There was no shortage of drama during final day of action at Indian Wells in 2014, as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer capped off the tournament with a classic three-set duel, with Djokovic earning the 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory.
The two rivals put on a show, much to the delight of the fans watching, and Djokovic ultimately prevailed by outlasting Federer in a tiebreaker in the final set. The epic match was a welcome development after an anticlimactic women's final, during which Italy's Flavia Pennetta dominated an injured Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-1.
Here's a quick look at the scores from both final matches:
|Flavia Pennetta (No. 20)||Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 2)||6-2, 6-1|
|Novak Djokovic (No. 2)||Roger Federer (No. 7)||3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3)|
Note: For final brackets for the entire tournament, please visit ATPWorldTour.com.
Flavia Pennetta Cruises To Victory
Radwanska is one of the world's top female tennis players, but she was no match for Pennetta on Sunday playing on a bum knee. She needed a medical timeout early in the second set, and as Neil Harman of The Times alluded to, she was as taped up as anyone can possibly be dealing with her knee:
How much tape can one player require? Mummifying Miss Radwanska— Neil Harman (@NeilHarmanTimes) March 16, 2014
Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Pennetta was razor sharp, which only exasperated Radwanska's inability to compete at her highest level. Less than 74 minutes after the start of the match, the Italian was the 2014 BNP Paribas Open champion, having won 6-2, 6-1.
It was the biggest win of her career and her first Premier Mandatory title.
“Today was my day and I really enjoyed this moment,” Pennetta said afterward, via Sports Illustrated's Courtney Nguyen.
Those who would try to give Pennetta her due would be wrong to do so, however. As Russell Fuller of BBC pointed out, she went through a veritable gauntlet of worthy stars to reach the final as the No. 20 seed:
Radwanska had a problem with her left knee, but Pennetta a very worthy champion after beating Li Na, Sloane Stephens & Sam Stosur en route— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) March 16, 2014
Radwanska took the loss hard and fought a deluge of tears while giving her speech afterward, per Tennis TV:
One could hardly blame her for her emotional response, however. Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times likely wasn't the only one impressed by the amount of composure she was able to exude getting through the ordeal:
Impressive composure by Radwanska to make it through that whole speech. Clearly devastated by how this final went. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 16, 2014
For Pennetta, the victory caps off a tremendous comeback after she missed half of the 2012 season with a wrist injury that required surgery. Former tennis pro Annabel Croft expressed her joy at seeing Pennetta overcome that obstacle, citing hard work as the catalyst for the achievement:
So pleased for @flavia_pennetta - winning Indian wells ! work ethic pays off and amazing comeback from injury ! -— Annabel Croft (@Annabel_Croft) March 16, 2014
The win vaulted Pennetta up into the No. 12 spot in the WTA World Rankings, via Nguyen, which is her highest position in the rankings since her career high of No. 10 back in 2009. Judging by the way she played at Indian Wells, she'll be a force to be reckoned with throughout the rest of the 2014 season.
Federer's Hot Start Not Good Enough to Defeat Djokovic
Djokovic didn't look sharp to open the match, and Federer capitalized by breaking his serve twice, opening up with a convincing 6-3 first-set win.
Stuart Fraser of the Daily Mail broke down Federer's hot start:
An almost flawless start from Federer as he takes the first set 6-3 in 31 minutes. Serving so well. Full of confidence. Eager to attack.— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) March 16, 2014
It didn't take long for Djokovic to come back with a vengeance, however. He dominated the second set in similar fashion to Federer's first, winning 6-3 to force a third and final set to determine the championship.
Rothenberg noted it was the third Masters tournament in the last nine that the men's final was decided by a tiebreaker, which shows just how competitive men's tennis has been lately:
For a remarkable third time in last nine Masters events, the final will be decided in a third set tiebreak. Federer-Djokovic 6-6. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 16, 2014
Federer held on for quite a while before getting broken the first time by Djokovic, though, as Rob Koenig of the ATP World Tour communicated:
After 33 straight holds, Federer gets broken...— Rob Koenig (@RobKoenigTennis) March 16, 2014
Once the third set arrived, both players tightened up their belts and put on a performance to remember, forcing a tiebreaker, which Djokovic won convincingly 6-3.
As good as Federer still is, Djokovic is simply better when both are on equal terms, Koenig believes:
Djokovic's "base level" of play just a little higher than Federer's....It's not about how many winners you hit, but often, about how few UE— Rob Koenig (@RobKoenigTennis) March 16, 2014
It's hard to argue with the logic. given the fact that Djokovic has won four of the last five matches against the Swiss master.
Still, there's a lot to like about how the tournament played out, regardless of which player you cheer for, as USA Today's Douglas Robson points out:
So Federer continues fine (comeback) form; Djoker didn’t play his best all week but emerges with title and some mojo. Liking it. #tennis— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) March 16, 2014
The month of March is always interesting, as the tournament at Indian Wells is followed up by the Sony Open, which is another huge event with plenty of prestige and a big purse.
Pennetta is an interesting player to watch on the women's side, having lost just three matches thus far in 2014. Her rise up the ranks continues to be an inspirational story, but it's her sharp play that should have the rest of the field worried as the major tournaments approach.
Radwanska will need to get healthy in order to challenge for the title in Miami, but she's always a dangerous foe on hard surfaces.
Which player has the best chance of winning the 2014 Sony Open?
Federer continues to show he's capable of playing at an extremely high level when he's healthy, and you can be sure he'll continue to advance deep into the big tournaments as long as his body cooperates.
For Djokovic, the sky is the limit for the rest of the season. He's one of the world's top players and is still in the prime of his career, and nobody should be surprised if he ends up winning two in a row at the Sony Open next week.
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