April 7, 2015

Where to Begin...?!

Wow, I am really far behind, huh?

But things sure got interesting in the last few days of the Miami Open, that I can't help but react, even a few days after the champions were crowned. Sure, maybe we should have expected that Serena and Nole would come out on top, but there were nevertheless a couple surprising faces hanging around late in the tournament. And their showings could bode very well for them the rest of the year.

I've been talking for a while about how impressive John Isner's been over the last few weeks, but he really exceeded expectations in Miami. After stunning Milos Raonic in the fourth round, he pulled off a solid upset over Kei Nishikori in the quarters, his second top-ten defeat of the tournament. He had a shot at Novak Djokovic in Friday's semis, but after dropping the first in a tight tiebreak, he was fairly demolished in the second. Tomas Berdych had a shot against Andy Murray too -- in a rematch of their Australian Open semi, a match to which he'd brought a 6-4 record -- but fell short for a second straight time, succumbing to superb serving from the Brit and falling short of another run to the final here.

But ultimately we were treated to a repeat of the Melbourne final, with Murray trying to end a streak of six straight losses to the world #1. And having scored his milestone five-hundredth career win in the fourth round, he looked ready to keep his momentum going. He pushed the defending champ to a first set tiebreak, and then got the decisive break in the second to force a third. But Nole, as he so often does, found his motivation when he needed it most -- in the deciding set he blanked the third seed, finally finishing off the match in just under three hours and picking up the elusive Indian Wells/Miami combo for the third time in his career. It marks title #3 for the season, too, and guarantees him the top ranking at least through Wimbledon. But with some inspired performances from so many others in the field this week, there may be a couple out there ready to give him a run for his money.

The women's draw wasn't without its surprises either. With players like world #2 Maria Sharapova, former champ Aga Radwanska and even in-form Caroline Wozniacki all getting upset, the bottom half of the bracket was decimated pretty early during the event. That opened the door for two unlikely semifinalists to make a play for the title. Andrea Petkovic, a little spotty this year despite a title in Antwerp, notched wins over Ekaterina Makarova and red hot Karolina Pliskova during her run. But she was ultimately stopped short by a resurgent Carla Suarez Navarro, who'd pulled out of the Antwerp final but scored two wins over Petra Kvitova already this season and took a set off eventual champion Simona Halep in Indian Wells. In Miami she scored her third win over veteran Venus Williams in the quarters, precluding a much anticipated match-up between the two sisters.

She was thoroughly outmatched in the final though -- Serena, who'd survived quite a squeaker against Halep on Thursday, was coming off a tight two-hour long semi before reaching the weekend's championship. But the seven-time champion didn't seem too fatigued after the fight -- she lost just two games in the fifty-six minute match, handing the Spaniard the fifth bagel set in their five meetings. With a record eighth title in Miami, she's certainly shown she's not ready to cede her spot at the top any time soon -- but performances from the rest of the semifinal field may give us some clue as to who's ready to take over when she does.

No comments: