Best of Three: Federer, Azarenka statement wins; Isner on the rise
It wasn't simply that Federer showed great guts during a week when so many were -- thanks to a ruthless virus -- losing theirs. It wasn't just that he handled wind, rain and weather conditions that recalled the black-and-white scenes in
"It's been a long time since I have been this successful here, even though I have had some really good matches here in the past, but it's nice taking it all the way and getting victories," Federer said. "I was just really happy and not relieved because I was just extremely proud of my performance this week."
Federer may or may not win another major. He may or may not reach the No. 1 summit again. But his play since that devastating loss to Novak Djokovic at the 2011 U.S. Open -- he's 39-2 since then -- says a great deal about his character, his pride and how far he is from a serious decline.
Meanwhile, we spent most of 2011 wondering who would fill the WTA vacuum. Victoria Azarenka hasn't simply filled it; she's cut off everyone else's air supply. The world No. 1 looked every bit the part in Indian Wells. After avoiding an early-round scare against Mona Barthel, Azarenka went into turbo mode. She demolished frenemy Aggie Radwanska in the semis. Then she reprised her Australian Open performance and ran roughshod over a tentative Maria Sharapova in the final.
"I know it's never going to be easy, so every match I take it as important as any match is, if it's the final of [the] Australian Open or the first round," Azarenka said. "I could have been out here in the first round, but that's the importance of being on top of the game when you're not playing your best, trying your best every time, every point."
Azarenka is now 23-0 on the year. And from where we sit, her year is beginning to feel a lot like Djokovic's 2011. Preempting the inevitable responses: Yes, she has yet to face to Serena Williams this year. May it happen in Miami ...
"The whole week was a lot of fun," Isner told reporters after the final. "Felt like right from the get-go I was going to have a good week, but I didn't want to overthink it. I definitely took it one match at a time. I certainly played well all week, and obviously [Sunday's final] did not go my way."
With virtually nothing to defend between now and Wimbledon, his ranking is still reaching cruising altitude.