The first ATP Masters 1000 / WTA Premier Mandatory event of the year finished with a first title of 2014 for Novak Djokovic and sweet success for Flavia Pennetta. Wimbledon.com reports...
If the seesaw of major men's tennis has been swung towards Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray for much of the past 10 months, on a sunny Sunday in Southern California, it swung back towards Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The two contested their 33rd meeting in the final of Indian Wells, Djokovic narrowly edging Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in a match that did much for both.
For Federer, much the better player for the first hour of proceedings, it restored him to the status of a top five player. For Djokovic, it was a first title of 2014, a first Indian Wells title since 2011, the year that everything happened for him.
"The way I won this title is something that makes me very happy and gives me mentally a lot of satisfaction because I have had specifically these three matches against [Marin] Cilic and yesterday's semi-final and today's final, situations where I played three sets where it was very tense, very emotional," said Djokovic. "A few points really here and there could go either way, and then it went my way. I stayed mentally tough, and that, for me, is something that gives me a lot of encouragement and hopefully a confidence boost for the rest of the season."
It also resembled what has become par for the course between these two.. an early surge by Federer, only for him to be relentlessly reeled in by Djokovic, somehow with really fathoming how.
Losing by just 98 points to Djokovic's 99, Federer was much the better player for much of the match, but, as Djokovic pushed him deeper and deeper into the court, and took away the night, in the end he was impeded at the last by a poor tie-break.
"As I said before the match today, very few points will decide a winner, and that's what happened," said Djokovic. "Roger is playing in a very high level.... He just played better than he did in the last 13, 14 months. I needed to really be in the top of my game and very concentrated the last moment in order to win. That's what I've done. Very proud of my achievements during this tournament."
The women's final in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden had far less pomp and circumstance, and many more tears as Flavia Pennetta proved that sometimes tennis can bring you more than just pain. Almost exactly a year since she had seriously contemplated retiring, sick of constant injuries and a six-month lay-off, she lifted one of the biggest prizes in the sport.
Admittedly, her opponent, Agnieszka Radwanska, was hampered by injuries of her own, and her tearful speech during the presentation ceremony proved the pain she was in. But it was a long-awaited moment for Pennetta, whose joy was overflowing in the way that only Italians seem to manage.
"I'm happy. Really happy," Pennetta said afterwards. "I think I need a few days to realize this. Right now I'm too calm, I think. I called my dad, and he couldn't breathe. I told him, 'Papa, breathe!'
"After so many years and so much work and everything, this is the moment I was waiting for. And it comes when you least expect it. In the beginning of the tournament I never expected to be the champion, or even be in the final or semi-final. I was just here trying to play my best tennis.
"For me, this is something I was waiting for a long time."
Having been ranked outside the top 100 this time last year, she has since risen to No.12, on the verges of her career-best ranking of No.10 in 2009.
She's unlikely to do a Djokovic and go on a title-winning tear. In fact, history relates that those who do well in Indian Wells struggle in Miami. But she's proved that she's one to be reckoned with. As has Djokovic, yet again.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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