When a big tournament starts, all of us – fans, reporters, bloggers and even the players – look for the familiar story lines. A Nadal vs. Federer final used to be as regular a climax as a torture sequence on 24. Now it’s more elusive, like a Mr. Big appearance in Sex and the City. On the WTA side, the stories have focused on the Williams sisters saga, and,with the Belgians back, the cast of main characters has expanded to make Just the Four of Us. Fans look forward to cameos by struggling Serbs, Masha, Muzzah, a dashing Frenchman or two, but like formulaic reality television, the more we see of them at the start, the more likely it is that they’ll be eliminated before the last commercial break.
Jelena Jankovic and Ivan Ljubicic winning Indian Wells? What kind of story is that?
Actually, it’s a little funny how surprised we all are that J.J. took the title (we are all surprised, aren’t we?) Sure her year has been pretty horrible, but she was still good enough to be seeded a not-too-shabby No. 6. She’s a grizzled veteran compared to higher seeds like Azarenka and Wozniacki and the Williams sisters were conveniently absent from the draw. (As for the Belgians, well, that show’s on hiatus at the moment.) Looking back, we have to assume that battling through those two singles matches during Fed Cup a few weeks ago helped her fight off those two match points vs. Sara Errani in the third round. Temporary (?) coach, Chip Brooks, gave her a fresh perspective and that green dress of hers demanded more airtime.
It was practically a foregone conclusion: Jelena Jankovic defeats Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 in the Indian Wells final.
In their words (via WTA):
“I had a wake-up call against Errani. I had to fight hard,” Jankovic said. “I learned my lessons, what I should and shouldn’t do, and I kept going on and on. I cut down on those errors, cleaning up some of the things in my game. I got more and more confident with each match, and, you know, took the title.”
“Jelena played a good match today. I made a few too many errors on the important points,” Wozniacki said. “I had a good 10 days here. Now I’m ready and confident going into Miami. I just need to hit the practice courts now.”
So J.J.’s story is pretty straightforward, more like a user’s manual than a soap opera. The tale of Ivan Ljubicic, however, is as predictable and predictably uplifting as a Rocky sequel.
Cut to the old dude, on the brink of retirement (to hear Andy Roddick tell it), and still looking for a Masters 1000 title after all these years. He comes into a big tournament with few expectations and a tough draw filled with young whippersnappers who are more inclined to help him cross the street than lose a set to him. Djokovic, Nadal and Roddick – all Top 10 players, all former Major champs and Nadal defending his title in the desert – stand in his way. His shoulders stoop a little in his baggy, off brand gear. He wears a terry sweatband around his glistening bald head to keep sunscreen from dripping into his eyes.
Quick, cue the Survivor song! And the faithful love interest. Ivan Ljubicic beats Andy Roddick 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) in the Indian Wells final.
In their words:
“It’s a really fantastic feeling to have done it — to have added a Masters 1000 title to the Davis Cup, the Olympic medal and two top 10 finishes.” Ljubicic said. “You know, it gives something special to your career. It was certainly not what I was expecting when the tournament started. I mean, of course not.” (via FoxNews)
“I played well. I hit the ball real well, even today,” said Roddick, who had held six break point opportunities. “I felt like I was winning my fair share of the rallies once we got into them. I just ran into a guy who served great on the big points. Unfortunately that’s probably the one thing that I don’t have control over out there. Credit to him. He came up with massive, massive serves when he had to.” (via BNP Paribas Open)
See? Ivan was the obvious choice all along.