| Roger Federer, in Indian Wells, on Sunday |
Indian Wells: Roger Federer has not won a Grand Slam title in more than two years, but he continued his somewhat more subtle recent assault on the record books Sunday. On a cold, windy day, Federer claimed his record-tying 19th Masters 1000 title, beating John Isner, 7-6 (7), 6-3, in the final of the BNP Paribas Open.
The championship was Federers fourth at Indian Wells, but his first since winning three straight from 2004 to 2006.
After eking out the first set, Federer dominated with his serve. He dropped only one point on his serve in the second set, breaking Isner twice and out-acing the 6-foot-9 Isner over all, seven to four. Isner had hit 20 aces in his semi-final win over No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Well, naturally, I mean, I love to win tennis tournaments, Federer said. Its nice taking it all the way and getting victories. I enjoy winning titles.
Since failing to convert on two match points against Novak Djokovic last year in the US Open semi-finals, Federer has been perhaps the best player in mens tennis. He leads the field in ranking points accrued since the Open, winning titles in Basel, Paris, London, Dubai and now Indian Wells.
Though Djokovics dominant 2011 campaign secured his hold on the No. 1 ranking for several more months at least, Federer could surpass Rafael Nadal for No. 2 by the end of the Ericsson Open in Miami, which begins Wednesday. Federer defeated Nadal in the semi-finals here.
While proud of making his first Masters 1000 final and of reaching the top 10 with his win over Djokovic, Isner made it clear that he wanted more.
Remarkable as it is, Federers winning streak of 16 matches pales in comparison with that of the most dominant woman in tennis, top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.
Azarenka won her 23rd straight match, beating No. 2 Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 6-3, in the final. The title, her first at Indian Wells, followed crowns at Sydney, the Australian Open and Doha. Azarenka has not lost a match this year.
She rarely looked threatened Sunday, though the match was not as one-sided as her 6-3, 6-0 rout of Sharapova in the Australian Open final in January.
Though indisputably dominant, Azarenka does not have a calling card in her game the way most previous dominant No. 1s have. She lacks the artistry of Justine Henins backhand, the creativity of Martina Hingis or the locomotive power of Serena Williams. For now, Azarenka simply does everything very well and nothing poorly.
What she does have that separates her from others in tennis is an unabashed, satisfied strut in victory, a swagger that was on display again after her latest win over Sharapova. After a long rally on championship point, which ended when a lob by Sharapova landed long, Azarenka did an exaggerated, kicking run toward the box where her coach, Sam Sumyk, and agent, Meilen Tu, sat.
After a quick handshake with Sharapova, Azarenka danced the Dougie while Nellys song #1 echoed through the stadium.
Azarenkas wardrobe choices in news conferences reflected this confidence all week. Having previously worn a Nike shirt that simply said Best is Best, after the final she wore a red jacket with AZARENKA written on the back and VIKA 1 on the front. Underneath it was a shirt that read Unstoppable Skills.
In her undefeated run in 2012, Azarenka has yet to face the three players most likely to beat her (Serena, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki). Azarenka has losing records against all three players.
Of course Id love to play any of the, Azarenka said. For me, bigger the challenge, the more exciting it is. Thats what Im looking for.
Sharapova seemed hungry for a rematch after the loss, but she does not seem to be the likeliest candidate to end Azarenkas streak. Except for their meeting in Rome last year, when Azarenka retired in the second set after winning the first, Sharapova has lost four straight matches to Azarenka. She has not won more than five games in any of them.
You have to figure out how to beat them, Sharapova said of the challenge presented by a top player like Azarenka. It hasnt happened for me the last couple of times against her.
Like I said, were still young. Were going to face each other many more times.
NYT News Service