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March 20, 2011

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BNP Paribas Open 2011, Indian Wells, California, USA
March 20, 2011
Editorial by Vince Barr.


Vince Barr Photo
Vince Barr

Men's and Women's Singles Finals
The men's and women's championships at the BNP Paribas were played yesterday with one surprise winner (at least to me) and another match that I expected the outcome, but did not think it would go the distance in terms of three hard-fought sets. Caroline Wozniacki won her first BNP Paribas Open title at Indian Wells by defeating Marion Bartoli 6-1, 2-6, 6-3. Coming into this match, Caroline had led in head-to-head singles play by a 4-2 margin. Marion had beaten Caroline in Cincinnati last year in the run-up to the U.S. Open in the Round of 16 but I felt at the time that Caroline was still battling jet lag as she traveled to Cincinnati from Copenhagen, Denmark, just prior to the tournament. Bartoli won that particular encounter in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1. Pam Shriver asked her about that particular match since it was her last win against Wozniacki, and Marion said that "When I beat her in Cincinnati, I served extremely well and when I played her (the last time in Doha, Qatar earlier this year), I served really, really, poorly (in a 6-1, 6-1 loss). I can't play any worse than I did in Doha, so hopefully, I will play much better (this time)," Bartoli told Shriver.
Wozniacki reached the finals here last year, which she then lost in straight sets to Jelena Jankovic, 2-6, 4-6. This was Caroline's 23rd career final and she came in with a 13-9 record in finals. This year, she won the title in Dubai, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-3 but lost in Doha to Vera Zvonareva, 4-6, 4-6. Bartoli had a 5-6 career record in finals and had not won any championships in either 2010 or this year. Her last title came in 2009 when she won two of them (Monterrey and Stanford). Shriver talked to Bartoli's dad and coach (Walter) prior to the match to see what he felt were the critical components to this match from his perspective. "I'd like her to avoid Caroline's forehand (which is her stronger side), perhaps by shorting balls to that particular shot and second, she needs to have a lot of winners from her (Bartoli's) backhand side," Bartoli said.
Wozniacki started the match serving and one of the points featured 19 shots which played into Caroline's favor; she held rather easily. Caroline went up two break points, one of which Marion saved at 15-40 with a backhand volley winner to the ad court. However, Caroline got the break with a clean backhand winner after a splendid 17-shot rally. You could see that Caroline's strategy was to move Marion corner to corner and Bartoli got to many shots that looked to be clean winners. But with the break, she started to exert a lot of pressure on Marion's game. Bartoli jumped out to a love-40 lead on Caroline's next service game, courtesy of two unforced errors and a backhand winner. Eventually she got the break back and it looked like this was going to be a very closely contested set. That didn't happen as Caroline broke Marian again and cruised to a 6-1 first set victory.
ESPN tennis analyst Cliff Drysdale did a shot breakdown of Caroline's forehand and backhand. Regarding the forehand, Cliff noted that "her eyes are on the ball, elbows slightly bent, good balance between both arms. Then her racquet is slightly closed as it's coming into the ball and her body has slightly opened, knees slightly bent and then she follows through across her body," Drysdale noted. "With her two-handed backhand shot, the elbows are very much bent, eyes on the ball rotation has already started to happen; she then drops the racquet head and goes from low to high, eyes on the ball, knees bent, just a solid and terrific technique from both sides and that's why she's No. 1," Drysdale opined. The ladies (Mary Jo Fernandez and Pam Shriver) made fun of Cliff getting so excited (as he often does) when talking about a player's technique; Drysdale loves to use his telecasts to teach technique and help amateurs learn from the pros. Mary Jo then said, all kidding aside, "But how important is technique? It's something that we don't always talk about, but when it gets to the big moments, in big matches, you don't want to have your technique break down," Fernandez noted.
I felt that in the second set, Marion became a little more offensive-minded and started coming into the net a little bit more. She started out serving and that is always an advantage for the server (assuming that they hold) because they are always ahead in the set and never behind. In her first service game of the set, she won five points vs. three in all of her service games combined in the first set. She was also attacking more short balls that Caroline was hitting and creating winners off them, putting Wozniacki on the defensive. The change in tactics obviously worked and there's a lesson there for all of the amateurs out there: create your game plan for the match and only stick with it if things are going well. If things aren't working, change your tactics! Try different spins, angles (where possible) and notice which kind of shots your opponent is having problems with on that particular day. Also, try to pin your opponent on the baseline as much as possible because that will give you more opportunities to create winners while minimizing your opponent's opportunity to do the same. It goes without saying that it is very, very difficult to hit winners from behind the baseline, smashes excluded on those rare opportunities which present themselves. Bartoli took that set 6-2 to set up the decisive third set for the title.
I must admit that I really dislike Bartoli's service motion; you would never teach a player to serve that way. The best I can describe it is that her pre-serve pose looks like one of those Egyptian hieroglyphics with a deeply flexed knee and the arm at an odd "L" angle with upraised palms. Both players were doing a lot of running in the third set and Bartoli looked winded after most long rallies. That's not a criticism; I'd be winded as well if I did as much running as she did. But Caroline did not seem to be as fatigued and she played as much tennis as Bartoli did. In fact, both players were rather fresh, each having played their semifinals on Friday and both players having off day yesterday (Saturday). Bartoli actually should have been a bit more fresh than Caroline since she played the 1 pm Friday semifinal whereas Caroline had to wait until after the Rafa / Roger doubles match and didn't take the court until after 9 pm. Wozniacki got the first break of the set and cruised from there to win the match, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
I was quite surprised that Novak Djokovic was able to beat Nadal for the BNP Paribas Open title yesterday, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Nadal had five wins against no losses in finals meetings with Novak (which he was apparently unaware of until Pam Shriver mentioned it to him just prior to going out on court). So, one way to look at this match is that, according to the law of averages, Djokovic was due to beat him in a final. That's not to say that Djokovic had to do something extraordinary to beat Nadal; just that sooner or later, he was bound to have a good victory over his Spanish counterpart. Rafael carried a 16-7 career edge in head-to-head meetings with Novak. However, I had seen Novak completely dominate Rafael in person in Cincinnati on two separate occasions (2008 & 2009), so perhaps I should not have underestimated the young Serbian to the degree that I did. Weighting heavily in my mind was the simple fact that Rafa had won the last two meetings between the two and both were on big stages. The biggest match was in the rain-delayed finals at the U.S. Open last year. But then Rafa followed that up with another win against Djokovic in London at the world championships. Digging into the statistics a little deeper, I found that Novak had a slight edge in career head-to-head meetings on hard courts by a count of 7-5.
You simply cannot ignore Djokovic at this point, even if he is playing on clay. Are you ready for this factoid? According to the ATP website under player records, where they provide career win / loss records by surface, Djokovic's winning percentage on hard courts (78.5%) is not substantially better than his winning percentage on clay (73.2%). After the Masters 1000 event in Key Biscayne next week, the tour shifts to clay for the run-up to the French Open. So, while I don't expect him to overtake Nadal for the No. 1 ranking anytime soon, he has the game and a high degree of self confidence to make a serious attempt at doing so. It will come down to how well Rafa plays in the next few months. And where does that leave Federer? That's a good question that I don't have any good answer to at the moment. I will be certain to ask him that in Cincinnati this year. Upsets and player injuries can always create some unexpected opportunities, so I would not count him out of contention to win majors this year and perhaps next year as well. But it looks to me that the game is moving towards the younger guys as both Nadal and Djokovic are in their mid-20s (Rafa is just about a year older than Novak). While I don't think Rafa fears anyone on tour, I do think that Novak has captured his attention. And competition being what it is, I expect that these guys will continue to play at a high level for many years to come. So does that leave Roger on the outside looking in? Federer has said that he wants to play the London Olympics next year (which will be held at Wimbledon). Depending on how the next 1-2 years go for him, I could see him walking away from tennis to do other things IF he is not in contention to win majors. But that is pure speculation on my end.


