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Men lead revivals at Pacific Life Open

Oft-injured Haas beats Murray and Fish bests Hewitt. Nadal, the defending champion, defeats Tsonga in compelling match.

March 20, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Career Revival Day, male tennis division, intersected quite nicely with the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells.

But there was one distinct problem Wednesday . . . way too many options. Everywhere you turned there seemed to be someone getting off the ground, pulling a tennis career back from the abyss.

Door No. 1: Tommy Haas. Haas might as well be a baseball pitcher, having had his third shoulder surgery late last year. He beat Andy Roddick here and took another big step forward, defeating No. 11 Andy Murray, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, in the fourth round.

"In some ways you have to look at that and be pretty proud of it," said Haas, who lost to Murray in a third-set tiebreaker here last year in the quarterfinals. "I mean, it's incredible . . . playing a great week until now and hopefully more. It's worth going through a lot of pain."

Door No. 2: Mardy Fish. Fish made his first Indian Wells quarterfinal in dramatic fashion, beating Lleyton Hewitt, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (4). Fortunately, for Fish, he had a conversation here with his coach Kelly Jones about his shortcomings in tiebreakers.

"I hadn't won a tiebreaker the entire year, practice or match," Fish said. "I knew that, and we actually sat down and had a conversation about it. You know, 'Why do you think this? Why do you think it's like this?' "

Door No. 3: Rafael Nadal.

OK, the third choice is a joke, or a huge leap in logic. But the second-seeded and defending champion Nadal, who has not won a title in 2008, did get off the ground.

Then again, he was the one who dropped to his knees in open glee and relief after avenging his Australian Open semifinal loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, winning their compelling fourth-round match, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 7-5.

He rallied from a 2-5 third-set deficit, taking the final five games and winning the final six points of the match, which lasted just more than three hours.

Nadal, so lost in Melbourne, found his game in the desert.

"The victory is important for me, but the victory like this is always special and gives me confidence," said Nadal, who will play James Blake in the quarterfinals. Blake beat Richard Gasquet for the first time in three matches, winning, 6-4, 6-2.

As for the Nadal match, Tsonga assisted in the effort too, mentally unraveling in the third and said later it "was not exactly the same Jo on the court."

Like Nadal, the rematch held special significance for Tsonga.

"Yeah, it was a very important match for me, because I would like to show everybody . . . my run in the Australian Open is not lucky," Tsonga said. "I want to prove [to] everybody I can play at this level, so yeah, I'm disappointed about this."

The match had its moments of creative tension. Tsonga complained to the chair umpire about Nadal's tendency to push the time limit between points when serving and Nadal was warned once.

"When you play Rafa or Novak [Djokovic], it's difficult when they [bounce] like 25 times the ball on the ground," Tsonga said. "You are like this. You never know when he's going to serve."

Nadal said such complaints to the umpire were "not nice." He did get off a couple of humorous lines in the post-match news conference, joking about having his service broken, saying: "I break myself."

And he was amused when he heard how much Roger Federer enjoyed playing against French players. Federer had to play a non-Frenchman in the fourth round, Ivan Ljubicic, whom he beat, 6-3, 6-4.

"If I win a match 6-1, 6-1, later I say it's very nice to play against one player too," Nadal said.

"That's my opinion. . . . I think it's not French style, Spanish style or Swiss style. Every player has a different style."

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Fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova's latest victory, putting her 2008 record at 18-0, did not come without a few early bumps along the way.

She trailed, 5-2, in the first set and saved two set points, defeating defending champion and No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova, 7-6 (2), 6-1, in the quarterfinals.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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Featured matches

Today at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden:

STADIUM COURT, starting at 11 a.m.

Ana Ivanovic, Serbia vs. Vera Zvonareva, Russia

Stanislas Wawrinka, Switzerland vs. Novak Djokovic, Serbia

Jelena Jankovic, Serbia vs. Lindsay Davenport

James Blake vs. Rafael Nadal, Spain

Max Mirnyi, Belarus-Jamie Murray,

Britain vs. Jonathan Erlich-Andy Ram,Israel

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