By Ros Satar, in Indian Wells
- It has been eventful week for the Brits in action in Indian Wells
- We give our Britwatch Breakdown the Enid Blyton treatment as Five Get in a Fix in the Desert.
INDIAN WELLS – Never mind the withdrawals of Serena Williams and Milos Raonic, or even the implication of THAT draw – the Brits had their own prickly cacti to contend with in Indian Wells.
Andy Murray and the continuing Indian Wells Voodoo
It looked as though Andy Murray’s adventures in the desert were about to take a turn for the better. Having earned himself a Captain Pugwash-esque ship in Dubai, not to mention getting a little sand in his loafers playing some beach tennis with Roger Federer, he earned his first title and headed to Indian Wells with some solid match-play under his belt.
He even got a win in the doubles, taking the mischievous Dan Evans under his knightly wing, and it all looked good. However, the Commonwealth had other ideas – and an inspired Vasek Pospisil stepped up his aggression having fought his way to main draw through qualifying and a back niggle.
There had been chances, but that sharpness that had been on display in Dubai just seemed a little lacking on the night. Even Murray had to smile ruefully as he tried to explain another earlier than expected departure from the desert.
He told reporters: “I started the match okay. The first set was a tough one to lose, because I was a break up twice in the set.
“Didn’t serve particularly well tonight, which, you know, which didn’t help things. And then, yeah, in the second set he started to play more aggressively. You know, but I was giving myself decent looks at passing shots. I missed a few tonight. He also came up with some, you know, some really good reflex volleys on important moments and important points.
“I don’t know exactly why it is, because in practice here normally I play pretty well. And then some years — some years, you know, I played well. Some years it’s just, you know, it just hasn’t quite happened for me. I don’t know exactly why that is. I don’t know if it is the conditions here or — yeah, or I really don’t know why I haven’t played my best here over the years.”
There is still time on the side of the beknighted Murray. Novak Djokovic has to defend a Sunshine Double and won’t be picking up any extra points, while the pressure does not really start for Murray until the end of the clay court season if we take into account the Madrid and Roland Garros finals and the title in Rome, before we happen upon the Queens and Wimbledon titles.
And he also has next to nothing to defend in Miami – which is an environment he is very familiar with. His famous training blocks have been a regular occurrence at Crandon Park and knows the nuances well. Oh, well ok maybe not that well after being bounced out in the third round last year by Grigor Dimitrov, but we will just turn the page to a new chapter.
Johanna Konta and the Mysterious Absence of Confidence
The Sunday dawned with three Brits still in the draw with none other than the women’s No. 1 to kick us off, and it looked like a fait accompli for Johanna Konta as she breezed past Caroline Garcia in the first set.
But just as she had a mid-set wobble against compatriot Heather Watson (the first main draw casualty joining Naomi Broady in the wings after she lost in the first round of qualies), she endured the same, Her usually reliable backhand had gone off sightseeing in the desert as the Frenchwoman clambered back into contention.
Garcia was very much in need of some confidence building having not win any matches back to back since the start of the season, while Konta was making her tour comeback since Melbourne after a foot injury sustained at Fed Cup wiped out her Middle East swing entirely.
Normally one to come prepared for all press eventualities, it was a very subdued Konta who admitted that this had indeed been a pretty rough day at the office.
She said: “I don’t believe I played a great match today. She did what she had to do to get through that, and she did a better job of finding a way than I did. I would have liked to have played better, but it just didn’t happen today.
“There were a number of shots that let me down today; quite honestly, I don’t know why, but I’m keen on improving and doing better next time.” ”
“I didn’t do enough with the opportunities that I did get,” she continued. “Some of the break points, she served well, and others, I wasn’t brave enough. I don’t think I did enough to really take them. I was a little too passive in parts.”
Dan Evans and the Case of the Dreadlocks and Samurai
Things could not have started any better for cheeky Brummie chappie Evans. Often known for being a bit of a scamp, his change of heart in terms of his attitude towards training and pushing up the rankings earned him a second match up in as many tournaments with the Dustin Brown.
We thought that second time around, Brown would show that kind of flair and crowd-pleasing trickery to entertain the masses, but once more it was not so. Evans was having quite the returning and serving day in the noisy area of Stadium 2, and delivered another solid beat-down.
When Evans was re-establishing himself on the tour and had his amazing US Open run in 2013, he battled through qualifying and then dispatched Nishikori in the opening round. But any confidence he might have gathered from his start to the year did not quite carry through.
Nishikori can be just too nimble a foe and just out-manoeuvred Evans in fairly short order.
Kyle Edmund as the Plucky Brit
Sunday’s singles hopes rested on the broad and capable shoulders of Kyle Edmund. With a jaw that could not be any squarer, the Yorkshireman set about trying to establish whether Novak Djokovic had any chinks in his armour.
The first set saw the World No. 2 flex a little muscle and ease into the a one-set lead with the familiarity that has taken him to five titles in total and three on the bounce here in the Californian desert.
But wait – there was a twist in the tail of those demonic scorpions that scuttle around by the hotel door when we tired scribes finally stumble back to our abodes. The plucky Brit started finding pace, and with pinpoint accuracy started slapping winners hither and thither. How he needed that double-break cushion, and how we groaned into our Rum Chatas when Djokovic fought back to force a tie-break.
There were a lot of positives to take from this for Edmund. He does need to add more to his game, but he has the time on his side. He is one of the hardest working and indeed understated guys on the tour, and he ought to go into Miami with some confidence that he almost had a set off Djokovic.
Heather Watson and the Great Rankings Puzzle
Spare a thought for Heather Watson – she was bumped up into the main draw via Alize Cornet pulling out with injury, and she fought back admirably, almost wrestling the mantle of Plucky Brit off Edmund’s shoulders, before the draw spat up a second round match up against Konta.
It has been a rough ride for the Guernsey girl, and despite being on fire at the recent Fed Cup Group stages, she struggled a little with her focus at key moments – which when Konta is on form you just cannot do.
She put up a sterling flurry of resistance as Konta had a mid-set wobble in the second, but it was just too little, too late to give herself a valid shot at levelling the match.
This time last year she was nestled in thr Top 70, but currently languishes just outside the Top 100. Right now, any match win is a bonus for the Brit, who can go toe-to-toe with some of the best of them. She is in the main draw for Miami, which helps, with Naomi Broady once more in the qualifying rounds.
It is not all over for the Brits – the Brothers Murray go again in the doubles with Evans also getting a look in as he is partnering Murray junior. While the Miami Open may have languished in terms of the kinds of levels of investment thrown at it by Larry Ellison, it is still an important part of this US Hard Court swing – so let’s take a quick look at what’s at stake for the Famous Five – with lashings of Ginger Beer all round.
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