Another year, another fantastic event held at Indian Wells in California. A record attendance saw a fantastic week and a half of tennis that mixed predictable results with excellent upsets and overall, great drama.
While it may not be remembered as so, the highlight of the week has to be the stomach virus that struck not only players, but reporters, ball kids, and other tournament officials. It brought on a flurry of walkovers, retirements, and surprising results. The most glaring disappointments were Andy Murray and Petra Kvitova, who both fell in their open round matches and were bounced from the tournament before the opening weekend had concluded.
What the tournament will be remembered for, however, are its champions. Roger Federer looked solid all week as he looked comfortable in returning, moved well, and found great confidence in his backhand that was often targeted, but never abused. It was vintage Federer. The patented mid-court forehand, the wicked gets off quick, tight bounces and the unimaginable angles. They were all there. However, the cherry on top might be his serving numbers. Fed was broken only five times in his six matches at the tournament, and none of them came in his dismantling of big hitting Raonic, Del Potro and Isner. Federer has looked confident and hungry so far this season, a deadly combonation that has eliminated some of the blips of last year. He now equals Nadal’s record of 17 Masters 1000 titles, and is a real feather for his hat moving on in 2012.
Around this time last year, heads were being turned as Novak Djokovic had just begun what would be an incredible winning streak lasting all the way to the semifinals of Roland Garros. While many might disagree that this one does not “feel the same”, Azarenka’s 23 wins to cap the year are certainly impressive. After struggling early against German Mona Barthel, Azarenka did not drop a set, and never looked likely to. Azarenka is the perfect storm right now. Wonderful power, excellent movement, and high percentage serving. A sky high confidence level goes along with her top spot in the rankings, and she is likely the most confident and determined lady on tour. Consistency is key for number 1s, but in the collective brain of tennis society, titles are the most important. Azarenka is not only backing up her ranking with consistency, she is backing it up with titles. Having already won Miami twice over the past three years, she may not stop these next two weeks, either.
Surprise of the Week – ATP – John Isner: This week’s surprise of the week is John Isner, who battered all but one of his opponents with big serving followed up by a knockout blow forehand. Isner showed the necessary courage to defeat number 1 ranked Djokovic in the semifinals, and once again harnassed the home town support wonderfully. A native of Georgia and a frequent of southern American events, Isner won’t mind the heat of Miami and has to be a name to watch in the draw.
Surprise of the Week – WTA – Ana Ivanovic: The struggles of the former number 1 have been well documented and well debated over the past year as the Serbian has struggled with confidence on serve and injury woes. One of the most common questions was “where has the forehand gone?” This week, Ana looked more like the girl who won Roland Garros and not the Ana we have come to know the past couple of years. She constructed points beautifully and knew when to pick her spots and go for them. When she hit them, which was most of the time, it was a beautiful thing to watch. She fought Sharapova hard in the semis, but was forced to retire after dropping an incredibly close first set. Luckily for her, it was a minor glute problem and she is expected to be fit for Miami. Another one to watch for in the draw, as well moving forward into the spring clay season.