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Tour report - Miami

by Alexandra Willis
Tuesday 3 April 2012

There has been a vague feeling of the wounded tiger about Novak Djokovic over the past few weeks. The world No.1 had readily admitted that repeating the feats of his searing 2011 streak was going to be more difficult than doing it the first time around, but, having won the Australian Open, where he out-physicalled the most physical player on the tour in the process, there was a sense that perhaps it might not be so unachievable after all.

But then Djokovic suffered two rather similar losses, in two semi-finals, within a couple of weeks. To Andy Murray, in Dubai, he was not really allowed to be at his best, while to John Isner, in Indian Wells, he squandered opportunities that last year he had taken.

So to triumph in Miami, his second successful title defence of the year, and beating Murray 6-1, 7-6(4) to do so, was as much an exercise in restoring his belief in himself as repairing a little of the damage to his aura of invincibility.

The fact that he did not play his best tennis to do so, even if he didn't drop a set all tournament, can be read two ways. One, as a worry, that perhaps last year really was as good as it gets, and he got a lucky break, Murray, Ferrer and Juan Monaco, against whom Djokovic registered almost identical score-lines, didn't offer as much as they should have done.

Or, alternatively, following the Brad Gilbert school of thought - that winning like this will only help him to win better next time.

"Any title is big, and it means a lot," Djokovic said. "I've won three times here. I think that says enough about how I feel playing in Miami. This is going to be very encouraging for me prior to the clay court season."

With the dirt comes another heap of pressure and expectation. Djokovic has titles to defend in Rome and Madrid, and a semi-final showing at the French Open to live up to, or better, to keep his celebrated spot as the world No.1.

Is he feeling it? He must be. Or perhaps not. If Key Biscayne showed anything, it's that Djokovic continues to be driven by a deep-rooted belief that he will always come out on top. We'll see if he can continue to do so.

Andy Murray, meanwhile, could only be pleased with his bounce-backability from an unfathomable first round loss in Indian Wells to a Miami final just 10 days later. He was, admittedly, gifted two walkovers along the way, which pundits have said may have been why he came out a little cold against Djokovic early on, and only got going as the match concluded. But it was another reflection of how far he has come, Lendl or no Lendl, in the past 12 months. He just needs some more time.

As for the ladies, Agnieszka Radwanska continued to cement her presence among the women's elite with an astonishing 7-5, 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova, almost making the Russian tear her hair out in frustration as she failed to penetrate the Pole's defences.

Even more surprising was that Sharapova didn't break Radwanska's famously slow serve even once, handing herself her fourth defeat in eight finals this year, and her fourth defeat in the Miami final, a title she has never won.

Radwanska meanwhile, whose specialty is a backhand defence shot off her haunches that she practically sits on the ground to hit, moves to 26-4 in 2012, having lost only to Victoria Azarenka, the world No.1.

"I really played well today, from the beginning ‘til the end," Radwanska said. "I was really focusing on my serve, and I'm very happy I didn't lose my serve. It was actually I think the key on this match."

Who would have thunk.

The doubles titles, meanwhile, were won by Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, and Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.

Let the clay court season put all this in a mixing bowl, churn it up, and spit out some more interesting results.

For all the reports and results from Miami, visit the official Sony Open website

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