We have always known Dominic Thiem had it in him, now he has won the biggest title of his career to date by winning the Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells. It is true that the conditions would appear to suit the Austrian in the Californian Desert, but he really came up with the goods when it counted. There were comfortable straight sets win over Jordan Thompson, Gilles Simon and Ivo Karlovic, Gael Monfils then withdrew with an Achilles problem. Thiem then edged out Milos Raonic in a final set breaker and Roger Federer 7/5 in the decider in the final two rounds. Playing the big points well is obviously key in these matches and the backhand was a joy, as per usual, but the forehand withstood the pressure and was also a weapon. Thiem has a lot of points to defend in Paris this year but this will take a bit of pressure off him now.
Federer had looked comfortable all week (ousting Stan) and even had the luxury of extra rest after Rafa gave him a walkover in the semis. It caused a debate on social media as to whether the loser from the previous round should be allowed to step in and play. I’ll be honest, if this ever happens, it will be the day I lose some love for tennis. It is a totally different scenario when it comes to lucky losers, it is not comparable. Nadal’s knee injury and subsequent withdrawal from Miami in order to recover and prepare for Monte Carlo is perhaps no surprise.
Sascha Zverev fell foul to a virus (that a few did) and Novak Djokovic was all over the place in his loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber. I wonder if Federer expressing his concerns over Chris Kermode (losing his job) had any bearing on his lacklustre performance? Elsewhere, it was a lot more positive for Karen Khachanov, who got some much-needed confidence with wins that included Rublev and John Isner, before losing to Rafa in two breakers. The Pole Hubert Hurkacz (22) and 19-year-old Serb Miomir Kecmanovic also made the last eight, the latter as a lucky loser.
Bianca Andreescu is 28-3 on the tour this year, it really has been a spectacular start to the season for the 18-year-old Canadian. She showed so much heart to win in Indian Wells. Having dropped a set in her opener against Irina-Camelia Begu, she went on a rampage to the semi-final giving everyone a pasting insight, including Garbine Muguruza, 6/0 6/1 in the last eight. She then showed guts against Elina Svitolina and then again by beating Angie Kerber in the final, from a break down in the decider. There were signs of cramping on both occasions. Both players could have beat the Canadian but she was the braver player, as she had been all event, going for her shots. The power and variation she showed here will cause plenty more players a few problems this year.
Top seeds Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep weren’t at their best. Osaka lost comfortably to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round and Halep went at the same stage to Marketa Vondrousova. Venus had taken out third seed Petra Kvitova and went on to make the quarters where she ran into Angie Kerber. Though Kerber made the finals it was more gritty than star quality from her. She beat a tired looking Bencic in their semis after the ‘Swiss Miss’ had looked good again prior to the last four encounter. The confidence is certainly back with Bencic. It has also been mentioned that there is a striking resemblance between Andreescu and Belinda and it’s not wrong.
Serena squared off with Vika Azarenka in her opening round and won a very high-quality contest 7/5 6/3. She pulled out in her next round with a viral illness against Garbine Muguruza. Having gained the early break it was clear things weren’t right and having lost six games in a row, she called the trainer. Rena did come out and play another game but the correct decision to retire was made. Health comes first and she is not going to win the match if she is feeling that bad. She played well enough against Azarenka to show no real concern. What was clear from that match once again was how much they enjoy playing each other and testing themselves. You can see below, they are both absolutely loving it! There were a few signs Mugurza was playing herself into form and she may well be but Andreescu gave her a hammering in the last eight.
Andy Del Potro