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It was another busy weekend in the tennis world, with players getting their practice in before the big meet in Indian Wells. We had some surprises and new faces: Kevin Anderson won his second title in Delray Beach, taking out Andy Roddick and John Isner on the way and Marinko Matosevic in the final. One of last weekend’s winner, David Ferrer, is once again the last man standing, after taking out Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2 in the finals of Acapulco. Not only is this his third straight Acapulco title, it’s also David’s third title of the year. He’s the first man on the ATP tour this year to notch three titles. No wonder he’s so happy! And what makes David Ferrer happy, makes me happy. David in a sombrero is a beautiful thing:
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Also in Acapulco, Sara Errani beat countrywoman Flavia Pennetta 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-0. She also won the doubles with Roberta Vinci, her semifinal opponent in singles (this was a very good tournament for the Italian women.) Congrats are also due to Hsieh Su-Wei, who won her first career title in Kuala Lumpur vs. fellow first-time finalist Petra Martic: 2-6, 7-5, 4-1 (retired due to heat exhaustion.) She becomes the second player from Chinese Taipei to ever win a WTA title.
So well done to all, but here’s my big winner of the weekend:
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Wow! What a great tournament for Roger and what an important win in the finals over Andy Murray, the guy who walloped Novak Djokovic in straights just the day before. Roger had a bit more of a struggle in his evening semi vs. Juan Martin Del Potro and went into the final with a 6-8 career losing record against the Scot. But from the start, Roger played cool, confident and attacking tennis. It got tight there in the first, which Roger eventually won with a late break, 7-5. The great thing was that Roger held it together in the second set, continuing to take his chances and play first strike tennis in order to win his fifth Dubai title with a 6-4 second set.
And boy, was Roger happy to win this one. The guy was practically giddy. Here’s the line of the tournament, perhaps of Roger’s 2012 season:
“There is no substitute to confidence.”
And this title seems to have brought his confidence back to pre-slump levels. Take this:
“I felt really good out there tonight. You know, I felt calm knowing what I wanted to do.”
“(T)his tournament is really tough. Eight of the top ten players were here. I didn’t drop a set. To win the tournament this way, it’s very, very nice. Clearly.”
Clearly. What I like to hear about is the calm. The calm when facing break points on either player’s serve, the calm when digging out of a 0-5 deficit in a tiebreak, the calm when serving for a match or a championship. Roger, at least recently, has overcome some of the mid-match hiccups and “d’oh!” moments that we’ve almost come to expect from him over the past couple of seasons.
I can see why Roger is so excited about this win. As he said, 8 of the top 10 players were in the Dubai draw and he beat Murray for the title, “the best other player in the draw” as he put it, and a guy against whom he has a losing record. (Roger also reminded us that he still has a winning record vs. Djokovic.) I did have to marvel at the fact that his opponent was just twenty-four years old. Roger’s great play over this stretch has halted the folks that want or expect him to slide and fade out of the game. “There’s fight in the old dog yet,” they’re probably saying. “What old dog?” I say.
Roger spoke about the shift that’s allowed him to win five of his last seven tournaments – and keep the retirement hounds at bay:
“I think I was just confident. I was playing aggressive. I was focused. I didn’t doubt my ability. I’m defending much better than maybe I was in the middle of last year where I felt like I couldn’t come out of tough defensive positions anymore. I was able to sort of turn it around. It started midway through the French Open and then through Wimbledon, even though I ended up losing. But I felt like my game was very good. That’s proved I was heading in the right direction. Now just have to keep it up.”
Before he attempts to keep it up at Indian Wells, Roger’s taking a “break” to play in the BNP Paribas Showdown exhibition with Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki tomorrow (Monday) at Madison Square Garden. Honestly, I don’t think it’s advisable but it’s always fun to have a photo op like this:
Oh, Andy. Can’t you at least try to look suave? (Or is this really your best effort)
By the way, if you want to catch it, the 2012 BNP Paribas Showdown is being streamed live on ESPN3 in the States and on ESPN International to over 130 countries. A tape-delayed broadcast will air at 11:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. (per USTA.com)