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It's moving-out day at Indian Wells

Pretenders are sent packing and the BNP Paribas Open gets down to the serious contenders.

March 19, 2009|BILL DWYRE

As day wandered into late night and several thousand tennis balls were de-fuzzed in the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday, the Other Guys jockeyed for position in the men's singles draw.

The Other Guys are those not named Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.

They are the aspiring, the glass-half-full men, all waiting for lightning to strike. They are great tennis players in their own right, but if this were the Academy Awards instead of a tennis tournament, they'd all be Best Supporting Actors.

Like golf, tennis has a moving day. That was Wednesday at Indian Wells, the day the quarterfinals were set.

Federer got there early in the day. The world's No. 2 player beat Fernando Gonzalez in three sets, making his career record against the Chilean 12-1 and losing only his sixth set in 37 against Gonzalez. Federer said he was OK once he was able to find Gonzalez's backhand, which he did frequently in breaking serve twice in the final set.

Presumably, based on the way he has played lately, No. 1 Nadal was in the quarterfinals too. He was scheduled to play Argentina's David Nalbandian, who has beaten him in both their previous meetings, in the last match of the night. It was to begin at 9 p.m., but was pushed back closer to 11 by long matches preceding it.

Throughout the day and night, the Other Guys battled through adversity, heat and happenstance. They were the tennis Bee Gees, just Stayin' Alive.

Make that five of six who battled through adversity, etc.

Scotland's Andy Murray, ranked No. 4 and giving the Brits something more than hollow hopes for a homegrown Wimbledon champion, barely got a good sweat going. He won the first set at 6-2, then took the match when Tommy Robredo of Spain defaulted with a wrist injury at 0-3.

Out on a back court, surviving for 3 hours 6 minutes while saving five match points and looking at the end as if he'd been through a washing machine, No. 74 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, who turns 30 today, beat No. 23 Igor Andreev of Russia.

And his reward? A match against a younger, fresher Murray at 1 p.m. today.

The player ranked a notch above Murray, and the defending champion here, had plenty of work of his own on the Stadium Court. Novak Djokovic beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, the Olympic gold medalist in doubles with some guy named Federer.

It took two tiebreakers, and on match point, Djokovic hit a first serve that was called out. He challenged the call, the camera showed the ball ticking the line, and Djokovic had won. Match point by Hawkeye.

Federer's quarterfinal opponent in tonight's 7:30 p.m. prime spot will be a hard-hitting, left-handed Spaniard. No, not that one. Not yet.

Fernando Verdasco, who has worked his way up to No. 10 and who really got the attention of the tennis world when he battled Nadal for 5:14 in the Australian Open semifinals before losing, got through in three sets over Phillipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

"My expectations already are so good to be in the quarterfinals," Verdasco said.

Then he keynoted the sentiments of the Other Guys, his six quarterfinals compatriots.

"Now, I will try to do more," Verdasco said.

Well after the sun went down, Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Roddick joined the club.

Del Potro is a 20-year-old Argentine who has quietly played his way up to No. 6. At 6 feet 6, he was actually three inches shorter than his opponent, John Isner. Like Djokovic, Del Potro won with two straight tiebreakers, and that ended the run of the 23-year-old Isner, who entered the tournament on a wild card and was No. 147.

Roddick needed more than two hours to subdue Spain's David Ferrer in three sets. Roddick, the current best (only?) hope for U.S. men's singles tennis glory, is No. 7, Ferrer No. 12.

When the day was done, sometime after newspaper deadlines, it was settled.

Besides the Federer-Verdasco and Murray-Ljubicic quarterfinals today, Djokovic will face Roddick and Del Potro the Nadal-Nalbandian winner Friday.

If Nadal's match went as expected, the headline for this men's tennis event will be the same as it has been for some time now: Six other guys, chasing two.





BNP Paribas Open


Stadium Court (starting at 11 a.m.)

Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland, vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia; Ivan Ljubicic, Croatia, vs. Andy Murray, Great Britain (not before 1 p.m.); Ana Ivanovic, Serbia, vs. Sybille Bammer, Austria (not before 2:30 p.m.).


Playing into the night

Bill Dwyre reports on Wednesday's late match between Spain's Rafael Nadal and Argentina's David Nalbandian.

Dinara Safina loses

Her bid to become the top-ranked women's player falls short after a three-set upset by Victoria Azarenka.

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