encounter.

"Not too good for tennis today," Sharapova said. "I guess it is Mother Nature. You can't really do too much about it. But it was very unexpected because in practice it wasn't that bad. But when you got on the court, on the stadium, it wasn't like it was one direction. It was moving around.

"I guess I just had to hold on. The first three games were pretty ugly. It's just a matter of getting used to the conditions."

Sharapova, 17, recalled her first trip to Indian Wells. She received a wild card in 2002 at age 14, and played Monica Seles in the second round.

"I lost, 1 and 0 [actually 6-0, 6-2], but I thought I played so good," Sharapova said. " 'There's something wrong here.' ... I remember first two games were really, really difficult against Monica. Deuce, I had break points. You just think you're playing so good. But the top people, they're not worried, 'Oh, I lost a break.' But they know what to do."

In the fourth round, Sharapova will face Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia. Zuluaga recorded a mild upset, defeating No. 13 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-2. Hantuchova, who won this event in 2002, had saved six match points in her opening match against Anne Kremer of Luxembourg.

Others advancing on Monday were No. 6 Nadia Petrova of Russia, Mary Pierce of France and two wild-card entrants, 16-year-old Viktoriya Kutuzova of Ukraine and 17-year-old Jessica Kirkland.

Kirkland defeated Jill Craybas, 6-3, 6-3, and will play No. 7 Nathalie Dechy of France in the fourth round. Dechy beat Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (4).

"I haven't really put any pressure on myself this tournament, so that's helped me," Kirkland said. "Jill's a consistent player, solid off both sides. I just had to go for my shots and try to hit a lot of winners."

Davenport spoke about the long line of Russian players and the new ones emerging at Indian Wells, as well as the young Ukrainian, Kutuzova, who beat Amy Frazier, 6-3, 6-3.

"They keep coming, more and more," Davenport said. "... Personally, I think it's amazing and quite an accomplishment that they all came up with different styles and pretty friendly, were able to all come up at the same time."

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