Defending champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova both stunned in Indian Wells
Big two make early exits from top hard-court tournament
Rafa Nadal and Maria Sharapova were both knocked out of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells after stunning upsets at one of the world’s biggest tournaments outside the four grand slams.
Nadal was sent packing by Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) after Sharapova fell to Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 as last year’s men’s and women’s singles champions both crashed out.
Nadal blew a 4-2 lead in the deciding tiebreak after the Spaniard had fought his way back from 5-2 down in the deciding third set.
“I wanted to play very well here. I had good success in this tournament in the past, a tournament I always feel good about,” said Nadal, who will now turn his attention to the Sony Open in south Florida.
“I’m going to keep working hard to try to be ready to play better in Miami.”
Nadal beat Dolgopolov in the final of the inaugural Rio Open last month but the Ukrainian got his revenge on the world number one in the Californian desert.
“I feel great, as after every win, of course. I beat the defending champion and the number one in the world,” said Dolgopolov, whose next opponent is Fabio Fognini after the Italian saved two match points in a 6-2 3-6 7-5 win over Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Giorgi, a 22-year-old ranked 79th in the world, made the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year as a qualifier, but her win over the world number five Russian was the biggest of her career.
“I did not play a good match at all,” said Sharapova, who dropped serve eight times and committed 58 unforced errors.
“[I’ve] never played against her, but she’s someone that doesn’t give you much rhythm. She’s quite aggressive, but some shots she hits incredible for a long period of time.
“Sometimes they go off a bit. But, if I’m speaking about my level, it was nowhere near where it should have been.”
Giorgi will play her countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in the next round after she beat Australian Sam Stosur 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
There were no other major surprises although Britain’s Andy Murray was forced to dig deep to see off promising Czech Jiri Vesely and avoid a similar fate.
The Wimbledon champion won 6-7, (7-2), 6-4, 6-4 but only after clawing back from the brink of defeat against the 20-year-old Vesely.
China’s Li Na, the top seed in the women’s draw, had no problems booking her place in the fourth round, beating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4.