BNP PARIBAS OPEN BUZZ: Roger Roughs It

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DARE WE COMPARE MASTER ROGER FEDERER AND NICK KYRGIOS? British writer Simon Briggs did. He noted, “The last man to hit fuzzy yellow balls with such casual mastery was the young Federer himself. And the Swiss, it’s easy to forget, had to overcome his own temper and impatience before becoming a serial champion – a maturing process that was accelerated by his courtship with Mirka and the tragic death of his beloved coach Peter Carter.

“Federer, though, never had a problem regarding his commitment to tennis. He has since proved that this is a ‘death do us part’ relationship. Where Kyrgios – even as he approaches his 22nd birthday – remains the teenager looking for a quick romp in the back of his truck.”

FEDERER FAMILY SCRAPBOOK: Roger Federer’s father Robert, who’s a most benign fellow, told IT that their family is putting together a book of clippings on Roger’s career. Already people in cyberspace are saying they have books of their own clippings and are offering to donate them.

NICK’S KNACK: Paul Annacone told the NYT’s Christopher Clarey that Nick Kyrgios is the best new talent in the game since Federer. He’s the only player to have beaten Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic the first time he played them. And he took it to Novak in back-to-back tournaments. But observers also feel he’s the most erratic player on the tour. He told a foe that his girlfriend was cheating, he tanked in Singapore and was suspended, and was booed off his own court at the Australian Open. He can be incredibly sweet – you see him cheerfully chatting with workers in the player cafeteria. But he has a short fuse, whether complaining about a not-particularly-important line call, or a not-particularly-nasty question from the press corp. After beating Djokovic, he admitted that he was in a dark place last year, and that he often missed his girlfriend, but now he’s enjoying tennis. God knows how fabulous he will be if he approaches the game with focus and consistency. But he’s the only top 100 ATP player who doesn’t have a coach. And it doesn’t look like he’ll get one very soon. The other night Kyrgios insisted he’s not a bad guy, and hasn’t done anything illegal. Let’s just hope his problems are typical of a 21-year-old and he won’t go off the rails.

ROGER ROUGHS IT: It seems like Roger Federer is on top of the world these days, but not too long ago he was roughing it – Roger is the guest star on an upcoming episode of the NBC series “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” Star of the show and renowned adventurer Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls recently posted on Instagram about the experience, sharing some choice photos from filming. “What a fun @nbcrunningwild journey with the legend that is Mr Roger Federer!” he writes. “Finished: Safe, cold, but proud! A humble, fun, determined, family-centered man. Just slightly upset that he beat me at mini ping-pong on the top of the cliff face! So annoying…”

SOCK IT TO ‘EM: After he booked a spot in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals by defeating Kei Nishikori, Jack Sock was asked about his signature shot – his ferocious forehand. “Yeah, it feels good to unleash forehands, that’s for sure,” said Sock, crediting his coach Mike Wolf with helping him develop the shot. “I feel very comfortable on that side, as everyone knows.” As for the toughest forehand he’s faced on the tour, Sock chose Rafa Nadal’s. “[It’s] just, I would say, you know, similar to me in a sense, obviously in a lefty version. It’s a very heavy ball, tough to face. But it’s different than, you could say, Roger who takes time away like that, and it’s a flatter ball, gets through the court a lot better or a lot quicker.”

WHAT WOULD PETKO ASK? She’s been struggling of late on the court, but never in the interview room – Andrea Petkovic may just be the most intriguing player in the WTA not named Williams. After her loss to fellow German and world No. 1 Angelique Kerber at the BNP Paribas Open, IT asked Petkovic – an art buff and literary savant who reads Nietzsche, Hemingway and David Foster Wallace – what question she would ask herself if she was conducting the interview. “I would ask myself, ‘What is your favorite American fiction writer?’,” said Petkovic. “[The answer would be] Saul Bellow [and my favorite volume is], The Adventures of Augie March.”

SVETA STUDIES: Svetlana Kuznetsova is into the semis at Indian Wells. Back at the beginning of the tournament, she was asked to build the perfect player, choosing the best at various strokes. “Serena has the best serve for sure,” Sveta said. “Volleys and reflex volleys by far Martina [Navratilova]. Backhand, I think Arantxa [Sanchez Vicario] had a quite good [one] – not so much power but her backhand was huge. I think she [won] many matches with that. Have you noticed that most women have a better backhand [than forehand]?…[For forehand] I’m thinking I would say my forehand…[For speed and quickness] Kim Clijsters, I would say…[For] self-believer I would say Serena.”

LOVE DOUBLES: Early on in the BNP Paribas Open, Kristina Mladenovic was asked whether her recent success in doubles had improved her singles game. The French player responded with a long enthusiastic soliloquy about her new doubles partner Svetlana Kuznetsova. Mladenovic must have been onto something, because she and Kuznetsova make up half of the remaining players in the women’s singles draw at the BNP Paribas Open.

PUT A SOCK IN IT: Thanks to Sam Querrey’s shock title win in Acapulco, the US has gone 4-0 in ATP finals this year. There’s a long-shot chance that the number will improve to 5-0 at the BNP Paribas Open, with Jack Sock a surprise semifinalist.

WOZ ON SHARPY: With Maria Sharapova set to return to the tour soon in Stuttgart, we asked Caroline Wozniacki what she thought about top tournaments giving Sharapova wildcards. The Dane said, “She’s a good draw…it’s very questionable allowing – no matter who it is – a player that is still banned to play a tournament [Stuttgart] that week. From the tournament’s side it’s disrespectful to other players and the WTA. But…rules are twisted and turned in favor who wants to do what.

“When a player is banned for drugs…it’s different from an injury where someone is out because they hurt themselves. That way a player should be able to receive many wildcards. When someone has been banned for drugs and something that is performance-enhancing, you deserve a second chance – people make mistakes – but you should fight your way back from the bottom.”

LIFE OF PABLO: Who’d have guessed that at the quarterfinal stage of the BNP Paribas Open, there would be two players named Pablo still in the draw? Pablo Carreno Busta and Pablo Cuevas faced off for the honor of being the final remaining Pablo, with Carreno Busta coming out on top.

THE STATE OF VENUS: After her loss to Elena Vesnina, Venus Williams said she had health issues. Let’s hope her Sjogren’s syndrome is under control.

THE PERILS OF SIGNING YOUR NAME: Roger Federer‘s autograph session at the BNP Paribas Open drew hundreds. There was a two-hour wait, and some frayed tempers and even an f-bomb, according to journalist Stephanie Myles.

WEIRDEST TOURNAMENT: The honor for the weirdest path at this year’s BNP Paribas Open has to belong to Yoshihito Nishioka. The diminutive Japanese player made it into the tournament as a lucky loser after falling in straight sets to Elias Ymer in the final round of qualifying. His first-round opponent? None other than Elias Ymer, and this time Nishioka won in straight sets. Almost one week and a win over giant Ivo Karlovic later, 5’7″ Nishioka gave third seed Stan Wawrinka quite a scare in the fourth round, taking him to a tiebreak in the decider.

MUSICAL CHAIRS WITH COACHES: Word has it that Vika Azarenka will be back on the practice courts later this month or early in April. Accompanying her will be Maria Sharapova’s old coach, Michael Joyce.

A VERY GOOD QUOTE: Mary Carillo said Roger Federer’s forehand is “crackling with goodness.”