Just because the favorites keep falling doesn't mean there isn't still intrigue at Indian Wells.
No. 10 seed Milos Raonic, fresh off his three-set defeat of Andy Murray, joined the ranks of Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and other stars to collapse under the heat of the Southern California desert against a lower-seeded opponent on Thursday.
The young Canadian ran into 25-year-old Alexandr Dolgopolov, who reached his first ATP Masters 100 semifinal with the victory.
Still, Friday's action features both top remaining seeds in Li Na and Novak Djokovic, while 12th-seed John Isner will attempt to ride his big serve to the semifinals in front of the home crowd.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know for Day 9 at Indian Wells.
Complete Day 9 Schedule
|2:45 p.m. ET Start|
|Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka||vs.||Alexander Peya/Bruno Soares (2)||ATP Doubles Semis|
|Not Before 4:30 p.m. ET|
|Julien Benneteau||vs.||Novak Djokovic (2)||ATP Quarters|
|Not Before 6:30 p.m. ET|
|John Isner (12)||vs.||Ernests Gulbis (20)||ATP Quarters|
|Not Before 9:30 p.m. ET|
|Simona Halep (6)||vs.||Agnieszka Radwanska (2)||WTA Semis|
|Not Before 11:30 p.m. ET|
|Li Na (1)||vs.||Flavia Pennetta (20)||WTA Semis|
Note: You can find the complete schedule of play for Friday here, courtesy of BNPParibasOpen.com.
Matchups to Watch
Li Na (1) vs. Flavia Pennetta (20)
The historically good run stops here for Pennetta. The 32-year-old Italian is riding high after her thrilling three-set quarterfinal victory over Sloane Stephens on Thursday night, marking her second win over a Top 20 opponent this week and making her the first Italian to ever reach the semis here.
She talked to reporters about the match afterward, via the tournament's Twitter feed:
Well, even in calmer conditions, it's only about to get more difficult against Li.
The defending Australian Open champion breezed through her opening three matches in six sets, and in a rematch against fellow Aussie Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova on Thursday, she escaped with a three-set victory.
Of course, as The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg pointed out, it wasn't exactly pretty:
Winners/unforced errors: Li 32/59. Cibulkova 16/51. A war of attrition. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 13, 2014
Still, a win is a win, and the ability to beat someone with the power and aggression of Cibulkova despite playing poorly is quite impressive.
The 32-year-old handled Pennetta easily in Australia, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her do it again.
Prediction: Li wins, 6-4, 6-4
John Isner (12) vs. Ernests Gulbis (20)
If you would have said before the draw that either of these two would be in the semifinals in a tournament that included Nadal, Wawrinka, Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, you probably would have been put in a room that locks from the outside.
Don't get me wrong. Both are talented, and both had reason for optimism in California, but to advance this far in an absolutely stacked tournament is quite the feat.
Isner talked about the match beforehand, via Rothenberg:
"I hope that he cracks some racquets against me tomorrow. That means I'll be doing a couple things right."-Isner on playing Gulbis. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 13, 2014
This one should be a battle.
Isner moved through the first three rounds with relative ease, but he needed all three sets to get past No. 30 seed Fernando Verdasco. Gulbis, meanwhile, has needed three sets against has last two opponents, Grigor Dimitrov and Roberto Bautista Agut.
Who ya got?
Each already has a title in 2014, with Isner taking the Heineken Open in New Zealand and Gulbis capturing the Open 13 with a win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in France. They also split two head-to-head battles in 2013, but neither match came on the hard court.
In the end, Isner's power will win out. With the crowd supporting him, the former Indian Wells runner-up has won an astounding 35 of his 36 service games in California. Being able to hold serve that well will ultimately give him the advantage he needs to move to the semis.
Prediction: Isner wins, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2