Set Points, Indian Wells Day 4: Another rollercoaster day, Allertova and McHale ride the upset train

Are you not entertained? Day 4 was another wacky, wild and entertaining day in the desert. While more seeds survived than fell on day 4 at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the number two and four seeds were both vanquished in straight set losses. Many of the seeds were challenged and some battled hard, even saving match points, and will live to fight another day. Here’s my Set Points round-up of the day, again using my eyes and thoughts, and Tennis Twitter.

Set PointsThe first match of the day on Stadium 1 produced the biggest upset of the women’s tournament so far as Denisa Allertova defeated the number two seed, Angelique Kerber, 7-5 7-5. Allertova has been steadily improving on tour and is racking up the big wins, notably Simona Halep and Carla Suárez Navarro during the second half of 2015. Allertova played a clean opening set, hitting tons of winners and exposing Kerber’s lack of depth. The tide turned for a time in the second set as for the first time, Allertova wobbled. Kerber came back from *1-2 *0-30 down to hold, break and hold, to lead 4-2 in the second set.

Another turning point, and the crucial one, was when Allertova saved two set points to force Kerber to serve out the match. Allertova was back in the zone and Kerber, who lacked intensity for much of the match, couldn’t get the job done. Allertova won 10 of the last 11 points with Kerber throwing in a very tame final game.

Huge credit to Allertova who is a real talent. She’s got a big serve, weighty groundstrokes off both wings (although the forehand looks like the better shot), some nifty drop shots and most importantly of all, mentally assured… She’s a cool customer. It was a high quality match with both players producing many more winners to unforced errors. I cannot remember seeing such good stats before in Indian Wells!

While Kerber’s lack of resistance at the end of the match was very disappointing, the stats show she didn’t play a bad match. Yes, a slightly concerning loss but time to panic? In my opinion, no. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly tennis fans can turn and make reactive judgements. Kerber’s lost just two WTA matches on tour since her win at the Australian Open. Allertova is a tricky opponent and she played a superb match. It would seem that Kerber needs time to adjust to her new position and get back on track, as she has drifted from adopting the more aggressive gameplan that worked so well in Australia. Perhaps it will take longer than originally anticipated, but I think Kerber will get it together in the end…

The second highest seed to fall on day 4 was Garbiñe Muguruza… step forward Christina McHale who produced a super tenacious display to defeat the number four seed, 7-5 6-1. McHale produced an excellent display to knock out Caroline Garcia in the first round and backed it up and then some. Crucially, McHale was winning the big points. In the first set, McHale won a MARATHON rally in what would be the final game of the set up 6-5. Muguruza then flopped down set point with a dreadful miss into the net. The Spaniard is the queen of racquet smashes…

The pivotal game in the second set was with McHale up 2-0 where she saved six break points in an eight-deuce game… this seemed to snap Muguruza’s resistance. While McHale deserves most of the credit, the lack of fight from Muguruza was disappointing to see. The key stat… Muguruza hit 41 unforced errors, 24 more than McHale.

While it was technically an upset, Shuai Zhang’s victory over Caroline Wozniacki went with the form book. In the longest WTA match of the year, Zhang recovered from a set and a break down, and saved one match point, to beat Wozniacki, 4-6 7-6(8) 7-5 in three hours and 24 minutes. It was another wonderful result for Zhang whose record in 2016 stands at 15-2!

For Wozniacki, she seems to be at her lowest ebb right now. I honestly thought that she would come back in style in 2016 and I can put my hands up and say that I called it wrong. This was yet another tough loss from a winning position. I do hope Wozniacki can work it out because she’s capable of so much more… right now, things aren’t working and something has to change.

The Wozniacki-Zhang match produced the LOL moments of the day when Wozniacki complained to the umpire about Zhang’s grunt. Thanks to @MRisingStar18 on Twitter for capturing it!

In one of the many hotly anticipated matches of the day, Eugenie Bouchard defeated the number 21 seed, Sloane Stephens, 7-5 7-5. There really wasn’t much to call between the pair. Bouchard was rewarded in the first set for being a little more aggressive, particularly on return. The match looked set for a third set (and it kind of deserved it) but Stephens missed five set points, the fifth (linked below) was inexplicable ballooned long by Stephens. The American player never recovered from that as Bouchard sealed a huge win.

The other two seeds to fall on day 4 were the number 31 seed, Daria Gavrilova and the number 28, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Gavrilova led 6-2 4-1 against Magdalena Rybarikova and served for the match at 6-2 *5-4… there’s no way to sugar coat it, it was a bad loss for Dasha. It’s nice to see Rybarikova doing well though as I love her game. Schmiedlova got thumped yet again by Monica Puig, 1-6 2-6. It was an improvement from their last match in Sydney though where Schmiedlova won just one game. It’s sad to see what is happening to Schmieds this year and I just want to give her a hug!

