Best of Five: Djokovic defends crown, WTA counterpunchers, more
Playing the same weakness-free, impenetrable, indefatigable, offense/defense tennis that has served him so well over the last 15 months, Djokovic defended his Sony Ericsson title. It was less a dazzling performance than a study in unflustered excellence. Djokovic seldom got in trouble. And we he did, he extricated himself just fine. A microcosm of his tournament, in the final he subdued Andy Murray. In the first set, he outclassed him, 6-1. In the second set, he outlasted him 7-6 (4). The historians quickly noted that more than 20 years have passed since the Miami winner also prevailed at Roland Garros. But Djokovic rules the roost right now. You pick against him at your peril.
It's the composite portrait of a man who projects a sense that he's not currently enjoying his job. Maybe clay will be his tonic, he'll win the French yet again and his spirits will be rekindled. Maybe he's rationing his mental energy for the Olympics. Maybe he's more injured than he's letting on and could simply use the equivalent of a semester sabbatical. (After taking some time off in 2009 he responded with one of the better years in tennis history.) Whatever, if Nadal were a stock, you'd be a concerned investor right now.
Last Monday against Federer, Roddick played an almost perfect tactical match. He served well, pounded his forehand as he did he in heyday and forced himself to be aggressive on the crucial points. Roddick is still nowhere near his best level. (To wit: his desultory performance in the next round against Juan Monaco, precisely the type of opponent he brushed aside in the Reebok Years.) But for one night he gave us -- and surely himself -- a poignant reminder of why he's still clocking in to work every morning.
Puns aside, we haven't heard the last of this.
? Doubles winners: Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko take the women's title at the Sony Ericsson Open. Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek take the men's.
? On the heels of Indian Wells doing the same, the Sony Ericsson Open set an all-time attendance record with 326,131 guests visiting the Tennis Center at Crandon Park over the last two weeks. The event boasted a record 14 session sellouts and set five session attendance records. Federer-Nadal? Murray-Djokovic? I'd say the sustained rivalry between Miami and Indian Wells, ultimately benefits the sport as well.
? Question: Given that the U.S. is eager to improve its collective aptitude on other surfaces, hard court tennis devastating players' bodies, the sport always searching for better defined segments to the season, might the Key Biscayne training center be better off surfacing the courts with clay and re-branding the Sony Open in Miami as the kickoff on the Road to Roland Garros?
? Novak Djokovic won $660,000 for winning the men's title; Radwanska won $712,000.
? You like players. You dislike players. But only the most sadistic fans take pleasure in watching players go completely down the mine shaft. Which is to say no one should be sorry to see that Melanie Oudin qualified for Charleston, her first main draw appearance of the year.