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Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Entries in Flavia Pennetta (2)


Indian Wells: Obligatory Post About the Winners

The tennis world's attention has turned to the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, but I still have an hour before first round action begins to talk about Indian Wells. I love a deadline.

World number 2 Novak Djokovic takes home his third Indian Wells trophy. Photo, courtesy BNP Paribas

Oops, I should have given you a spoiler alert.  That guy, pictured above, Novak Djokovic?  He won.

You want to see this kind of tennis in a championship final, the kind Djokovic and Roger Federer delivered at Indian Wells. Amazing get-out-of-jail free shots, powerful hitting, close games and a deciding set tiebreak between two well-matched opponents with a history, one that just got a lot more interesting.

Alright, you know already that Djokovic beat Fed, regrouping after failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set, to gobble up the tiebreak for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory at the BNP Paribas Open. What you may not know is that Nole is now 16-17 against Roger, making their match-ups more compelling than the much-vaunted rivalry between Fed and Rafael Nadal, where the discrepency is larger. Nadal has a 23-10 record against The Greatest of All Time, making Nadal more of a mountain to climb for Fed than a sparring partner.

These Worthy Opponents were so evenly matched in this final. Both had 6 aces. Federer double faulted 4 times, Djokovic, 5. Djoko won just one more point than Fed overall, 99 to 98. Wow.

What the numbers show is that Federer was pushed further during his service games than Djokovic was. Fed faced six break points, fighting them off 4 times, while Djokovic only stared down three break points, losing two of them.

One of those break points, of course, was the one at 0-40, 5-4 in the third, that let Fed back into the match. It was the second time Djokovic faltered when serving for it all. Two times, he was serving for the match against John Isner in the second set of their semifinal on Saturday.

Federer: "I have been on the winner's side more often. Maybe that softens the blow a little bit." Photo, courtesy of BNP Paribas"The way I won this title is something that makes me very happy and gives me mentally a lot of satisfaction because I have had specifically these three matches against [Marin] Cilic and yesterday's semi-final and today's final, situations where I played three sets where it was very tense, very emotional," said Djokovic.

"A few points really here and there could go either way, and then it went my way. I stayed mentally tough, and that, for me, is something that gives me a lot of encouragement and hopefully a confidence boost for the rest of the season."

Federer acknowledged his worthy opponent's victory over Tennis Hate.

"At the end he made sure he kept the ball in play and I might have made a few too many errors when it really mattered," said Fed. "But credit to him for toughening it out and winning that second set and getting the breaker in the third."

Federer said he's happy with how he played, after struggling with back problems and a drop in confidence last season.  

"A few weeks ago, months ago, a few people said I couldn't play tennis anymore," he sais of the haters.  "So for me, I need to focus on my own game, my own routines, hard work, make sure I keep a good schedule for myself, for my family, and, you know, enjoy it. But at the same time, that fire, wanting to win, is important, and right now I have that.  I think have a really good balance right now."

Haters, this sounds like a man on a mission.  Slam number 18 at Wimbledon, perhaps? The way he's been playing, I don't doubt it.  He's 19-3 this year, won Dubai, finaled in Brisbane and made the semis at the Australian Open.  His recovery from back problems and his embrace of a bigger racquet are working.  

The women's final between victor Flavia Pennetta and Aggie Radwanska was not as edge-of-your-seat satisfying. Radwanska, the number 2 seed, was injured, and Pennetta, seeded 20th, upset her easily, 6-2, 6-1. But the headline for I Hate Tennis is that the 32-year-old Pennetta almost quit tennis at this event a year ago.

Flavia Pennetta wins the biggest title of her career, moves to 12th in world. Photo, courtesy BNP Paribas

"I think this one is after so many years so much work and everything, this is the moment I always waiting for, no?" she said. "Finally I have a good trophy in my hands."

Radwanska was super-bummed, and look at times on court like she was going to cry.  Haters, when it gets to tears, it's over.  I can think of players who smash racquets and shout at their box and then go on to win, like Ernests Gulbis or even Djokovic, who had such an outburst against John Isner in their three-set semi.  Anger can motivate you.  Sadness and fear just throw sand in your gas tank.

"I think it's just the worst thing for a player, you know, to not giving the 100%, especially in the final of the big event. And I just couldn't run as much as I normally do.  And, well, just bad luck," she said.

Could she rise above the Tennis Hate, and see some good things in her two-week run? A reporter at Radwanska's post-match press conference must've read my mind. 

