As the curtain closed on the 2014 Indian Wells tournament, there was one inescapable conclusion: Novak Djokovic is back in business.
It would not be fair to categorise Djokovic’s 2013 as underwhelming, but it is certainly true that the world number two didn’t quite hit the heights he is accustomed to last year. After winning the Australian Open, he failed to grasp another Grand Slam in the calendar year, losing to Nadal in the semi-finals of the French, Murray in the Wimbledon final and Nadal again in New York.
After losing the number one spot to a rampaging and resurgent Rafael Nadal, 2014 was always going to be a crucial year for the 26 year old, as he failed to retain his Australian Open title. This was the first time since 2011 that Djokovic was not the holder of a Grand Slam.
This latest success in California highlights quite clearly that anyone who had written Djokovic off in 2014 has another think coming. The Serb has played beautifully throughout the tournament, marching into the final on the back of strong showings against Marin Cilic and John Isner.
In truth, there was not much between Djokovic and his final opponent, the graceful-as-ever Roger Federer, but in truth, it still seemed like there was only ever going to be one winner. If the Indian Wells is anything to go by, Djokovic means business for the rest of 2014.
Pennetta wins first title since 2010
After it was confirmed that Serena Williams would not be in California, attention swiftly turned towards both Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na. It was felt that with the prolific American not competing, these were the two most sensible players to back. In the end, it was a veteran Italian who saw to both of them.
Thirty-two-year-old Flavia Pennetta had not won a WTA title for four years, but after sweeping past Li Na in straight sets in the semi-final, the Italian was able to take advantage of an injury to Radwanska, clinching the title that propels her into 12th in the world.
It was sad to see Radwanska in such discomfort, and the fact that her injury played a significant part in her loss cannot be underestimated. Nevertheless, Pennetta cannot be blamed for grabbing the opportunity to win the title, and once again, a women’s tennis tournament has thrown up an unlikely winner.
After years of Williams’ dominance, the unpredictability of women’s tennis is on the rise, and that can only be a good thing.
Attention turns to Miami
Whilst Serena wasn’t at the Indian Wells, the other players on the WTA tour will have no such luck at the next tournament – the Miami Sony Open. The world number one resumes her number one seed status and the defending champion will kick off her defence against either Yaroslava Shvedova or Francesca Schiavone in the second round, ahead of a potential quarterfinal date with Sara Errani.
Over on the other side of the women’s draw, Li Na is seeded second and will play either Ivita Melzer or Alisa Kleybanova ahead of a possible quarterfinal against Sloane Stephens or Caroline Wozniacki.
At the time of writing, the men’s draw hasn’t been made public, but one thing’s for sure, defending champion Andy Murray will be hoping to do better than he did in the Indian Wells last week.
What will be interesting to see is whether Roger Federer continues his resurgence. The Swiss number two reached the final in California, but after heading some way down the rankings and losing his status as Swiss number one to Stanislas Wawrinka last year, plenty have questioned whether the old master is finished at this level. Another strong showing in Miami will show any detractors that he still has what it takes.
We’re rather spoilt with the amount of quality tennis available at this time of year, and Miami promises to be a feast of quality. This tournament always delivers, and tennis fans all over the globe are waiting with bated breath for what should be a truly fascinating contest.
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