The heat rose in the Coachella Valley desert in the men’s singles semi finals with both matches going to a final deciding set. Besides No.3 seed Rafael Nadal, all players had already achieved their best result at Indian Wells or were within 1 win of doing so. Soderling and Ljubicic were vying for a chance to win their first ever ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. Roddick would dearly love to win in front of his home crowd to claim the one major title to elude him on American soil.
The 1st semi final was between the defending champion and Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in which Nadal was up a set and had numerous chances to break Ljubicic to go up a break of serve and 4-2 in the 2nd set. Up until this stage the 20th seeded Ljubicic was struggling with nerves and his timing in all aspects of his game, especially his forehand ground stroke, which he dumped into the bottom of the net a few times.
After the match Ljubicic referred to that stage of the match as the key to his victory. The 31 year old said, “I think that [sixth] game in the second set when I served down love/40 was the key to the match. After I relaxed a little bit I started to play more aggressive, and that was it. I think he played some incredible points. I felt like, ‘What is this?’ I mean half volleys, winners off the baseline. It was impressive. I knew if I keep serving well and playing aggressive with my service games I would have a chance maybe in the end to win.”
The best tennis of the match by far was played in the final set when both players were fiercely competitive all the way through to the tie-break. Ljubicic took it out by 7 points to 1 and later said it was, “the best tie-break of my career”. Ljubicic defeated the former World No.1 from Spain 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) in 2 hours and 34 minutes. Ljubicic surpassed the best result by a Croatian at Indian Wells by eclipsing Goran Ivanisevic who made the semi finals in 1996.
“Probably the best I’ve ever played in my career. I enjoyed it, really… Great, great moment, and the fourth Masters finals, four different Masters, so I hope this one, it’s finally gonna be the victory,” said of his win over Nadal and his performances at the 2010 BNP Paribas Open. Ljubicic beat Nadal in their 1st meeting back in 2005 but had lost the next 5 times in a row.
In the 2nd semi final No.7 seed Andy Roddick was up against No.6 seed Robin Soderling of Sweden who has achieved a rapid rise since the Roland Garros in 2009. Soderling was looking to go 3-0 up against Roddick in their head to head matches. The 27 year old American came out showing he was able to maintain his calm and controlled manner that always allows him to achieve his best results. The former US Open singles champion went up a set and a break of serve in the 2nd set to lead 2-0.
The 25 year old Swede won 6 of the next 7 games to level the match. To break Roddick’s serve, Sodering won a 27 shot rally to earn a 5-3 lead in the 2nd set. Roddick won the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in 1 hour and 46 minutes mostly because he won 14 of the last 18 points to take a 5-2 lead in the deciding set. Up to that stage of the set he was very controlled and committed only 2 unforced errors. Soderling helped Roddick by playing from a very defensive court position in the final set, which really contributed to his own demise and had a very negative impact on his critical winners to unforced errors ratio.
The Indian Wells Men’s Singles Final will be played on 21 March at 2pm local time in California on Stadium 1. The American goes into this match with a 7-3 advantage in his previous meetings with Ljubicic. The last match they played was 3 years ago here at Indian Wells. Roddick won 2 tie-breaks 9 points to 7 & 10 points to 8. The former World No.1 has the home ground advantage where the American fans are sure to be very vocal in supporting Roddick.
Ljubicic was elated with his come back victory over Nadal. Despite the fact that the level of play he has achieved in this event is superior to Roddick’s, you cant help but feel that Ljubicic may be a little too relieved and satisfied with the great results in Indian Wells. The shorter and lighter Roddick in comparison has displayed unparalleled desire to go all the way. If Ljubicic can reset his desire and determination to make the most of this opportunity late in his career then he will win the title.
We are set for a great final which will be a battle of the big servers and aggressive games. The player who serves better under pressure and is able to capitalise on any break points they can earn against their opponent’s serve and can better manage the heightened pressure and mental battles that a final presents, will emerge the champion. Ljubicic is pictured above in the early stage of preparing to play an overhead smash and his named is pronounced LOO-bii-chitch.
OCA’s prediction to win the 2010 Indian Wells Men’s Singles Final is Roddick.
Stay tuned to this tennis website for further information and results at Indian Wells for both the men and women’s events. Click this link for more details -> Indian Wells 2010: March 12-21.
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