Andy Murray made it 10 wins out of 10 against Feliciano Lopez at Indian Wells – and 497 for his career to surpass Tim Henman as Britain's most prolific male player of the open era.
A one-sided 6-3 6-4 victory earned Murray a semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic in the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Murray did not drop a point in his first two service games but forced 12th seed Lopez to two deuces in his first and broke in the next for a 3-1 lead.
A third love hold followed and though he finally dropped a point on his serve in the seventh game of the set, he was untroubled in wrapping it up 6-3.
The Scot then broke serve in the opening game of the second and held his advantage, Lopez still having to battle hard just to hang in the match against an opponent he has never beaten.
Murray broke again to leave himself serving for the match with new balls – but with the finish line in sight, he dropped his serve for the first time as Lopez took pace off the ball and produced some deft angled shots. Lightning could not strike twice, though, and fourth seed Murray wrapped up the match in his next service game.
World number one Djokovic was handed a progression by walkover after Australian Bernard Tomic pulled out with a back injury. And Murray said: "Against him you're going to have to a play high-quality match, you can't have any part of your game not working against him.
"He'll obviously be fresh with a couple of days' rest so it'll be a tough test but it's one I'm looking forward to." Murray's perfect 10 against Lopez fits in with his good overall record against left-handed players – a fact he puts down to his elder brother Jamie.
"My brother's a lefty so when I was a kid it's all I practiced against up to the age of 12," he said. "I see the spin almost more naturally than against right-handers.
"I passed very well today and that stopped him feeling comfortable up to the net, it meant he spent a bit more time at the back and I was able to dictate the match."
Know more about Sport360 Application
Simona Halep reached the last four of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells despite losing the first set against Suarez Navarro. Serena Williams also makes it through to the semis with a straight sets win over Timea Bacsinszky.
Tennis players are all crazy. At least that’s the way Jana Novotna puts it.
Sat in the middle of a Roberto Cavalli store where she was invited to shop on a visit to Etihad Towers’ Avenue in Abu Dhabi, the modestly-clad Novotna was clearly more interested in talking tennis than trying on clothes.
At 46, Novotna finds herself fascinated by the sport even more than when she was a player herself. The tall Czech won the Wimbledon singles trophy in 1998 and owns 16 more grand slam titles in doubles and mixed. But it is the 1993 final she lost to Steffi Graf at SW19 that millions of people remember her for.
Novotna had a game point to go up 6-7, 6-1, 5-1 against Graf. Then came one of the most famous collapses in sport as Novotna got broken and lost the match 6-4 in the third. The images of Katharine the Duchess of Kent consoling her in the trophy ceremony remain iconic to this day.
But you’d be surprised to know that Novotna views that Saturday as anything but painful.
“I think about it all the time. I love it,” Novotna told Sport360°.
“It’s really funny because a lot of people think that losing to Steffi Graf in 1993 was a bad experience. For me, it was the best thing that happened to my life. The next day, because of everything that happened during the ceremony and during the match, I opened the newspapers and I was on the front page of every newspaper, I felt like a winner.
“And it really gave me so much publicity. Now it’s something that people remember more than me actually winning Wimbledon.”
Novotna recalls how dominant Graf was at the time and how the German would steamroll her opponents at every major.
“I remember those days when we played at the French Open, when one girl played her, the question wasn’t about ‘what was the score?’ it was ‘how many minutes?’ And she said ‘28, I did it’ (with a fist pump),” laughed Novotna.
“We weren’t asking about scores, we were asking about minutes and it’s the semi-final of the French Open.”
Much of Novotna’s rhetoric is a mix of honesty and sarcasm. A hint of humour surfaces when she broaches the topic of “super-coaches”. Not many people know that Novotna herself is one of those “super-coaches” – an ex-champion who has returned to today’s game to guide the current generation.
She very briefly worked with 2013 Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli and now coaches 20-year-old Czech Barbora Krejcikova, ranked No153 in the world.
She finds working with top players quite challenging because “they all have their own set up. There’s always like five people, and then there is a tennis coach.”
Few women have re-entered the tennis scene in a coaching capacity recently, including Martina Navratilova (helping Agnieszka Radwanska), Lindsay Davenport (working with Madison Keys) and Amelie Mauresmo (coaching Andy Murray).
