The first of the Masters 1000 tournaments was held in the wealthy California enclave of Indian Wells, California. This post is not about the city of Indian Wells or the Coachella Valley but about the semi finals and finals of the the WTA and the ATP at the yearly tournament held at this location.
When Victoria Azarenka had to withdraw due to injury the only person who could've denied Maria Sharapova the title was gone. Samantha Stosur also withdrew at the quarterfinal round due to injury so we ended up with semifinals of Sharapova vs Sara Errani and Caroline Wozniacki against Angelique Kerber.
The semi final of interest was Wozniacki vs Kerber. Kerber has a pretty large bandwagon going at this time despite her game having nothing spectacular to recommend it. She's a good, solid player who seems to, like Stosur, fight her way to a quarterfinal, semi or final, and then implode. There are only three women in the WTA who aren't prone to that type of mental lapse and one of them made it to the final.
I'll get to that in a minute. What I'd like to discuss is the match itself. It's my opinion that this match did more to harm the reputation of women's tennis than anything in the recent past. Why? Moonballs. I don't mind them when they're a tactic worked into a rally but when they become THE tactic it's just not watchable tennis.
This match showed that Kerber has a lot to work on. There is a way not to be caught in moon ball hell - we saw it in Sunday's final - but Kerber couldn't think her way out of that particular brown paper bag. Still there were former WTA champions tweeting that Wozniacki had played attacking, aggressive tennis. In some alternate universe maybe but not in this one. I can be annoyed about the match all I want but in the end it was Kerber who needed to step up and she didn't. All's fair in love and war and we all know tennis has nothing to do with love.
There's not much to be said about Sharapova vs Errani. Sharapova used her height and will to overcome Errani who was overmatched from the minute play started.
So to the women's final between Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki. If the dictionary description of what the word intimidation means leaves you with questions watch this match. I think that Sharapova has been wanting to show that just like she got intimidated by Serena Williams last year she can intimidate as well. And believe me she was all that and more. It was the most brutal match I've seen in a while. Wozniacki tried early to go the moon ball route and the balls came back so fast she abandoned the idea. I expected her at any moment to run off the court and once in the fetal position whimper "Please don't hurt me" in the tunnel so thorough was the beat down. If it had been a street fight the EMT's would've been called. If it was a boxing match the cut man would've had his work, well, cut out for him.
I think Sharapova has been looking to get the anger from her beat down out for a long time. Like her or not she can play tennis and she never, not once, let Wozniacki come up for air. In the end there was nothing to say except "brava" and "whoa". Not even Wozniacki's father could go completely into his act. There was nothing he could suggest that would spare his daughter the humiliation she was going through.
Maria Sharapova showed that she can indeed play the intimidation game. It's going to be very interesting if she ends up across the net from the woman for whom the phrase Terror Fabulous was coined in Miami.
I don't think too many people saw Rafael Nadal making the men's final at Indian Wells. Sure he loves it there, stays at the home of the tournament director and revels in the desert heat but he's been laid up for seven months with injury and just came back on the tour. Indian Wells would be his first big test on a hard court and no one knew how the knee would hold up. He was tentative at the beginning of his return during the South American Spring Swing and there was fear that he'd be the same here.
Besides the current top four men were there. Novak Djokovic, the top ranked man, Roger Federer, Andy Murray who looked to be poised to make a run for the top ranking, and David Ferrer.
Ferrer came in still mentally reeling from the beat down he took in Acapulco and had none of his usual spark. The ultimate confidence player, he exited the scene quickly. Federer got his usual cake walk to the quarters where he faced his nemesis. Novak Djokovic put on his usual acting display for his his fans and made it deep into the tournament as well.
Andy Murray was an interesting case. He showed up much more muscular that he's ever been, his shirt barely able to contain his upper body. He made it to the quarter finals relatively unscathed despite some slow starts and signs of rust after a seven week lay off.But his lack of match play caught up with him in the end when a very much in form Juan Martin del Potro send Murray back to his home in Miami.
