The top names in tennis gathered for a second straight week in the United States, this time on the hard courts of Miami. The ATP served up another batch of generally straight forward yet intriguing results, where as the WTA saw the return of some its biggest names.
Novak Djokovic has not quite set the tennis world on fire like he did in 2011, where he went undefeated until Roland Garros.
Regardless, he remains far and away the best player in the game right now. He stormed to a second straight Miami title and third overall to back up his 2012 Australian Open title and fantastic start to the year overall. The fact that Djokovic did not drop a set only highlights the level the number 1 is currently at. The Serbian continues to move well and strike an incredibly clean ball, changing directions wondefully and always putting opponents under pressure. Combined with some fantastic returning and flexibility (literally and figuratively), he can win short or long points on slow or fast surfaces regardless of the opponent. He may not be the automatic choice for the big titles this year, but he is definitely the easiest.
The struggles for the rest of the top four continue. Nadal was forced out of his semifinal match against Murray due to a left knee injury that came up before Indian Wells. “I started to have problems on the knee before Indian Wells,” Nadal said. “But that problem [was] not limiting me to play at 100 per cent. So I played in Indian Wells with the normal conditions, playing in good shape physically. Here, [it] is different.” Nadal’s knees have been his major injury concern in the past, but it should not prevent him for preparing for the upcoming clay season and his seven time title defense in Monte Carlo.
Nadal’s withdrawl from the tournament meant that Murray made the final only playing a total of three matches, after his third round opponent Milos Raonic also withdrew due to injury. It was another underwhelming performance in a final from the Scot who struggled on serve and failed to generate any serious momentum in the match. Roger Federer fell early to American Andy Roddick, largely fatigued from his title run in Indian Wells. Regardless, he should be in good form for the clay season.
The WTA saw the return of Clijsters and both Williams sisters who returned with varying sucess. Clijsters fell early to fellow Belgian Wickmayer, however both Williams sisters made it to the quarterfinals and looked in impressive form.
The story of the week was Agnieszka Radwanska who won the biggest title of her career. This backs up her 2012 Dubai title, as well as both fall titles in Tokyo and Beijing. She has now won her last five finals and 9 of 11 overall. Often described as a “ninja” by adording fans, largely for her finesse style game, she handily dismantled big hitting Venus, Bartoli, and Sharapova on route to the title. This ability to absorb pace and extend rallies reminds of Hingis and may allow her to go deeper than her best ever quarterfinal appearance in a grand slam. She will definitely be a player to watch out for on the summer hard court swing, and possibly at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
WTA Surprise of the Week – Venus Williams: After injuries and extended periods of time off, it seemed as though Venus Williams might just retire and never return to the courts. Along with Clijsters and Alisa Kleybanova, the returns were the story of the tournament early on. However, Venus’ will be the one that will stick in the memory, as she outbattled Canadian Aleks Wozniak in the third round, and defeated a confident Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round before succumbing to eventual champion Radwanska. Welcome back, Venus. The tour is better off with you around.
ATP Surprise of the Week – Juan Monaco: There is something about Pico Monaco when he is in his confident groove. The Argentine knocked out three big servers in a row, Monfils, Roddick, and Fish to make the semfinals, falling to Novak Djokovic. Returning well, he managed to extend points and win bag fulls of long rallies. His movement was fantastic as usual, but his touch around the net matched it and produced some stunning ends to tantalizing ralllies. A confident Pico is an effective Pico. A fantastic result for him to back up his wins on the clay of South America, and will make him a player to watch as the real clay season, Monaco’s favourite surface, gets under way.