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BILL DWYRE

Kim Clijsters, Francesca Schiavone, Jelena Jankovic lose at BNP Paribas Open

No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka advance, but No. 2 Clijsters retires from her match. Six of the top eight seeded women are out. Andy Roddick advances to the round of 16.

March 15, 2011|Bill Dwyre
  • Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark returns a shot during her victory over Alisa Kleybanova at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Tuesday.
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark returns a shot during her victory over Alisa… (Danny Moloshok / Reuters )

Were it not for Caroline Wozniacki, No. 1 player in the world, the women's tennis draw of the BNP Paribas Open would pretty much be a worthless piece of paper.

Nor was Wozniacki a shoo-in, on a Tuesday when the Nos. 2-, 5- and 6-seeded players joined Nos. 3, 4 and 7 in the category of shocking early departures.

Wozniacki, the Dane who would have lost her top ranking with a loss and a victory by No. 2 Kim Clijsters, emerged from the rubble with ranking in place and a reduced obstacle path to this prestigious women's title. That is worth $700,000, or $89,000 more than the men's title.

Wozniacki lost the first set in her fourth-round match against Russia's Alisa Kleybanova, 6-2, and then prevailed, 6-3, 6-1. It was a long match, five minutes shy of two hours, on a stifling day, but Wozniacki was so unaffected by those conditions that she ran on the treadmill for 20 minutes after she finished.

Next, she will play her longtime friend, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who is seeded No. 8, making her Wozniacki's top remaining numerical challenge.

This all happened because Australian Open champion Clijsters, defending Indian Wells champion Jelena Jankovic (No. 6) and French Open champion Francesca Schiavone (5) joined the scrap heap of casualties from previous days that included 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist Vera Zvonareva (3), 2010 French finalist Samantha Stosur (4) and this year's Aussie finalist Li Na (7).

Suddenly, Nos. 2 through 7 had results that didn't measure up to their resumes.

Clijsters, who had made the final of the previous five tournaments she'd played, never got to the end of her match. She won the first set against France's Marion Bartoli, 6-3, then defaulted at 1-3 of the second because of a shoulder injury. She had first felt the injury as she won the Australian this year, and finally decided that the pain was telling her to stop now, rather than risk more damage.

"It is something where I'm like, yeah, can I take some painkillers for it and not feel it during the match. Yes, I think so," she said. "But I don't want to risk tearing it."

Jankovic lost to another Serb, Ana Ivanovic, also a former champion here, 6-4, 6-2.

"I felt like my game was not really there," Jankovic said. "She was the better player."

Schiavone played No. 10 Shahar Peer for 2 hours 46 minutes in one of her characteristic fight-till-you-drop efforts. But Peer never caved, and won in one of the better matches to date in the tournament, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3). Peer won 118 points, Schiavone 114.

Azarenka, at No. 8, had the ultimate struggle, a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) marathon victory over No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. That match time was 3 hours 4 minutes.

Fortunately for her, Azarenka will get a day off before taking on Wozniacki, who is the ultimate baseline grinder and who dismissed the significance of the bracket disaster below her.

"The girls that are left means they have been playing good tennis so far," she said.

Etc.

Wednesday's schedule is certainly a first for this tournament, or maybe even the Grand Slams. The night matches have No. 1 Rafael Nadal playing India's Somdev Devvarman at 7 p.m., followed by No. 2 Roger Federer facing young U.S. player Ryan Harrison. Seldom do tennis ticket-buyers get both superstars in one session. . . . Harrison, 18, won his third match here, and his third main-draw match of the season, a 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 thriller over Canadian phenom Milos Raonic. Harrison hit an ace on his fourth match point. . . . Another possible first, or at least a rarity: Nine of the top 10 men's singles players are playing doubles here, including Nadal and Federer. On hand to watch fellow Spaniard Nadal play doubles Tuesday night was the Lakers' Pau Gasol. . . . Andy Roddick was the last to work his way into the Round of 16 Tuesday night with his 7-5, 6-2 win over John Isner. Roddick, who lost in last year's final to Ivan Ljubicic, is seeded No. 8 and is on Federer's side of the draw.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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