Best of Three: Murray's inexplicable play; prospects making noise
There's been a debate brewing in Twitterville and Commentsland and Messageboardistan over the terminology of the ATP royal court. Is it a Big Three (Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, of course)? Or do we also include Andy Murray, he of the blank Slam ledger, but with frequent semifinal appearances and copious Masters Series shields to his name. Momentum has whipsawed over to the Best of Three camp, as Murray was knocked of the BNP Paribas Open in the second round by No. 92 Guillermo García-López of Spain. Murray had two previous routine wins over García-López in both their meetings, including a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 demolition at the 2011 Australian Open.
"I was coming back to the locker room and thinking 'Why did it happen?'" said Murray, who beat Djokovic before losing to Federer last week in Dubai. "I am not sure what happened."
It was a year ago that Murray lost in Indian Wells to Donald Young, also inexplicable at the time. And after laying another egg in Miami, Murray then recovered to play well for the rest of the season. So maybe this is simply in keeping with his annual rhythms. But notice how seldom the other three take a bad defeat like this.
The virus tearing through the Coachella Valley may be wreaking the most havoc on the draw. But Christina McHale has made some noise as well. Last year in Cincinnati, the young American teenager dumped Caroline Wozniacki, then the WTA's top-ranked player. On Sunday in Indian Wells, she dispatched No. 3 Petra Kvitova with a stylish 2-6 6-2 6-3 win. McHale will likely be seeded for the summer Slams, and while no one is breaking out the champagne yet, how long has it been since an American teenager was beating multiple top-five players? Long as we're here, another WTA prospect elevating eyebrows: Mona Barthel, a 21-year-old German -- they just keep coming -- who's up to No. 37 and nearly took out top seed Victoria Azarenka the other day before losing 6-4, 6-7, 7-6.
Serena Williams isn't in the Indian Wells draw, tracing to an alleged racial incident now 11 years in the past. Last weekend, there was another apparent racially-tinged episode at the event. The different is that this time, a player appears to have been the one making the remarks. While playing Ernests Gulbis, France's Michael Llodra reportedly said this.
For the record, you will not find a more highly regarded and less sensational tennis reporter than Tom Tebbutt. Llodra was fined $2,500. He reportedly admitted guilt to the French press but expressed disappointment that the fine was so high. This is ugly stuff and we haven't heard the last of it.