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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.

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Entries in indian wells (4)


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


Indian Wells: Gulbis Smashes Racquet, Dmitrov

Ernests Gulbis got his Tennis Hate under control long enough to beat the hearthrob of the tennis media and Maria Sharapova, Grigor Dmitrov, 2-6, 6-1, 7-5. 

I break racquets with this: Ernests Gulbis, triumphant over Grigor Dmitrov. Photo courtesy Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.

It came with all of Gulbis' signature qualities: his rocket serves (he had 10 aces), his casual, devastating drop shots, his awkward Warrior Two forehand wind-up, his racquet abuse.

Yes, Haters, before bearing down on Dmitrov, Gulbis bore down on his racquet, down 0-3 in the third set.

"This is great stuff," he told Tennis Channel's Justin Gimelstob and Lisa Leslie in a post-match interview. They were playing video of Gulbis' racquet-busting action in slo mo. "This is when the emotions come out."

He went on to offer a vigorous defense of Tennis Hate. "I don't think it's not that bad. It's not that bad for the sport. You have to be respectful to your opponent. You can't break his game or rhythm. To the crowd, you also have to be respectful."

But the respect ends there. "It's my racquet. I respect it or not, it's my business."

Dmitrov, seeded 15th, was upset by 20th-seed Gulbis. Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn/Getty Images.Of his opponent, Gulbis said Grigor Dmitrov is not all that. "Everyone talks about him being the next number one," he said. "I think he still has a way to go."

Gimelstob and Leslie were grinning, drunk on Gulbis' willingness to be blazingly, even foolishly, honest in front of rolling cameras and live mics.

It's my racquet.  I respect it or not, it's my business."

"Tell us about your serve, talk us through your technique," said Gimelstob.  He didn't really want to know.  The question was just a way of setting up the real purpose of the interview, which was to get Gulbis to talk about his racquet-busting tendencies.

Gulbis, stretched physically. Often, stretched mentally. Photo, courtesy of Stephen Dunn/Getty Images."If you know a thing called Russian roulette, then you'd know," said Gulbis of his service toss. "I throw the ball up and I hope it doesn't go too far away from me."

My Tennis Hate love for Ernests just grew like The Grinch's heart on Christmas Day.

Gimelstob and Leslie, stoked by Gulbis' candor, both went on to ask versions of a question that boiled down to this: How can someone like you win like that, when you're such a hot mess?

"I just went for my shots," he told them. "I didn't think. and just went for some shots. I was lucky to break him early. That was key."

Ah, Tennis Haters, he didn't think. In the end, he did what any mental tennis guru will tell you: stop thinking about your missed opportunities and your woulda-coulda-shoulda's, and hit the damn ball.

Here's Gulbis, Tennis Hate in full flower, at Indian Wells a year ago against Andreas Seppi.


Indian Hell: Tennis Hate Roils Early Rounds

Tennis Hate was rolling through Indian Hells like norovirus on a cruise ship. Many succumbed to the pressure.  Racquets -- and brackets -- were busted.

Lost in Translation: Fabio Fognini spews Tennis Hate at ump during Indian Wells second round match with rival hot head Ryan Harrison. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

First to succumb to the nausea at the BNP Paribas Open: Sam Querry. The Californian native curled up and died after blowing 2 match points against 29th-seed Andreas Seppi of Italy in the second set, losing 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3. The loss adds to the crisis of confidence Sam's been going through since elbow surgery in 2011 and an abdominal injury late last year. Once ranked as high as 17 in the world in 2011, he's now 57, and trending downwards.

Tennis Channel commentator and former number one Jim Courier, who's Querry's Davis Cup captain, said the solution to a loss of confidence is a win.  "It's pretty hard to be positive when you're where Sam's at these days," he said. Ouch.

Isn't this what I've always told you, Haters? Winning helps cure Tennis Hate.  It's just that Tennis Hate often gets in the way of winning.

Sabine Lisicki was just two points away from sailing into the third round when she mentally vomited.

