The curtain came down on the 2014 BNP Paribas Open with the best match from the whole two weeks as Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in a third set tiebreak. Here are some of my thoughts on that terrific final and the two weeks in the desert for the men.
The Final: Djokovic d. Federer, 3-6 6-3 7-6(3)
This final was my favourite ATP match of 2014 so far. The 2014 BNP Paribas Open final really gripped me and featured some tremendous shotmaking that absolutely dwarfed anything else we have seen in Indian Wells this year. Federer began in imperious form, breaking Djokovic in his first service game and riding that break to deservedly take the first set, 6-3. Djokovic looked a little flat and subdued, and perhaps that was the mark of a man lacking confidence, who had twice failed to serve out his semi-final over John Isner. Djokovic’s intensity and level gradually improved during the second set, which became closer and more engaging. Djokovic took the second set, 6-3.
The third set was brilliant and featured some really fantastic rallies. After a series of keenly contested games, it was Djokovic who broke. The Serb served really well in the decider and got the opportunity to serve out for the championship. Once again, he failed to do so, but I felt it was mostly some brilliant tennis from Federer as opposed to Djokovic getting tight. The match was finished with a third set tiebreak, which Djokovic won comfortably. It was a rough tiebreak from Federer who made too many unforced errors; however this was an excellent performance and he should go away from this tournament beaming. He showed a great deal of tenacity to get the match back in his hands after being a break down in the decider and was both positive and aggressive in his play throughout the whole two weeks. His form bodes well for the rest of 2014.
Djokovic deserves a huge amount of credit for this victory. His victory celebration looked like one of relief and this win should give him a great deal of confidence. He didn’t play his best tennis for much of the last two weeks, but he dug deep and kept progressing through the rounds. I thought he played some excellent stuff through the second and third sets of the final. I really enjoyed this final and it must be said that Federer-Djokovic matches are insanely fun to watch. More please!
Murray continues to struggle:
Andy Murray lost in the fourth round to Milos Raonic, 4-6 7-5 6-3 in another disappointing loss. Murray’s comeback from back surgery at the end of 2013 has been a slow and arduous one. It is difficult not to expect more when you see the likes of Rafael Nadal take next to no time to come back from a lengthy lay-off and start winning tournaments almost immediately. Indian Wells was not an impressive tournament from Murray with two three set wins over Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely, the latter, was a real shocker of a match that Murray was incredibly lucky to escape. Miami is a good tournament for him because he practises at Crandon Park during the off-season. He’s defending big points, but with the right draw, I remain hopeful and optimistic he is going to turn his fortunes around.
Austrian tennis is looking good:
Two of the more impressive performers from this week’s Indian Wells were Ernests Gulbis and Dominic Thiem. Gulbis reached the quarter-finals with three set victories over Grigor Dimitrov and Roberto Bautista-Agut before falling to John Isner in two tiebreak sets. Gulbis continues to put together solid results on the tour and he needs to keep doing it at these Masters 1000 events and Grand Slams to really be taken seriously as a threat on the ATP tour. Can you imagine if he becomes properly relevant and breaks the top ten? It’s quite a way off, but you cannot deny he’s playing well so far this year.
The ATP has been craving new talent to come through and the beginning of 2014 has seen a few names start to post some neat results together. Jiri Vesely reached the third round of Indian Wells, but the name that has really caught the attention is Thiem. The world ranked 101 (soon to be much higher) had a fantastic week in the desert with two qualifying wins and two main draw wins including a victory over Gilles Simon in the second round.
This Indian Wells draw was littered with shocks. The draw was already top heavy, but that became more so with the early exits of Tomas Berdych (to Bautista-Agut), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (to Benneteau) and Juan Martin del Potro through injury. However the biggest shock of them all came in the third round when the soaring, Alexandr Dolgopolov, held his nerve to take out Rafael Nadal in a third set tiebreak It was a huge win for Dolgo; however the loss for Nadal was not one I would label as concerning. After the bottom half looked bare, it was the turn of the top half to face a ravage of the top seeds as Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka both fell in the fourth round to join Rafa on the way to Miami.
To be honest, my interest has always leaned to women’s tennis. The predictability of men’s tennis and the lack of quality outside of the top ten has been my main issue in the last couple of years. Results like these are exciting and are good for game to promote new players, who the occasional tennis fan won’t have heard off. Like the womens, it’s a little too early to tell if this is going to be a significant tournament in terms of the ATP moving forward. I’ll be shocked if we get as many upsets as this in Miami.
Best Matches of the Tournament:
Djokovic d. Federer, 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) (F)
The match of the tournament by a COUNTRY MILE!
*Highlights to be added later*
Gulbis d. Dimitrov, 2-6 6-1 7-5 (R3)
Gulbis v Dimitrov matches continue to deliver on both drama and quality. This was third match of the year and another fine spectacle.
Highlights from ATPWorldTour
Anderson d. Hewitt, 7-6 6-4 (R2)
Fast paced and featuring plenty of great rallies, Anderson had to be at his very best to beat off a characteristically plucky effort from Hewitt.
Interview from BNPParibasOpen
Dolgopolov d. Nadal, 6-3 3-6 7-6 (R3)
It sounded like a great match. Dolgopolov had a fantastic week and showed tremendous nerve to actually pull the upset win out of the bag in the tiebreak having failed to serve out the match.
Highlights from ATPWorldTour
Best shot of the tournament:
There were some brilliant shots and the one above from Dimitrov was great. However my favourite had to be this slice of magical defence from Tommy Haas up against Roger Federer.
Highlights from ATPWorldTour