[3] Novak Djokovic (SRB) d [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) {orange shirt} 46 63 62
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Rafael Nadal 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis

[1] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) d [15] Marion Bartoli (FRA) {orange blouse} 61 26 63
Marion Bartoli 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Marion Bartoli 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Marion Bartoli 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Marion Bartoli 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Marion Bartoli 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Marion Bartoli 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis
Caroline Wozniacki 2011 BNP Paribas Open Tennis

Earlier Columns from this Event:
March 19, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Men's Semifinals - Nadal, del Potro, Federer, Djokovic
March 18, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Maria's Meltdown - Federer, Wawrinka, Bartoli, Wickmayer
March 17, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Quarterfinals: Sharapova, Peng, Nadal, Karlovic
March 16, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Men's Round of 16 - del Potro, Kohlschreiber, Wawrinka, Berdych, Djokovic, Troicki
March 15, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: 4th Round - Federer, Chela, Djokovic, Gulbis, Clijsters, Bartoli, Roddick, Isner
March 14, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: 3rd Round - Nadal, Soderling, Sweeting, Kohlschreiber, Querrey, Verdasco
March 13, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Raonic Rising, Roddick Rolling, Federer Florishing - Roddick, Blake, Djokovic, Golubev, Federer, Andreev
March 12, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Women's Preview & Second Round Results - Nadal, de Voest, del Potro, Ljubicic, Wozniacki, Stephens
March 11, 2011 BNP Paribas Open: Men's Preview with Photo Coverage of Blake, Guccione, Ivanovic, Date-Krumm

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