The month of March is unlike any other in the tennis calendar outside of the slams, a four week bubble featuring two fortnightly tournaments whose scale and prestige are almost equal to the big four.
It means a great deal to win either Indian Wells (now BNP Paribas Open) and Miami (Sony Ericsson Open), being premier events of course. Bigger player fields and the added mental factor of a two-week-long tournament all adds to the challenge.
In the Women’s game especially, Indian Wells offered the more formulaic results if you will, at least compared to the following fortnight. Murray’s early loss was a shock true, but the remaining ‘Big 3’ stayed true to form and filled the semi-final spots.
A heroic effort then from John Isner, who seems to be enjoying fellow American Mardy Fish’s struggles – conquering the Serbinator to reach the final. Yes there were the telltale tiebreakers lingering in the score-line, but Djokovic was fully fit and looking good, an important and relevant victory.
But it was Roger Federer’s tournament, his semi-final demolition of Rafa echoing that stunning Tour Ending championships win last November. Rolling back the years, the Fed pulled of some magical shots in the windy conditions. Well worth staying awake at two in the morning for!
A tired Isner forced another tiebreak in the final, but Roger kept his nerve to prevail.
The women’s competition saw Victoria Azarenka extend her reign as the girl to get this year. As this entry on Jonathan Overend’s BBC blog studies, the Belarusian seems completely free from the pressures of a major-winning, ranking topping 22 year old. We have seen this attitude before of course with Ivanovic – albeit briefly – Azarenka is clearly made of sterner stuff however.
I still cannot warm to her on-court, but off it she is a worthy ambassador and champion.
Perhaps though the star of March was Azarenka’s victim in the Florida final, Agnieska Radwanska has quietly been knocking on the door of greatness for a few years now.
Her thrashing to Azarenka proved the perfect starting block for success in Miami, scything her way through another quality field (the enigmatic Bartoli snuffing out the threat of Azarenka earlier on) finishing with a particularly impressive victory over the in-form Sharapova. Worth noting that this has been a strange but invaluable three months for Maria, the nearlywoman at every major tournament this year should hold her in good stead for a Slam victory later on.
Finally, it was Djokovic who triumphed in Miami over a resurgent Murray who should be gladdened despite another cakewalk to the final thanks to walkovers aplenty. A tired Federer losing to Andy Roddick for only the third time. The American veteran deserved better than his exit the following round.
Indeed, he more than deserves his solitary Slam title.
BNP Paribas Open
Indian Wells, U.S.A. Hard
Singles: Roger Federer
Doubles: Rafael Nadal, Marc Lopez
Sony Ericsson Open
Miami, U.S.A. Hard
Singles : Novak Djokovic
Doubles : Radek Stepanek, Leander Paes
Indian Wells, CA-USABNP Paribas Open
Huber, Liezel / Raymond, Lisa
Sony Ericsson Open
Kirilenko, Maria / Petrova, Nadia
Pics from ATP and WTA official sites