Monday March 21st, 2011

1. He's the one. For years, Tennis Nation wondered, "Who will break the Federer-Nadal duopoly?" Novak Djokovic had long been the leading candidate, but who could have foreseen this? Over the past six months, Djokovic has been the best in the business, reaching the U.S. Open final, winning the Davis Cup, winning the Australian Open and, last weekend, toppling Federer and Nadal in succession to win the BNP Paribas Open and push his match winning streak to 20. Given the last few years, we've grown inured to top players going months without a defeat. But, boy, is Djokovic -- the overwhelming points leader for 2011 -- playing at a nose-bleedingly high level these days.

2. Great Dane. Say what you will about Caroline Wozniacki's lack of a major (as Martina Hingis did last week), but she continues to add heft to her top ranking. On Sunday she won the biggest title of her career, taking down Marion Bartoli in three sets to prevail in Indian Wells. Every shot need not be a power shot after all -- did we mention that Wozniacki tuned Maria Sharapova in the semis? Her restrained (if not outright defensive) tennis was unimpeachably effective last week. She's now won 19 matches this year and reached the finals of her last three events. With Kim Clijsters now struggling with a shoulder injury, look for Wozniacki to remain on top for a while. Reminder: she will be guest hosting the Mailbag on Wednesday.

GALLERY: 2011 WTA Champions

3. Desert flowers. There were plenty of notable results from Indian Wells. Donald Young scored a big-time win over Andy Murray -- then, sadly, reverted to form against Tommy Robredo. Coco Vandeweghe won another big match. Maria Sharapova reached the semis but then lost abysmally to Wozniacki, still more indication that neither her head nor body is in position to cooperate. Ana Ivanovic beat Jelena Jankovic. Perhaps the most pleasing storyline, though, was the return of Juan Martin del Potro. After winning the 2009 U.S. Open, JMDP struggled with a wrist injury and major crisis of confidence. Great to see him back, playing at this level.

4. Elite roll snake eyes in doubles. The men's singles draw was so "formful" that among them, the last four players remaining (Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Del Potro) accounted for all the major titles over the past six years. The doubles draw, on the other hand, was Charlie Sheen nuts. Virtually all the top stars, taking advantage of their singles rankings, entered, creating unprecedented excitement. The Friday night session pitting Nadal and Marc Lopez against Federer and Stan Wawrinka was great stuff. The Bryans lost in Indian Wells for the 13th straight time. The Indo-Pak Express -- Bopanna and Qureshi -- beat the Indian Express of Bhupathi and Paes. After all this craziness, who was the winner? Xavier Malisse and Alex Dolgopolov, who had never before played together. OK.

5. March of the hardcourt events. If it's not quite March Madness, this has always been an anticipated time of year for American tennis fans. For four weeks, we get two top-flight hardcourt tournaments, back-to-back, one on each coast. For years, one of the great subplots was the friendly rivalry between promoters Butch Buchholz (Key Biscayne) and Charlie Pasarrel (Indian Wells). It's a new era with new leadership, but there's still a healthy competition between the two events, vying to bear the undisputed (and mythical) title of Fifth Slam. Awful strong showing from the folks in Indian Wells. From the doubles draw to the men's event to the weather to the crowds to the vastly improved television, the fans (and BNP Paribas) got their money's worth. Your turn, Key Biscayne.

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