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    Indian Wells

    Along with all the bad news this weekend, was some very good tennis from the BNP Paribas Open, a large, prestigious tournament near Palm Springs CA. In the finals, women's #1 Caroline Wozniacki earned $700,000 for outlasting #15 Marion Bartoli while #3 and soon to be #2, Novak Djokovic earned $611,000 for defeating #1 Rafael Nadal. Overall prize money was equal, but the ATP and WTA distribute that money differently. Over 36 years the tournament has been known variously as the Congoleum Classic, the State Farm Evert Cup, and the Pacific Life Open, but is now owned by Oracle's Larry Ellison and sponsored by BNP Paribas. Tennis fans just call it Indian Wells.

    To reach the final, Djokovic first had to beat Roger Federer in the semis, while Nadal had to beat a resurgent Juan del Potro. We don't get cable at the house, but I happened to turn on ABC, one of the handful of stations we can pull in by antenna, and watched the first set and a half of Djokovic v Federer. Djokovic was on fire in the first set, serving well and dominating Federer in baseline rallies. Federer is often described as playing effortless, economical tennis, but in the first set he was obviously rushed as he tried to stay in rallies and just put a racquet on some of Djokovic's precise shots. Djokovic capitalized on a break to win the first set, and Federer managed an early break in the second set, just before ABC announced they would be ending coverage on the East coast to carry news, and that ESPN would carry the rest of the match. ABC actually carried a half hour infomercial, then national news. I read later that Fed won the second but was blown out in the third, and that Rafa was behind 1-4 but rallied to beat del Potro 6-4, 6-4.

    With this win, Djokovic is guaranteed the #2 ranking next week, while Federer will drop to #3. But both Nadal and Djokovic are physically more fragile than Federer, so I certainly wouldn't count him out of the hunt for additional major titles.

    I had to work Sunday, but was able to follow the women's final through a spotty feed from Eurosport. Such feeds frequently go dead with a message about, "illegally broadcasting copyrighted content," but there is always another feed. A lot of times the feeds come in with no commentary, which is preferable to the network tendency to talk, talk, talk, during points. One of my coworkers was about to pay $50 a year to subscribe to a tennis broadcast service, but when I checked into it, they just charged for links to these illegal feeds. Tennis TV offers a legal internet broadcast service with scads of tournaments except the majors, and charges about $20/mo or $130/yr. I watched Tennis TV's Federer v Nadal broadcast last year on my notebook, but I have been dithering between them and a less expensive cable sports package through cable tv that would give me the Tennis Channel. The Tennis Channel also offers a lot of tournament coverage, including early rounds of the majors, and fills up the hours with replays of recently broadcast matches, Team Tennis, Classic Tennis and tennis instructional and lifestyle shows.

    Wozniacki and Bartoli both play positional games - Bartoli hits a bit harder, Wozniacki moves better - and they both like to jerk their opponents around. Either woman can hit wicked angled replies when forced wide, but Woz was faster and steadier, making Bartoli look outclassed while winning the first set 6-1. The Eurosport commentators began chatting about how it seemed that Wozniacki was finally good enough to deserve her #1 ranking, and that she even seemed to be playing better than Kim Clijsters. No one mentioned either Williams sister. That's not a surprise because the Williams have been boycotting Indian Wells since 2001, when Venus was booed for withdrawing and Serena was booed after beating Clijsters. Also both are injured, again, Serena with a very serious blood clot in her lung and a hematoma on her stomach.

    In the second set, Bartoli's coach urged her to work harder. She did, leaning in and hitting out on everything. Suddenly Wozniacki didn't look so good. Bartoli turned the match around and dominated the second set, 6-2. But she was running herself more ragged than her opponent. Bartoli is fit, of course, but she's not the scrambler/runner type, and even while losing, Woz made her opponent run - a lot. In the third set Bartoli began to make tired errors, which was enough to give Wozniacki the set and match. Had Bartoli taken the offensive from the first ball, she may have beaten Wozniacki in straight sets, which demonstrates why Woz, though consistent, can lose to Clijsters, Williams or even Vera Zvonereva having a good day.

    When I got to my apartment, Djokovic and Nadal were knotted at 2-2 in the first set. Nadal was returning well, secured a break in the seventh game and served out the first set. But then Nadal's first serve almost disappeared. Djokovic couldn't run Nadal around as he did Federer, but he was more offensive in the rallies, and began exploiting Nadal's backhand and second serves. After getting a break, Djokovic served for the second set. The game went to deuce five times. With one ad, Djokovic hit a safe 95 mph serve that let Nadal back in the point and back to deuce. Djokovic won another point with a screaming angled get. On the next ad point, Djokovic went for a bigger serve, and took the set. Losing that set seemed to deflate Nadal. Djokovic quickly went up two breaks, leading 4-0 and winning the final set 6-2.

    Djokovic is now 18-0 this year, and would seem to be the player to beat, except that we are approaching clay court season. Nadal is still fearsome on clay, and is likely to win Roland Garros, defend his points from last year, and maintain his #1 ranking. Wimbledon, though, should be very competitive.


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