Sabine Lisicki, seeded 15th, was up 4-0 in the third set but lost focus and let it get to a tiebreaker against the unseeded Aleksander Wozniak of Canada. Then, in that tiebreak, the German was just two points away from sailing into the third round, leading 5-2, when she mentally vomited. She lost to Wozniak , 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3.

Lisicki joined fellow Germans Angelique Kerber (seeded 5th) and Julia Goerges on the shuttle bus to the airport.

Over on Court Three, it was a Tennis Hate dream matchup between two hotheads, Italian Fabio Fognini and American Ryan Harrison. It was Harrison who cracked first, smashing his racquet after Fognini built up a 5-2 lead in the first set.

That got the other racquets in his bag to think twice about their poor performance.  After that brutal display of Tennis Hate, Harrison won six games in a row, snatching the first set away from Fognini,  7-5, and getting to an early break to lead Fognini 1-0 in the second.

At set point in that topsy-turvy first set, Fognini looked "over it" to The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg, who Tweeted he "smack[ed] a return to the sky."  

What's that Italian swear word that Pope Francis inadvertantly used?  Cazzo?  Yeah, I'll bet Fognini was muttering that a lot as Harrison used Tennis Hate to his advantage.

Fognini tried the tactic himself, getting into a shouting match with the chair umpire over a line call he didn't like. It worked.  Or, more likely, his return game started to work.  He started getting a feel for Harrison's booming serve, improving his return game from just 18% of return points won to 35%.  And he started feasting on Harrison's second serve.  Fognini rolled over Harrison in the second set and won the match, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.


Indian Wells: Azarenka, Stosur, Withdraw; Nadal Beats Error-Prone Federer

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells continued its bid to be the most Tennis Hate-filled tournament of the 2013 season with the quarterfinal withdrawals of top seed and defending women's champ Victoria Azarenka and Samantha Stosur.

Let's go to the (physio) tape: Azarenka throws in the towel after crying into it over injury withdrawal.

It's the latest weirdness to happen in a tournament that saw aging Aussie Lleyton Hewitt oust last year's finalist and 15th seed, American John Isner, and South African Kevin Anderson taking an hour and 55 minutes to kick the Spanish Bulldog and 4th seed David Ferrer to the curb.  Or to the cactus.  After all, it IS the California desert.

Azarenka was set to meet Caroline Wozniaki before she pulled out of the tournament with tendinitis and inflammation in her right foot and ankle.  It's a holdover from an injury she sustained in Dubai.  According to Sports, the feisty, competitive Belarussian was seen hobbling around during her practice session and crying into a towel.

"I tried absolutely everything I could to do, but I have been advised by the doctor, by my own team, that it's just a very, very high risk already," she said.  

Wozniaki will face Angelique Kerber, who's beaten her in their last three meet-ups.

Stosur pulls calf, pulls out of Indian Wells. Sports Illustrated says it's only the second withdrawal in her career. Photo courtesy Getty Images.Stosur's withdrawal handed Maria Kirilenko a walkover and sets up a Kirilenko/Maria Sharapova semifinal.

If Sharapova wins, she bumps Azarenka out of the world number 2 position.  

It's a shame.  Azarenka is unbeaten on the court so far this season, with a 17-0 streak that includes her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

Stosur also realized the extent of her injury during practice.  In a statement, she said she "felt something go" in her right calf muscle while serving for the match against Mona Barthel.  


"I had a bit of a rough start to the year and I feel like now my tennis has really picked up, and I've been playing really quite well these last few days," she said in a statement.  "I don't know if you can get any more unlucky than that."

It FELT like a walkover: Nadal breezes past Federer in quarters, 63, 62. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.Unlucky is not the word to use for defending champ Roger Federer, who was felled by long-time rival Rafael Nadal in straight sets.  The word of the match, instead, is sloppy.  They say the most telling statistic in the men's game is the second serve percentage.  Federer won the point on his second serve a measly 29% of the time, compared to 52% for Rafa.  Mr. Bad Knees now has a 19-10 record against Mr. Bad Back.