Of the former men’s champions, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic and Sergi Bruguera and many more are coaching. Novotna tries to explain why more women aren’t following suit.
“They have families, they’re too selfish, or they don’t know how to coach,” were some of her guesses.
“Not every player knows how to coach. We’re so used to ‘oh I’ll show you two times. What you don’t get it?’ It requires a lot of patience. Tennis players are selfish, I don’t mean it in a bad way. As a player you have to be selfish, you have to want everything for yourself, because on the court you are like this. So it’s not easy for them to make the change and be more giving, patient.
“It’s not about you, it’s about somebody else. You aren’t the star, you take the backseat and you wait. That’s my biggest problem, I’m waiting for something all the time. I used to think, ‘I play, I practice, I go.’ And now I find myself sitting and waiting all the time.”
Novotna finds the Maursemo-Murray partnership as a “natural” fit but questions the reasoning behind some of the other high-profile linkups.
“I always said that Andy should be coached by a woman because his mother was such a big part of his tennis life,” she says.
“But I don’t see too many guys doing it in the future because guys are different. Women are sometimes too complicated, we tend to over-analyse, right?
“I think the guys (hired ex-pros) for different reasons. They just wanted to have this extra publicity, extra motivation, because how can Boris Becker improve Novak Djokovic? He is already perfect.”
On the women’s tour, Novotna sees Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in a league of their own and doesn’t think Simona Halep can enter that league.
“Halep is going to be always good, always consistent and she may win grand slams but she’s going to be one of those players – I don’t mean it in a bad way – nobody will remember. A good player, solid, feisty, consistent but it’s not ‘wow’,” says Novotna.
“When you think about it, there are always very few players that we actually remember. And there have been so many good players.
“You have to be wow in every way and Serena is in that category, so is Maria Sharapova even though she didn’t win that many slams (five). But wherever she shows up, it’s a headline, it’s success, it’s professionalism. To combine that and put it together and still keep that focus… not many players can do that.
“Look what happened to Eugenie Bouchard? She had an unbelievable year, they put her on the magazines, they changed the hair and she cannot handle it. But Sharapova she can do a photoshoot, she can walk in high heels, she can pose in a Porsche then she goes on the court and she’s like this (Novotna makes a focused face), and never looks back. Amazing. Unique.”
Observing the circuit now through a coach’s lens, there are many more things that intrigue Novotna.
“You remember Chris Evert, she walked in with those two racquets she’s like ‘yeah I think it’s well-strung’. Now it’s like perfection. You think about water and somebody is there to give you the water. You make a gesture, there’s someone there to stretch your shoulder,” she marvels.
“It’s incredible how much it has changed. So it’s really funny to compare the two eras and say who was the best player. Well maybe if Martina Navratilova had all of that, she would have been even better, or Chris Evert. If John McEnroe had Hawk-Eye maybe he would have won many more matches.
“I love tennis. It’s a very unique sport and the tennis players are all crazy which makes it interesting. It’s so individual and you have to be in your own world to be able to do all of that.”
Volleys with Novotna
On moving back to the Czech Republic post-retirement
“I really missed being at home and Florida was a little bit boring. Nice weather every day but nothing to do. Nice car, but nowhere to go. So I really needed to go back to Czech. And I enjoy it very much.”
On Czech up-and-comer Karolina Pliskova
“I think she’s kind of a cool girl. She doesn’t say very much, not very emotional, sometimes you have no idea what she’s thinking, but it’s not bad for tennis. Boy and when she hits the ball, it’s lethal.”
On Krejcikova, the player she is coaching
“She’s still finishing school, which is kind of holding her back. She needs to graduate before she can fully play tennis. And once this is done at the end of May, I’m expecting her to progress even faster. She’s cut the ranking in half, so she made good progress.”
On the different approaches of super-coaches
“Are you a super-coach that goes to certain tournaments, you show up, you give the player the extra motivation to be like you or something, or are you doing the everyday work? Martina Navratilova just goes and spends a few weeks with Radwanska hoping she will give her the extra motivation to do well. I work every day. I’m on the court.”
On Serena’s claim on the title of “greatest of all-time”
“15 years ago you would think Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, those are the best of all-time. But suddenly Serena emerged and looks unstoppable. It’s very hard. It’s going to come down to titles, how many you have.”