Early Indian Wells exit for Nadal

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iol spt mar11 Nadal-file Getty Images File picture: Defending champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova suffered shock third-round exits at the Indian Wells ATP Masters and WTA tournament. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Indian Wells – Defending champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova suffered shock third-round exits Monday at the Indian Wells ATP Masters and WTA hardcourt tournament.

Ukraine's 31st-ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov ended world number one Nadal's run of eight straight trips to the semi-finals or better at Indian Wells with 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) triumph.

Dolgopolov notched his first career win over Nadal after five prior defeats – including a loss to the Spaniard in the claycourt final at Rio de Janeiro two weeks ago.

Serving for the match at 5-3 in the third, Dolgopolov was broken at love with a double fault on break point.

Even then, however, he said he knew he was playing well enough to win.

“The point was just not to get too nervous,” he said. “I knew he's going to make me play that game and not miss much, and I just gave it away. That was all on me.

“I just tried to forget about that and come back.”

In the tiebreaker, Dolgopolov thought he'd sewn it up with an ace on his first match point, but Nadal challenged and the ball was ruled out.

“I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me,'“ Dolgopolov said. “I was thinking he's going to challenge because I didn't really raise my hands up or anything after that ace because I knew it was close and I wasn't sure it was on the line.

“Then I just tried to come back as fast as I could to the line, so I didn't have enough time to think about it and just serve and start the point.”

He put his second serve in play, and ended it with a stinging forehand.

“I just went for the winner,” he said.

Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi, ranked 79th in the world, upset fourth-seeded Sharapova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

The Russian superstar, currently ranked fifth in the world, was undone by 58 unforced errors, and the two combined for 15 breaks of serve.

“I did not play a good match at all,” Sharapova said.

“She's quite aggressive, but some shots she hit incredible for a long period of time,” she said.

“But, you know, if I'm speaking about my level, it was nowhere near where it should have been.”

Nadal, too, was dissatisfied with his own performance.

“I played bad, that's all,” Nadal said. “I'm disappointed with the way I played, but that happens sometimes.”

Nadal, who had struggled in his opener against Czech Radek Stepanek, said his groundstrokes let him down, but his troubles had nothing to do with the sore back that slowed him in his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final.

“I am fine with the back,” Nadal said. “I didn't have bad feelings with my back. The bad feelings were with the forehand and the backhand.”

Elsewhere in men's action, two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray survived a scare from young Czech Jiri Vesely.

Murray, formerly ranked world number two but currently sixth, had to rally in the second and third sets to defeat the 20-year-old, 77th-ranked Vesely 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 6-4, and the Scot dubbed it “a frustrating match.”

Seventh-seeded Roger Federer, a four-time champion at Indian Wells, also advanced 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/2) victory over 27th-seeded Russian Dmitry Tursunov.

Federer recovered an early break in the second set before dominating in the tiebreaker, staying on track for a possible quarter-final showdown with compatriot Wawrinka.

Wawrinka, who stepped out of Federer's shadow with his first Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne in January, cruised into the fourth round with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Italy's Andreas Seppi.

Women's top seed Li Na, who won her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, secured her fourth-round berth with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over unseeded Czech Karolina Pliskova. – Sapa-AFP


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