Federer makes it 19
By Greg Rusedski
The Indian Wells masters series is always a difficult event for the players. They have to get used to playing in the desert air as the ball travels a little quicker and further than you expect. Thus they have to move quicker, tighten their racquet strings, or put more top spin on the ball to bring it into court. That is why the top players like to arrive as early as possible.
Roger Federer came into the event in great form having won Rotterdam and Dubai. Rafael Nadal on the other hand hadn’t played a match in 40 days and it would be interesting to see if he was rusty. Novak Djokovic had been playing well all year, even though he lost in the semi-finals in Dubai to Andy Murray. Djokovic looks very confident, he is not as concerned about winning every event as he was last year. He is comfortable being world number 1 and looks more focused on winning majors. This year expect him to balance out his schedule more and play a little less tennis.
Murray went out again for the third straight year in his first match. He lost to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the world number 23. Garcia-Lopez played great and Murray couldn’t do much about it. Murray thought he did not move as well as he would have liked but that is also in part adjusting to the conditions. I expect Murray to have a good run next week in Miami. Lendl is back in the camp to make sure Murray is going to be back on top form.
Nadal and Federer both looked sublime all week and set up a rematch of the Australian Open semi-finals, which Nadal won. Federer dominated Nadal 6-3 6-4. The conditions in Dubai and Indian Wells are perfect for Federer with the ball flying through the air that much quicker. I still believe that Rafa has the advantage against Federer in five set matches, even with Federer playing so well since that loss at the Australian Open.
In the other semi-final Djokovic faced the surprise semi-finalist John Isner. Novak had a little wobble serving for the first set and this proved costly. He ended up losing the first set 7-6. Novak hit back in the second set, but Isner got the better of him in the third set to win it 7-6. Isner is a nightmare to play in these conditions because of his massive serve. When you are 6’9, the angle and power you can create on serve gives you a huge advantage. Isner backs his huge serve up with solid returns, good ground strokes, good movement and solid volleys. Isner is now in the top ten in the world and expect him to keep climbing higher. I expect him to be the new American number 1 very soon. John will be the man for American tennis over the next few years if he can stay healthy.
Isner had already beaten Federer this year in the Davis Cup. It made this final that much more interesting by coming in with a win over Federer. Even so, Federer dominated Isner in straight sets to win 7-6 6-3. Roger is playing great, enjoying his tennis more, and looks mentally fresh. He just keeps breaking records again and again. He became the first man to win this event 4 times and has tied Nadal for the most Master Series titles with 19. Can Roger win number 20? It would be hard to bet against it.
Expect the big four to all be in the semi-finals in Miami.