While there were notable upsets, a quartet of seeds produced some staggering comebacks to stay in the game. The number nine seed, Roberta Vinci is cementing herself as one of the toughest players on tour to beat right now. She saved two match points to beat Margarita Gasparyan, 6-3 6-7(7) 7-6(5) in a wild and fabulously entertaining second round match. Gasparyan lost six straight points from 6-1 up in the second set tiebreak up but showed tremendous resolve to eventually win it, nine points to seven. Gasparyan was up *4-0 in the third set and had match points at *5-4, but Vinci battled back admirably. In another gripping tiebreak with both producing some wonderful winners, Vinci prevailed.

It was heartbreaking to see Gasparyan sobbing at the end. However, I actually came out of this match with even more respect for her. She gave her absolute ALL and battled with so much heart. She looked to be struggling physically at the end but never threw in the towel. I really hope she isn’t too disheartened by the loss because she’s having a great year and in my opinion, can go much higher in the rankings. Vinci’s turnaround in 2015/16 is quite something and these wins are becoming common. Victories in the last month over Timea Babos (7-6 4-6 7-6, Babos served for the match), Daria Kasatkina (2-6 6-4 7-6, Kasatkina had 3 MPs) and Gasparyan validate this.

In the final match of the day, the number 14 seed, Ana Ivanovic survived two match points, hanging on against an at-times, lethal, Camila Giorgi, 2-6 6-2 7-6(5). The number 26 seed, Sam Stosur also saved a match point, defeating Yanina Wickmayer, 2-6 6-4 7-6(6). Yanina had a real shot on her match point; she was in control of a rally, missing a forehand just wide. She may have got it if she had hit the other way but it’s easy to say that watching from the comfort of my bed. Kudos though to Yanina for her attitude. If she keeps putting herself in these positions, it will come.

And credit also to Elina Svitolina who didn’t save match points but came back from the abyss to beat Annika Beck, 4-6 7-6(0) 6-1. Beck led 6-4 5-2 and was two points from the match. I didn’t see this one but Beck won just eight points in the final set! No matter what you think about Svitolina’s game, she showed terrific battling qualities.

The number seven seed, Belinda Bencic dropped a set to Lauren Davis, but as she has done for the most part in 2016, found a way through. I have to admit I was laughing at Bencic’s battle with the net cords. Davis had two in quick succession in the third set go her way. Bencic finally got some luck with one and raised her arms in the air as if she’d just won a Major. Her emotions continue to boil at the surface, but I do enjoy watching when she starts laughing at things that happen. Davis packs a punch and while she was getting into some great positions, she wasn’t converting half the time with Bencic defending and adapting well.

A massive thumbs up to TennisTV for streaming all the matches… the opportunities are endless and I can never decide which match to watch! These past two days have been nuts. I’m relieved that there are just eight women’s matches on Sunday. Parts of the draw have been decimated but it’s been a fun tournament so far…

6 thoughts on “Set Points, Indian Wells Day 4: Another rollercoaster day, Allertova and McHale ride the upset train

  1. Lord I got it SO wrong this year with AK Schmiedlova. I honestly thought she’d be competing at the highest level.
    It’s nice to see Monica Puig playing up to her potential though. I think if she can get her game together she could be a real star on the tour. She looks like a Bond girl on court.

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    • I have absolutely no idea what’s happened to Schmiedlova this year. She looked so dejected after the first set, I couldn’t bear watching anymore. Seems to centre around the serve but her general game has dropped off a cliff.

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  2. Although I went wrong with my prediction about Kerber winning in two I’m not dissapointed. I had no chance to watch the match but the stats were not bad at all plus I’ve seen another interview where she wasn’t too dissapointed with herself. So I’m with you James – still think she will have another good tournament just around the corner. could be miami, could be charleston or stuttgart.
    I’m a little worried about Garbi though…really thought she would be a good contender in the GS this year but not entirely sure anymore.
    I like Vika’s chances now in the bottom half and think she might come through which would put her back to the places in the world rankings where she belongs.

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  3. Kerber has gone back to playing defensive tennis? she played good offensive tennis at the AO,one of the reasons she was soo successful.

    I am at a loss regarding Garbine,she has hired a great coach,though as we heard in Doha,at one of the changeovers,she had little respect for what he was trying to tell her to do,if she is not going to listen might as well part company,her UFE stats in her match were just Ugh and her lack of fight was disappointing.

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    • I think the comments about Kerber being defensive are a little lazy and also unfair to Allertova, who built a perfect balance between constructing points and getting a good early strike in. To say Angie played defensive when she hit nearly 30 winners is rather misleading.

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      • I felt Kerber was a little more passive in this match compared to at the start of the year but as you say, she still hit a lot of winners! This was partly because of Allertova and also, after watching Kerber’s press conference, I think the leg was bothering her at the end.

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