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Tour report - Indian Wells

by Alexandra Willis
Thursday 15 March 2012

There was a strange sort of symmetry to the victories from Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka in Indian Wells. Both players entered the Indian Wells desert in the midst of title tears - Federer with two, Azarenka with three - and both were suffering from some sort of stomach complaint. Federer described his as from "flying around the world," Azarenka's was simply a stomach virus, but both used their antibodies to their advantage as they came through unscathed amid the Coachella Valley-wide stomach bug, and extended their match-winning streaks to 15 and 23 respectively.

Federer's straight sets win over John Isner, sealed in part by a backhand lob that Isner left at 7-7 in the first set tie-break, completed a record fourth title in the desert for the Swiss, and also elevated his tally of ATP Masters 1000 titles to 19, the same as Rafael Nadal.

It was also the former world No.1's 73rd career title, his third in a row after triumphing in Rotterdam and Dubai, and puts him within reach of overtaking Nadal as the world No.2 before the clay court swing.

"It's been a long time since I have been this successful here, even though I have had some really good matches here in the past, but it's nice taking it all the way and getting victories," Federer said. "I was just really happy and not relieved because I was just extremely proud of my performance this week."

The Swiss is now steaming along on a record of 39 wins and two losses since Novak Djokovic's forehand upset the apple cart in their US Open semi-final, losing only to Nadal in the Australian Open semi-final and Isner on clay in Davis Cup.

Speaking of the American, his valiant effort to reach his first Masters final, a possibly career-defining first ever win over Djokovic in the Indian Wells semi-finals, and his first over a sitting world No.1, has elevated him into the world's top 10. How long he will stay remains to be seen, given that he is not the most natural of clay-courters, but he has developed into a far more rounded threat than just an impossibly tall guy with a big serve.

The desert results set the scene nicely for the second of the spring hard court Masters Series events in Miami over the next two weeks.

On the women's side of the coin, the dominance of one player has been even more damning. Azarenka seems to have settled very comfortably into life as the world No.1, as she dropped just one set during her march to her fourth title in a row, to German Mona Barthel.

The Belarusian, who is unbeaten in 2012, produced an incomprehensibly solid performance to screech past Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-3 in the final, leaving the Russian as bemused as she was after similar treatment in the Australian Open final.

“She’s extremely solid,” Sharapova said. "She makes you work for every point. Ultimately I think maybe she forces you to want to do a little bit more than either you should or would want to.”

Azarenka remains a far cry from the tempestuous, temperamental type who seemed almost like she might never realise her potential. But critics have pointed to the fact that although she can pick apart Sharapova, she is yet to face either Petra Kvitova, Serena Williams or Caroline Wozniacki, all of whom she still has losing head to heads against.

But that could all be redressed in Miami. So far, she's wearing the world No.1 mantle well.

Federer may be breathing on his No.2 heels, but all was not lost for Nadal in the desert, as he and buddy Marc Lopez combined to win their second Indian Wells doubles title, and perhaps mark themselves out as ones to watch for Olympic gold. The women's doubles title was claimed by Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, on a tear of their own.

Thus there are plenty of storylines still to unfurl as the tour crosses the United States for Key Biscayne. So far, 2012 is chugging along nicely.


For all the reports and results from Indian Wells, visit the official BNP Paribas Open website

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