ESPN Tennis: Indian Wells

Alexandr Dolgopolov was 0-5 against Rafael Nadal coming into their third-round match at Indian Wells, including a loss in the Rio final two weeks ago. But the 25-year-old from Ukraine not only proceeded to beat the world No. 1 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) but did it after losing a 5-2 lead in the third set and being 4-2 behind in the third-set tiebreaker. A look at five things that helped him do it:

1. He was clutch when it got close

Even after going from 5-2 to 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, Dolgopolov didn't write himself off. "I knew I'm playing well enough to win," he said. "The point was not to get too nervous."

And though his first-serve percentage was only 40 percent, Dolgopolov came up with 11 aces, and, he noted, "those big moments, I had a lot of good serves."

2. Different day, different surface

In Rio de Janeiro, on clay courts, Dolgopolov played error-prone tennis and made it close only when Nadal was serving for the match. At Indian Wells, it was almost the other way around.

"I think I played much better today," he said. "It was hard court. I returned well and I had a day to practice with a lefty, so there was a lot of differences."

3. He's being coached by his father again

The Ukrainian's unrestrained variety and shot-making make him entertaining to watch -- but hard to coach.

Dolgopolov says that so far he has found only two people he feels comfortable working with, one of them his father -- an established tour coach who taught him the game. After trying out Fabrice Santoro at the beginning of the year, Dolgopolov is back with his father for the first time in a few years.

"Mostly I'm coached by my dad now," he said. "I think it's not for people to understand some different game. Some people have their view on tennis, and if they coach someone, they try to make him play like they want."

4. He's in good shape again

After making the quarterfinals of the 2011 Australian Open and being in the top 20 for two years, Dolgopolov struggled last year but says he is now well-positioned to move back up.

"Last year, I didn't really have good preparation," he said. "I was injured after Australia. I had to play the Davis Cup injured and got even more injured. It was a messy year.

"This year, I had a month for preparation. I did it quite well," he said. "Even when I lost in the start of the season, I was playing good."

5. He's trying to boost Ukraine

Dolgopolov released a video last week with messages for Ukraine from fellow pros -- Nadal among them. Now, he's the one providing some positive moments for his homeland as it deals with recent government upheaval and conflict with Russia.

"As I said, it's good to make some results and make the people forget a little bit and have some happy moments in the news, [something] except the politics," he said.

Nadal’s account

"I played bad," was Nadal's simple explanation, while his opponent was "much better" than their last match. He added that his back injury was not the reason for a subpar performance. "I didn't have bad feelings with my back. The bad feelings was with the forehand and with the backhand."


The world No. 1 described his performance as "unusual" given that he's been playing well in practice. But having two unorthodox players in his first two rounds -- Radek Stepanek and Dolgopolov -- probably didn't help.

"I played two opponents that probably didn't help me to get the rhythm in the tournament," Nadal said.

He is already turning his attention to his next event: "Try to rest few days and be fresh mentally, and I hope to be ready for Miami."
Lauren Davis' 6-0, 7-6 (2) win over No. 4 Victoria Azarenka in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., is a result that requires some explanation. Here are five things that helped decide the outcome.

1. Azarenka wasn't ready

The Belarussian hurt her foot three days before the Australian Open and had to wear a walking boot for three weeks after the event. She had been practicing again for less than a week before Indian Wells.

The injury flared up again early in the first set when she ran for a ball and twisted her foot, Azarenka said.

"Obviously, it was maybe a little bit too early," she said. "But I gave it a fight, you know. She played well, but I just felt I was trying to battle my own issue."

After falling behind quickly, Azarenka grew increasingly frustrated, smashing her racket and berating herself during the tiebreak.

2. Azarenka wasn't ready to retire

Although her coach, Sam Sumyk, advised her to retire, Azarenka played on. Once known for frequently calling it quits in matches, she has recently insisted on playing matches to their conclusion.

At the WTA Championships in Istanbul, she said part of the reason was the criticism she had received for retiring. After Friday's loss, she said she wants to teach herself to tough things out. "I want to learn how to go through the tough thing, how to try the best in the toughest situation," Azarenka emphasized. "You've got to learn to win in bad situations."

3. Azarenka's serve wasn't working

It's not clear whether the injury affected Azarenka on serve, but her poor serving certainly affected the result. Azarenka had 12 double faults, got in only 52 percent of her first serves and won 22 percent of her second serve points.

4. Davis was ready

Davis is small but can pack a decent punch. With a nearly full stadium cheering her on, the 20-year-old American went after her shots from the very first game and quickly won the first set. And even though she struggled when the match tightened in the second, 66th-ranked Davis kept fighting and won the tiebreak convincingly for her first top-10 win.

"I focused all day. I had to believe in myself, and I did," Davis said in her courtside interview.

5. Davis is a tough opponent for an injured player

With her fast legs and assertive play, Davis was able to play extended points and keep the ball deep, exposing Azarenka's own hampered movement.


Q&A with Lauren Davis


Q. Just talk a little bit about how you feel your year is going so far?

A. The year is going great so far. I had a really good start to the year, had a great offseason -- one of the best I've ever done.

Q. Third round of the Australian Open. Does that feel like a big step forward?

A. Yeah, it does. That really boosted my confidence. It was my first time in the third round of a Grand Slam, so really happy with that.

Q. Do you see [this] as an important season to take the next step forward?

A. Yeah, I don't have any [Grand Slam] points to defend ... nor do I have that many points to defend otherwise, so just looking at it as a great opportunity.

Q. Just talk a little bit about what you see as the strengths of your game.

A. I move really, really well. I know I'm small, but I'm very, very strong, so I generate a lot of power and I have really good racket head speed. I'm a good baseliner, and I can kind of stay in there, I feel, longer than my opponents.

Q. Do you feel there are any limitations because of your size?

A. No, I don't feel there are any limitations at all. Because, I mean, girls who are 6 feet don't have things that I have. And me being 5-foot-2, I don't have some assets that they do have, but I think they equal each other out.

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