Welcome to this week’s edition of Catching Up With Tennis Pulse, and if you don’t know by now; Roger Federer has finally lost a match in 2018. So I guess we can stop talking about it.
BNP Paribas Open
Being the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the season, the BNP Paribas Open carries a certain prestige as it often sets the bar for other tennis tournaments across the world. It also boasts of having the second largest tennis stadium in the world, its Stadium 1 is capable of seating 16,000 fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California.
Thus it comes as no surprise that every ATP superstar would attempt to have his name engraved on the trophy by the tournament’s conclusion. And since 2004, only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have had that honor, winning 13 of the last 14 titles. Somehow Ivan Ljubicic was able to wrest the title in 2010, but with him joining Federer’s camp; I’m pretty sure the trophy has changed ownership.
The world number 1 had attained a 17-0 record for the season, and hoped to win a record sixth title at Indian Wells. He faced a rather large obstacle in the talented Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine was riding a 10-match winning streak of his own, having captured the title in Acapulco a few weeks ago. Although Federer led 18-6 in career meetings, it was del Potro who overcame 3 match points to win 6-4 6-7(8) 7-6(2) and claim his maiden ATP 1000 Masters trophy.
“It’s so big,” Del Potro said of winning his first Masters 1000 title. “I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis. We played great tennis today.”
In addition to winning his 22nd tour-level title, del Potro also rises two spots to No. 6 on the ATP rankings. Despite not being able to defend his championship, Federer still remains atop the table at No. 1 and will hold onto that position through the Miami Open as Rafael Nadal previously announced his withdrawal from the event.
The woes of Novak Djokovic continue as the Serbian fell to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-7(3) 6-4 1-6 in his opening match. Playing in his second tournament of the year, the former world No. 1 looked out of sorts on court and committed an uncharacteristic 61 unforced errors. Daniel took full advantage and employed his speed and formidable backhand, but the 5-time former champion was never in control.
“For me it felt like first match I ever played on the tour,” said Djokovic. “Very weird. I mean, I just completely lost rhythm, everything. Just struggled also a little bit with the health the last couple of weeks. I was grateful to be out on the court after surgery that quickly. But at the same time, I just didn’t feel good at all.”
Is Djokovic fully recovered? After missing half of 2017 due to a right elbow surgery, the Serbian fell to Korean Hyeon Chung in the fourth round at the 2018 Australian Open. He then underwent another medical procedure on the same elbow last month. Perhaps some more time off would be appropriate, as the former world No. 1 is nowhere close to the form that once saw him dominate the ATP tour.
The hype surrounding Alexander Zverev seems to be short-lived, as the German produced another uninspired performance; falling to unseeded Joao Sousa after leading 4-1 in the final set. The Portuguese veteran would somehow reel off five consecutive games to win their second round encounter, 7-5 5-7 6-4.
Canadian Milos Raonic displayed a lot of heart and passion, reaching the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro. Raonic’s comeback continues as he rises thirteen spots to No. 25, and his form indicates that he could be back in the top 15 sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, second seed Marin Cilic fell in the third round to German journeyman Philipp Kohlschreiber; whereas third seed Grigor Dimitrov suffered another opening round loss as he fell to Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. Perhaps he’s injured as well?
Will del Potro’s victory at Indian Wells convince the other ATP superstars that Roger Federer is human and can be defeated at age 36? With Miami only a few days away, it should be interesting to see how Federer reacts to this loss. Furthermore, who else besides del Potro can challenge the Swiss and prevent him from capturing his 28th ATP Masters 1000 title? Leave your comments below and be sure to follow us on www.tennis-pulse.com for coverage of the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau.