World #112, American Christina Mchale (above).

Teaneck, New Jersey native Christina McHale, whose best wins in her young career have come on retirements to Victoria Azarenka at last year’s Family Circle Cup and and Nadia Petrova at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open (though to be fair, she was ahead 7-6 (4), 5-3 when Petrova laid down her racquet), notched by far the best win in her young career last night, perhaps inspired to a degree by Donald Young, when she stunned two time major champion and 11th seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7), on the torturously slow Plexicushion at Indian Wells.

Despite managing to get in only 49% of her first serves, McHale, behind a very strong return game, converted on 5 of 16 break opportunities en route to the straight set victory that she sealed with two dramatic tie breaks, the second of which, by a score of 9 points to 7.  Kuznetsova only won 51% of the points on her first serve, despite making 72% of her first balls.  Frankly, the clay like, soft blue Plexicushion played too slowly for Kuznetsova, and she seemed frustrated by the night winds and lack of traction her serve and groudstrokes had and her inability to move the ball through the court.

In total, Kuznetsova only won 58 points of 116 on serve, while McHale, 2 months short of her 19th birthday, was a bit more efficient in that area.  McHale won 47 of her 88 points on serve, and was outstanding in the return area, where she stymied the clearly poorly conditioned Kuznetsova by getting so many balls back with her quickness and defensive skills.

McHale, who received a wildcard into the draw here at Indian Wells, will finally have a paycheck to speak of, after collecting a meager $460 in prize money coming into this event.  In round one, McHale defeated 66th ranked Uzbeki Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-3, 6-1.  McHale will next face Russian Nadia Petrova.  Petrova, another poorly conditioned Russian, may have her hands full with McHale in round 3, especially if the match is played at night when conditions are even heavier. 

In fact, the draw looks excellent for McHale.  Potentially, she could face Lucie Hradecka or Shuai Peng in the round of 16, as most of her quarter of the draw has completely fallen out.  A quarter-final would see McHale face one of the following players: Stosur, Safina, Rezai, Sharapova.

Indian Wells is upset city, so anything is likely to happen.  Though we despise IW for the Plexipave Slow Plexicushion surface they use, topped with more sand than perhaps any other “hardcourt” in the world for the way it favors defensive tennis and diminishes shot making, we’ll be rooting for the girl from New Jersey, who has shown a lot of heart, effort, quickness, and composure, if not true tennis talent.

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