Just six posts in the month of March isn’t good enough I know. But moving house, no WiFi for a fortnight and acquiring a new laptop will result in a prolonged hiatus.
The fact that my new Surface Pro has three times the battery power of my beloved Pro 3 leaves no excuse for the daily waffle to return apace, And we start with a gamut of talking points after the Sunshine Double threw up a host of shocks and surprises.
I had briefly covered Naomi Osaka and Juan-Martin Del Potro’s wonderful wins at Indian Wells, and lord knows there are better articles on both players out there.
No, here we have to address the Miami victors and Rafa’s return to the summit amidst Federer’s patchy form which perhaps in January looked unlikely this year before one factors in the facts behind the fantasy.
Stephens soars from the shadows
I feel a little adrift already when it comes to the WTA tour and the formbook therein; in Australia, I thought I had things sussed. Kerber, Halep, Wozniacki and then Kvitova would lead the charge, with Muguruza, Venus, Ostapenko and perhaps Serena joining the fray. Poor Sloane Stephens, and Miami’s other comeback kid were frankly not on my radar. Their performances this last week or so demand a recalibration, so too Osaka’s too of course.
Azarenka’s pedigree is well proven obviously, and it was always a matter of time before she started troubling those at the top again. But Stephens’ win here was as unexpected as the men’s champion, and just as delightful to behold.
Isner finally lands in the Big Time
John Isner was (and let’s be realistic, still is) in real danger of becoming another of the U.S’ nearlymen who failed to properly take the mantle from Roddick as a regular Slam contender and Top 10 stalwart. Himself, Querrey and Donald Young have shown up only intermittently, burning bright but brief (Isner’s longest match in history, Querrey’s defeat of Djokovic and Nadal at Wimbles). Jack Sock and Tennys Sangdren show much promise, but it is early days.
John Isner was perhaps the most frustrating of them all, a power game with a mighty serve and decent hands at the net – coupled with a Roddick-esque lovability and marketability.
It all came together at long last here in Miami, the home favourite producing the play of his life to down the likes of Cilic, an on-fire and much fancied DelPo and Zverev come the final hurdle. It was a masterclass and a very popular win.
Whether either player can kick on from here or see this sun-kissed success as the highlight of their 2018’s is unclear.
Nadal’s reclamation of the number 1 spot after Federer’s brief flirtation for the history books is significant for it’s timing. Clay beckons and with it much expectation for the Spaniard to mop up the glory and cement his place at the summit.
But that injury is a huge factor here – his favourite surface is the most punishing and we can expect the likes of Dominic Thiem to be ripe and ready to claim – as others have done so this past month or two – the biggest spoils with the established 4 or 5 out of action in one way or another.