Q.  Aga, is it the disappointment that you feel from having to be injured in the final?  I mean, this is still, you know, the first final that you have made here and a positive week.  Is it hard to focus on the positives, or right now do you just feel disappointment?

AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA:  Well, I think disappointing feeling always comes first, I think, especially when you really, really, you know, have ambition to win the tournament.  Of course still good two weeks.  First final here. Big event.  And, you know, still good result.  But it's always disappointing that, you know, I really couldn't play my 100% today.

In doubles, the world number 1 women's team, Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai, won their first BNP Paribas Open title, beating doubles veteran Cara Black and Sania Mirza, who were seeded 5th.  Hsieh and Peng are now 11-0 in WTA doubles finals.  

On the men's side, world number 1s and top seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan kept their men's doubles crown by beating second seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares, 6-4, 6-3. It's the twins' 27th ATP Masters 1000 title and their 95th overall.  

I'll close this post with an observation: Bob and Mike are so twinned, even their wives look alike.  

The twins and their families celebrate title #95. Photo courtesy of BNP Pariibas


US Open: Errani Lives Up to Her Lowered Expectations

Sara Errani all but admitted she could see her loss coming, as if those 0's in her first round 6-0, 6-0 victory against a 152nd-ranked lucky loser were eyeglasses that could see into the future.

Sara Errani cracks under the pressure of being seeded 4th. Courtesy

The number 4 seed crashed and burned in a half-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, losing to her friend and Italian Fed Cup teammate, 83rd-ranked Flavia Pennetta, 6-3, 6-1.

Tennis Hate, and tears, bubbled up while she explained herself to the Fourth Estate.

"I think the worst thing was the fight.  Normally is my best thing that I do on the court, and today was not good," said Errani.  "I'm not that kind of player that can go there and make ace and winner, and if the ball is going in I'm doing good.  For me is to go there and fight."

I don't want to go to play.  I don't want to play.  I don't want to stay there on the court.  I feel very bad." - Sara Errani

Today, there was no scrap in the scrappy 26-year-old, who was the runner up this year at the French Open and a semifinalist last year here, on the very same blue court where she had so much trouble keeping the bad thoughts and self-doubt at bay.

While she got 93% of her first serves in -- and who wouldn't on the tour, hitting at an average speed of 78 miles per hour? -- Errani only won 38% of those points.  Yikes.  Pennetta blasted through her Worthy Opponent, hitting 33 winners to Errani's 12.

Pennetta: "I was perfect today." She broke Errani in the first game and rolled from there. Courtesy Getty."I tried to play aggressive from the very beginning and I was perfect today," said Pennetta.  

Sounds like she's been hanging out with Roger Federer in the Player's Lounge.

Errani said the pressure of being in the Top Five has been weighing on her.  She doesn't think she belongs here, just a few clicks down the rankings from Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, who have 17 Grand Slam titles between them.  

Errani has none.  

"My problem isn't that I lost. I've lost a million times in my life," she said.  "My problem is trying to find the desire to fight and be on the court ready to fight.  For a few weeks, I haven't felt like I wanted to be on the court.  I don't want to go to play.  I don't want to play.  I don't want to stay there on the court.  I feel very bad."

O, anch'io, Sara, anch'io.  When the Tennis Hate is thick and gooey, it's all I can do to walk onto the court.  It feels like the soles of my shoes are melting into the asphalt. (Remember where I'm playing, Haters.  Jackie Robinson Park in Bed-Stuy has no DecoTurf.)  Just the other day, playing with my husband, I was broken, 4-5, a critical point in the set, and I was ready to walk off the court in disgust.

My Worthy Opponent and Husband had to remind me he still had to win in order to win.  I was handing him the set, with my bad attitude, without putting up a fight.  

I know all the players expecting from me, and I would like to know how to do.  But you have to pass it on yourself." - Sara Errani

Not wanting to hand my husband anything, I mentally pulled up a chair and settled in.  Let's make this a long conversation.  I broke him back, and we went on to play a tie-break, one that I lost by only two points.  

Sara Errani realizes, too, that it's an inside job.  She may never have the fire power to get past Vika and Serena, but her game, her fight, has pushed her past Li Na and former number 1 Caroline Wozniacki and former Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova.  To stay there, and stay for a while, she needs to stare down her own doubt that she really belongs.  She needs to respect her own talent.

"I know all the players expecting from me, and I would like to know how to do," she said.  "But you have to pass it on yourself, and it's not never the same that somebody is telling you and not that you are passing on that moment.  So I hope this can make me stronger, make me to improve."