Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indian Wells Finals Set

Indian Wells has produced a little March Madness of its own this year. As the eyes of the tennis world have descended upon the desert-baked hardcourts of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the action on the court has been nothing less than scintillating.

In yesterdays first semifinal, Andy Murray engineered his 4th consecutive victory against Roger aka our heavenly father Federer. Murray, whose only loss this season came at the hands of the already eliminated Fernando Verdasco, is now 20-1 on the year with 2 ATP titles.

Federer meanwhile, remains coachless in the Coachella Valley.

The Swiss master had trouble converting breaks (2 of 10) and Murray did not (5 of 6). End of story. I don't think this one is worth over-analyzing. You win some and you lose some, even if you are Roger Federer. He's not # 1 anymore and he's going to have to fight for his wins like everybody else in the top-4. Especially since everybody is 5 years younger than him and they have all been chasing him for the last 3 years.

Finally, they are catching up. It is the lay of the land in men's tennis, and it doesn't dull the excitement surrounding Fed's quest for a record-tying 14th major one bit. Federer is, was, and always will be a miracle - while the cards seemed stacked in Rafa's favor at the moment, it would be foolish for us to count him out. Roger's not done yet, and he'll tell us when he is. Until then, let's keep letting him amaze us.

In the other men's semifinal, Rafa aka conquistador Nadal topped Andy Roddick 6-4, 7-6 (4). The loss ends Roddick's winning streak at 11, and propels Rafa to the 42nd ATP final of his career (he is 32-9 in them so far). While Roddick wasn't good enough to snatch a set against the Spaniard, he was good enough to break him twice and to force a 2nd set breaker. But, as is so often the case, Rafa was too good when the points mattered most. His record against Roddick goes to 5-2.

Todays winners, Nadal and Murray, will do battle tomorrow in the men's final. Vera Zvonareva and returning Champion Ana Ivanovic will collide in the women's final, which will be played first, at 12:00, left-coast time.

Murray v. Nadal: After losing his first 4 matches to Nadal, Murray has won the last 2 on hard court (one in the 2008 U.S. Open Semi). So that's 4 in a row v. Federer and 2 in a row v. Nadal. Wow. If the 21-year-old wins tomorrow I may have to start saving money so I can bet it on him to win Wimbledon. Just kidding... Sort of.

Ivanovic v. Zvonareva: Ivanovic defeated Zvonareva easily in the 2008 Indian Wells QF's, 6-1, 6-4. However, her streak of 3 straight-set victories against Zvonareva finally ended in November of 2008, as Zvonareva defeated Ana in 3 sets at last years Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha.

The 24-year-old Russian, who is currently ranked at her all-time high of # 6, also took the BNP Paribas Open doubles crown, combining with Victoria Azarenka to defeat Dulko and Peer yesterday in a match Tiebreak yesterday.

Meanwhile, Ivanovic, currently ranked 7, is struggling to regain the form that put her at # 1 in June of 2008. Since last years French Open title, she has failed to get beyond the third round of a major. Post Roland Garros, she was a tepid 11-9 in 2008.

The Kardon Effect: After hiring coach Craig Kardon in early February Ivanovic is 7-1. If her semifinal destruction of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is any indication, Kardon is helping the young Serbian's game immensely. But it has not all been perfect for Ivanovic this week: She did give up 7 service breaks against Flavia Pennetta in the round of 16. She'll need to serve better than that to regain the # 1 ranking.

Red-hot Zvonareva, who has not even needed a tiebreaker to win 10 consecutive sets @ Indian Wells this year, is 17-2 with one WTA title on the year.

Enjoy the Finals!

The Fan Child


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