BNP Paribas Open Day Four. Practice and the “Will” to Win.

Francesca Schiavone (Gudris)

For fans coming into the first Saturday of the BNP Paribas Open here at Indian Wells, the decision many had to make was what to skip instead of what to see. With so many matches on court and so many players on the practice courts, it would be easy to waste time making up on one’s mind.

And it’s not like fans couldn’t catch some competitive action on the practice courts. I walked by Francesca Schiavone and Dominika Cibulkova playing a tough practice set in front of a packed viewing gallery while on another court a few yards away, Jurgen Melzer, not wearing his trademark backwards baseball cap, had a good hit with Victor Troicki. Around the corner, young American Sloane Stephens was warming up for her match against Caroline Wozniacki who also practiced nearby. Stephens, known for her motivational texts on her Twitter account, wore a t-shirt that had “I Will” written in big letters. But it was Wozniacki who let her tennis have the final say with a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 win later in the day. It may not have been Stephens’ day today, but she is a player to watch in the next few years.

Sloane Stephens (Gudris)

“I Will” might have been the mantra for American qualifier Donald Young who produced an unexpected victory over No. 5 seed Andy Murray 7-6, 6-4. Though Murray admitted he didn’t serve or move well in the match, it was Young who impressed the vocal crowd with a more focused style of play that saw him hang with Murray in baseline rallies but then go for winners at the right time. Young later said he never felt in complete control of the match until the final point was done and admitted to feeling some nerves throughout. When asked what made the difference in this match as opposed to other close ones he’s lost before. Young said, “I’ve been working hard physically. Wasn’t like last couple of matches that I felt like I had to go for a couple shots because I couldn’t keep it going if the point went any longer, and the nerves got the best of me. They almost did today, but I held them off.” Despite getting some much deserved praise today for his first back-to back ATP Tour wins since 2008, Young will be tested to prove his win over Murray wasn’t a fluke when he takes on Tommy Robredo in the next round.

Finally, the first Saturday also means the arrival of the TV crews and the focus on big names on the big courts. Juan Martin Del Potro continued his comeback with a three set 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over defending champion Ivan Ljubicic. Though many fans will be thrilled that “Delpo’s” comeback appears to be in full flight, one has to feel for Ljubicic being knocked out in the second round where just one year ago he won his biggest title ever. The final day match on Stadium 1 featured World No. 1 Rafael Nadal who probably still remembers his loss to Ljubicic in last year’s semifinals. Nadal got off to a good start this year with an easy 6-0, 6-2 win over Rik de Voest in a match that I’m sure De Voest would have preferred to have taken place on the practice courts outside the stadium and not inside under the bright lights and televised for all the world to see. But even with the mild workout tonight, it’s a sure bet Nadal will be back on those same practice courts tomorrow where fans will get a close look at the No. 1 as he focuses on winning his third BNP Paribas Open title.

(This article originally appeared on Tennis Panorama.com)

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