March 22, 2009

Take That!

Indian Wells seemed to be the venue for tennis players to make a statement over the past week and a half.

Defending champion Ana Ivanovic fought her way to the finals, showing that it wasn't quite time to erase her name from the ranks of elite women, while Andy Murray posted his fourth straight win over former world #1 Roger Federer to further prove that the once-infallible King is, in fact, human.

But there were others who were prepared to make even bolder assertions in the desert of California. Vera Zvonareva had climbed to a career-high ranking of #5 early last month and yesterday paired with her semifinal opponent Victoria Azarenka to claim the women's doubles title in Indian Wells. This afternoon she took on Ivanovic in an attempt to sweep the tournament.

The match started out close, in extremely windy conditions -- the two women traded breaks of serve in the first set and took over an hour before forcing a tiebreak. Even then they remained tight, but Vera took the set, 7-5, in just under ninety minutes. In the second set, though, Ivanovic's serve seemed to fall apart -- she won only forty percent of her first attempts, and was actually slightly better on her second serve at 43%. Zvonareva took advantage of her opponent's weakness and won six games in a row, claiming the second set, and her second title of 2009, 6-2, and Ana remained trophy-less for the year.

The men's championship match had the potential to be a shocker. Rafael Nadal was going for his thirteenth ATP World Tour 1000 title -- Murray for his third title of the year and his third professional win against Rafa. The Scot was running on momentum from beating Federer again while the Spaniard was amped from stopping Andy Roddick's roll in the semis.

But tonight Nadal was just too much for Murray to handle. Proving that he is indeed the best tennis player in the world, Rafa didn't allow a single break opportunity. He won a monstrous 81% of his first serves and another 65% on his second try, and in less than ninety minutes -- as long as just the first set of the women's final -- he sent Murray packing, avenging his loss at the finals in Rotterdam.

It wasn't a total loss for the American men, though. Immediately after his semifinal loss to Rafa Saturday night, Andy Roddick had to regroup and get back on the courts for the doubles final with partner Mardy Fish. Though they lost the first set to veteran Max Mirnyi and relative newcomer Andy Ram, Fish took the reigns in the second and helped save three match points in the third to win the title. It was only Roddick's fourth career doubles championship, but I'm sure no one would scoff at placing one more trophy on the mantle.

Congratulations to all this week's winners!

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