Certain circles within the tennis establishment were salivating at the thought of Roger Federer facing Rafael Nadal in the latter's supposed weakened competitive state. I guess Federer wondered where that enfeebled guy was. The man he faced took him out 6-4, 6-2.
So the final came down to Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro. Delpo took out Djokovic by the way. Delpo didn't fall for Djokovic's okey doke and despite the fact Djokovic embarrassed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga held on to defeat him. To digress for a minute it can be said that Tsonga embarrassed himself. Many of us watching wondered if the ATP still fined players for lack of effort.
So we get to the final. Delpo and Nadal had faced each other in an exho in New York City's Madison Square Garden and Delpo won it. Dogma is that exho's don't matter but the hit and giggle was brought up by comms several times. In the end it didn't matter. Rafa dropped the first set but fought his way to the win. Anyone who thinks the win didn't mean a lot to him had only to witness his scream of joy prone on the court when it was over.
Of course haters are saying that the slow hard court helped Rafa. It's a hard court, the surface people say Rafa sucks on. Get over it people.
In the end there are three ATP players who need to take a look at where they are.
Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer. In the WTA everyone not named Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams needs a long hard look in the mirror.A lot of people were picking Kerber to break into the upper reaches of the game but there's no there there. The French system isn't producing champions. They all have distinctive, attractive games but the way Tsonga totally unravelled in his match is cause for concern.
As for Aga Radwanska I guess I'm that person. The minute I saw her in soft flats at the players party I knew she wouldn't do much during the tournament. And she's still wearing flats in Miami. Put this in your just saying file. A glamor girl like Aga doesn't wear flats for no reason. I'm not saying she won't win matches. I just think there's something going on with her.
Since Indian Wells is working hard to really be a fifth Slam mention should be made of the brothers Bryan who won the men's doubles crown.
Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova took the women's doubles event.
I apologize for this post being so late. I started it right after the last ball was struck and I'm just getting to finish it today. Life intervened. Nothing serious, just busy.
The tour has moved on to Miami, the IMG run event that is always good for strange fields since they use it to showcase their talented youth. Federer and Nadal aren't there. Victoria Azarenka has a bum ankle.
Still already there've been some interesting things going on. Madison Keys, who got a wild card into the event, fed fellow US player Ally Kiick a double bagel.
Victoria Duval, someone I've been watching since she was a preteen won her match against Andrea Hlavackova 7-6(4), 6-4, a huge win for her. Brit Heather Watson lost a match 6-1, 5-7, 4-6 to Ayumi Morita of Japan, a match she had been winning 6-1, 4-1, and said she was taking a break from tennis due to burn out then changed her mind and said she wasn't taking a break. This was Watson's comment after the match:
Asked about losing the pattern of the match after such a dominant start she said: "I was playing really well, probably the best I've played this year, and I think I lost my concentration a bit, but that was enough for her to gain some confidence and step forward, and it kind of pushed me back and I started to play a lot worse.
"I still tried to fight but it just wasn't good enough, I wasn't aggressive enough."
Meanwhile 2012 Newcomer of the Year Laura Robson won her opening round match. I can't imagine the pressure these young women are under from the LTA.
On the men's side Ryan Harrison is already out of the tournament losing what some saw as a winnable opening round match against James Blake. Blake won 2&2. That's not even a fight. Like the French the USTA system is not producing winners. There are some promising Americans but they're women (Stephens and Keys) and everyone knows the mens game is what everyone looks at when it comes to tennis right? There were sighs of relief when Sam Querrey won a match that let him stay in the top twenty of the ATP rankings. That means tennis in the US is still good right?
Congratulations go out to Justine Henin and her partner Benoit Bertuzzo who announced the birth of their first child, a daughter Lalie, yesterday March 20. I like the name.
In a brief return to sanity the WTA has folded its Dallas event that took place the week before the US Open. The tournament's place on the calendar never made any sense and I'm glad someone decided to pull the plug. There is already an event in the Bronx that week. Wonder if they'll upgrade it to International level? Just a thought...