Monday, March 19, 2018

Weekend Tennis Roundup

What an incredibly fun tournament Indian Wells turned out to be! Not only did Juan Martin del Potro bring Roger Federer's reign of geriatric terror to a thrilling end -- each man having match point before the Argentine finally blew the GOAT out in third-set tiebreak -- we had some breakout performances that I think actually portend more success.

First and foremost, Naomi Osaka played flawlessly to win her first WTA title -- and a premier mandatory at that! (Damian and I expected big things from her after seeing how well she played against Venus Williams last year at Wimbledon.) The young Haitian-Japanese embarrassed "World No. 1" Simona Halep 3 and 0 in the semis (and what a sight it was to watch!), after having dismissed Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwańska and Karolína Plíšková all in straight sets. (Osaka was fifth of my list of black women I thought might win the title, after Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens!)

And while she defeated Daria Kasatkina rather handily in the final, the 20-year-old Russian also had an incredible run to the final, beating two current Slam titlists -- Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki -- plus two former Slam champs -- Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams -- the latter in a nail-biter semifinal showdown. Osaka and Kasatkina have such interesting games -- the former with her power and newly cultivated precision and the latter with her Radwańska-esque touch and finesse. If these two wind up being the future of women's tennis, definitely sign me up for another 20 years of fandom. (Osaka's "embarrassing" speech after the match reminded me that she's just a kid, just as Kasatkina's tears did.)

In addition to del Potro's seesaw victory over Federer -- Roger is surprisingly now 1-7 in tournament-deciding tiebreaks, and have you ever noticed how differently he plays against someone who has beaten him before? -- Indian Wells was also a coming-out party of sorts of Borna Coric. 

Not only was he two games from beating Federer, the Croatian twerking champ held his nerve to beat U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson in a third-set tiebreak in the semis. He also defeated steady Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and Albert Ramos Viñolas as well as American hope Taylor Fritz en route to his first Masters 1000 semifinal. (Did you get a load of Fritz's department-store heiress mom's face in the crowd? She'd have smiled for her son's success if she'd been able too.) 

I noticed this beast in Borna's box -- and can only hope he's in it elsewhere, too. 

Chung Hyeon continued to play impressively, setting up a quarterfinal showdown with Roger Federer, against whom he had to retire at the Aussie Open because of severe blistering. Although the South Korean came up short again, it was obvious he has what it takes to go to the next level, assuming he improves his serve a bit. 

 It was also great to see oft-injured Milos Raonic back in the mix of things, getting all the way to the semifinals with the help of a friendly draw. 

While the desert proved to be rather cool this fortnight, tournament director Tommy Haas had me hot and bothered throughout -- first wearing tight jeans and a black dress shirt for his retirement ceremony ...

... and later in tight microfiber polo shirt during the singles trophy presentations (see above with the ladies' finalists) and then this sweater number while handing out the women's doubles trophy. 

There were a couple of tennis legends in the stands, too.

Pete Sampras and Rod Laver stopped by to take in some of the action. They say Indian Wells is the best tournament in the U.S. -- other than the Open -- and I believe it. Will definitely be trying to go next year ... again!

And now we're off to Miami, where Kyle Edmund headed early after his first-round loss in Indian Wells to Israel's Dudi Sela. If this Instagram story is any indication, he'll definitely be getting a better result!  

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