WTA Indian Wells 2014 Review: Flavia Pennetta claims biggest career title

Flavia Pennetta defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2 6-1 in the final of the 2014 BNP Paribas Open in 73 minutes.  Here are some of my thoughts on the final and the key talking points from the two weeks in the desert.

The Final: Pennetta d. Radwanska, 6-2 6-1

Urgh.  It’s always horrible when one player is hindered by an injury and and that was the case in Indian Wells as Radwanska struggled with a knee injury.  Take nothing away from Flavia Pennetta, who had a marvellous week.  She defeated the top two seeds, Li Na and Radwanska, Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens en route to her 10th and biggest career title.  Pennetta played another clean match and will move up to world number 12 in the rankings.  Credit to Radwanska for finishing the match and giving Pennetta the opportunity to enjoy the win.  Something wasn’t right in the first set as Radwanska hit 18 unforced errors, which is unheard of for the Pole.  The situation became apparent in the second set when she called a MTO for her knee.  Radwanska would be better off pulling out of Miami with such a heavy schedule of tennis coming, but we’ll have to wait and see.   Indian Wells 2014 though rightfully belongs to Pennetta, who celebrated her victory with a water dousing by Fabio Fognini.

Azarenka and Sharapova continue shaky starts to 2014:

Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

The WTA feels weird this year and that is mainly down to the indifferent starts to 2014 of Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.  Azarenka lost 6-0 7-6 to Lauren Davis in a horrible second round match.  It was clear very early on that Azarenka still had some significant injury issues and her decision to continue playing seemed to be for the wrong reasons.  It is reassuring at least to hear that she will skip Miami to get properly fit ahead of the busiest stretch of the season.

Sharapova started the tournament well, but went down in a tight three setter to Camila Giorgi.  Sharapova admitted that she needs matches and that was certainly proven by another scratchy performance.  Giorgi continues to demonstrate she has the nerve to beat the big players, but also showed her lack of consistency as she followed up the biggest win of her career with a 6-2 6-1 defeat to Flavia Pennetta.  I believe Sharapova will do much better in Miami with the right draw.

Woes of Wozniacki:

Despite reaching the fourth round and beating two players she had lost too in 2013, this was another wobbly week for Caroline Wozniacki.  Her loss in the 4th round to Jelena Jankovic was not surprising, but the 6-3 6-1 manner of it was.  Wozniacki had beaten Jankovic five consecutive times and to lose to the Serb in such convincing fashion showed how far she has regressed, particularly confidence-wise.  Piotr came on the court during the second set and I have never seen Wozniacki look so distraught and sad.

This week also saw the news that her rather tentative coaching partnership with Michael Mortensen is no more.  It is really difficult to wade in on the Wozniacki coaching debate because there’s obviously a lot going on behind the scenes that we don’t and won’t ever find out about.  She’s making her way through coaches at an alarming rate and it does not reflect well on her that so many have failed to work out.  It looks like she’s going back to Piotr for now, which is disappointing.  Piotr helped to get her to world number one, but there is no denying that the WTA tour has moved on significantly since then.  Personally, I think Caroline needs to move on too…

Genie and Sloane shine in the desert:

Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens both stepped up their game in Indian Wells in a big way.  Bouchard recorded notable wins over Peng Shuai and Sara Errani before falling in three sets to Simona Halep in the fourth round.  The attention surrounding Bouchard this year is remarkable, but she appears to be taking it all in her stride.  Her performance over Errani was particularly impressive.  Out of all the matches this week, Halep v Bouchard was the one I was most excited to watch.  It didn’t quite live up to it’s billing, but there was enough on show to suggest it could be an interesting rivalry for the years ahead.  Bouchard was very inconsistent in that match and went for too much in the final game.

Sloane knocked off wins against Ajla Tomljanovic, Ana Ivanovic and Alisa Kleybanova en route to an impressive quarter-final performance.  With Sloane, her talent and quality is all there, but she doesn’t always seem keen to show it.  I noticed last year at Wimbledon that she looked so miserable and that has been a common trait in many of her matches.  This was a positive week, but I still question her ability to produce consistent performances and how much she really wants this.

Kleybanova goes under the radar:

Alisa Kleybanova had a fantastic week in the desert.  The Russian player scored a huge win over Garbine Muguruza that received nowhere near as much attention as it should have.  Before Kleybanova was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, she was one of my favourite players on tour and I love the way she plays and her shotmaking on the run.  This was the first week I saw her play since returning and the serve, most notably the second serve, is the biggest concern.  Her results since the comeback though show that she is capable of getting back to her previous dwelling in the top 30.  Results like these are going to help her gain direct entry into the big events.  2014 will be a year of rebuilding so there will be some up and down results, but the signs are incredibly encouraging for Alisa.

Best Matches of the Tournament:

1. Halep d. Safarova, 6-2 4-6 6-4 (R3)

My favourite match of the week was Simona Halep’s victory over Lucie Safarova.  The first set was fantastic and although Safarova lost it 6-2, there were some tremendous rallies.  Safarova’s hitting at times was top 10 worthy, but her inability to close out the match and be mentally tough, I fear will always prevent her from reaching the true potential of her game.

Highlights from hawaiiantennisvidz

2. Radwanska d. Jankovic, 7-5 2-6 6-4 (QF)

This was a match that I didn’t watch live, but received a lot of positive attention on Twitter and in match reports.  The highlights are fun.

Highlights from hawaiiantennisvidz

3. Ivanovic d. Svitolina, 4-6 7-5 7-6(1) (R2)

OK, so the third set was terrible quality, but it was terribly entertaining.  The first two sets were actually very good with both hitting tons of winners.  The third set was messy, but I couldn’t stop watching.  Svitolina is interesting to watch with her sudden bouts of crazy.

Highlights from TheMsharapova2

Tugging at the heart strings:

This video really got me! Roberta Vinci earned her first win of 2014 with a victory over Madison Keys in the second round and this interview showed how much the last two months had affected her.

Overall Thoughts:

Indian Wells looks like a fantastic tournament to attend for both the fans and the players.  However I don’t think it is a coincidence that the tournament has never produced any great, memorable matches.  On my countdown of the top 20 WTA matches which I have done for the last three years, no matches from Indian Wells have ever featured.  This year was another scratchy tournament in terms of tennis quality and it didn’t feel as a big deal as it should do.  The upsets shook the draw up and there were no really big blockbuster match-ups.  It is too early to suggest if there is going to be a major change at the top with Vika and Maria’s starts to 2014. Miami is going to be an interesting tournament to see where Serena is at after a poor start to the year by her insane standards.

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