Monday, 21 March 2016

Vika & Novak - Rulers of the desert

The singles finals at Indian Wells were filled with memorable moments but the matches didn't last all that long and were for the most part one sided.

Vika Azarenka, who had managed a 4-17 record against Serena, pretty commendable compared with others, set about her task in the Californian desert with the best preparation possible and it worked wonders in the first set.
The Azarenka serving efficiency was as good as Williams in almost all departments, but the one area which ultimately decided the first set was Vika's determination to save break points which Serena inevitably created - all five.

The single break point on a Serena serve was gleefully converted and that break gave Vika 6-4 and the sort of head start she must of been pining for.  Her wildest fantasy couldn't have expected the 4-0 second set advantage that she saw on the scoreboard only a matter of minutes later.

Vika had a first serve % at around 60 which was consistent with the first set, and whenever the initial delivery made it into court she was winning every point.  Serena was only accurate with half of her first serves, enabling the Azarenka return to become more potent.

At 5-2 and so close to the title, nerves kicked in, coupled with the innate Williams determination not to just fade away.  The break was decisive, as too the hold of serve for 5-4 and Vika needed to serve again for the win.  This she did, surviving a couple more break points, proving the better player on the day and denying Serena in a big final, just as Angie Kerber had done in Melbourne.  

Back in the top ten where she belongs, this shouldn't be the end of the rise for Azarenka whose realistic goal must be her former number one spot.
Serena is still the most dangerous women on a tennis court - don't be fooled.

The final final was effectively an exhibition of how to play tennis as it was never meant to played by mere mortals.  The demonstration was kindly given by Novak Djokovic and his victim Milos Raonic.

Although the Canadian's big serving weapon was slightly off during the final, credit has to be given to the best returner in the game who broke Raonic in the very first game and once later in the first set - he won 13 of 16 points off the second serve.

Including the first set of the Nadal semi, Novak had taken tie breaks to win three successive sets.  The last two, including this one, had been 6-2 6-2, suggesting he lights it up at the money making stages of tournaments.

He more than lit it up in set two after Milos took what appeared to be a medical break - it might have been more a psych adjustment because Djokovic can have that effect on his opposition these days with what he can do to any game plan with a single shot.

6-0 was the second set scoreline, and it accurately reflected how the top seed had raised his game to a different stratosphere.  Raonic was a mere spectator, as I fear anyone would have been under these circumstances - even Sampras at his best may have struggled.

Djokovic converted 3 of the 8 break points he created, won all 14 points on the Canadian second serve, won 80% of his own first serves (which landed 73% of the time) and 62% of his second deliveries. He conceded no break points and was only out-aced 4 to 2 for the match.

That is 5 titles in the desert now for Djokovic and he was gracious to concede that Raonic was below his best, something normally reserved for losers speeches.

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