Indian Wells Day 14 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Finals - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Day 14 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Finals

We may not have gotten Federer/Nadal yesterday, but today we get two fresh and intriguing matchups in the singles finals.

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Roger Federer (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)
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Just two weeks removed from winning his historic 100th career title, Roger Federer goes for No.101 on Sunday, as well as his record-breaking sixth title in Indian Wells. Dominic Thiem stands in his way, and is vying for the biggest title of his career. On the women’s side, Angelique Kerber has three Majors to her name, but is yet to win a Premier Mandatory event such as this. Her opponent is one of the biggest surprise finalists in recent memory, an 18-year-old wild card who started the year ranked 178th in the world.

Angelique Kerber (8) vs. Bianca Andreescu (WC)

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In just her eighth career WTA-level event, Andreescu has reached a Premier Mandatory final. It’s an astonishing run from a player with so little experience playing against the game’s elite. The first few months of 2019 have changed her life. She started the year having to qualify just to get into the Auckland main draw, yet reached the final of that event. After also qualifying for the Australian Open, she won a challenger title in Newport Beach, and reached the semis in Acapulco. Now she’s won six matches in Indian Wells, including three straight wins over top 20 opposition. Her run here is reminiscent of Naomi Osaka’s from a year ago. Osaka came into the 2018 Indian Wells event ranked 44th in the world, and having never won a WTA title. A year later, she’s the world No.1, and has triumphed at the last two Majors. Is Bianca ready to win an event of this magnitude? It’ll be tough in her first-ever meeting against a player of Kerber’s magnitude.

“Kerber is an incredible fighter. She redirects her shots. Like, she can hit any shot at any time in any specific place whenever she wants. She has a pretty decent serve. She’s a good mover, great fighter.” The Canadian told reporters on Friday.

Andreescu is coming off a physically and emotionally draining semifinal against Elina Svitolina, where Bianca fought off the onset of cramps at multiple times during the third set. She let out a lot of emotions after that dramatic win, and coming back less than 48 hours later for the biggest match of her career is a big ask. Kerber should be the fresher of the two, as her semifinal with Belinda Bencic was about half as long. Angelique will take over the No.2 ranking with a win today, which seems like the most probable outcome. As great as Andreescu’s shot-making has been, Kerber will diffuse a lot of that. And experience should be a key factor for the 31-year-old German.

“I think It will be a good match on the high level, and I know I have to also play my best tennis, especially in the important moments” – Kerber

Quick facts

  • Andreescu  is the youngest Indian Wells finalist since Kim Clijsters back in 2001
  • Kerber will rise to world No.2 is she wins the title. Andreescu, who ended 2018 at 178th, will rise to a best of 33rd
  • Andreescu will earn a minimum of $686,000 for reaching the final. Entering the tournament, her career prize money stood at $350,909
  • Kerber is the first left-handed woman to contest a final in Indian Wells since Monica Seles back in 1992
  • Andreescu is only the fifth unseeded player to reach the final in the history of the tournament
  • Kerber hasn’t lost to a player ranked outside the top 50 since Alison Riske at the 2018 Mallorca Open
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After Indian Wells Success, Dominic Thiem’s Work With New Mentor Massu Continues To Blossom

Endorsed Gunther Bresnik, the two-time Olympic champion could become a permanent figure in Thiem’s team.

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What a turnaround that past week-and-a-half have been for Austrian No.1 Dominic Thiem.

The 25-year-old entered the first Masters 1000 event of 2019 winning only three out of seven matches played in 2019. Hampered by illness in recent weeks, it has been a far from ideal start to the season. Nevertheless, it all came together at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. After seeing off competition from big servers such as Ivo Karlovic and Milos Raonic, Thiem recorded one of the biggest victories of his career on Sunday. Taking on 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, he battled back from a set down to win. Becoming the first Austrian to win a Masters tournament since Thomas Muster at the 1997 Lipton Championships. An event now known as the Miami Open.

“It feels just unreal what happened in those ten days during the tournament. I came from a really bad form in all categories, and now I’m the champion of Indian Wells. It feels not real at all.” A delighted Thiem commented about his win.

Watching from the sidelines in Indian Wells was the latest addition to Thiem’s team – Nicolas Massu. A former top 10 player who won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games. The two got acquainted earlier this year during Austria’s Davis Cup tie with Chile in January. A few weeks later an agreement was put into place for a test period following another meeting during the Argentina Open.

Their collaboration has been a resounding success so far with Thiem crediting the Chilean for the positive impact he has had. Since retiring, Massu has worked as the captain of his country’s Davis Cup team.

“It’s amazing to have him in the box, because he’s so motivated. He puts the motivation on myself on the court. That’s great.” Thiem said of the 39-year-old.
“Beside the matches, we had a great intensity in the practices before Indian Wells. Because in like 12, 13 days, he got me from physically not in good shape, tennis-wise not in good shape, to an Indian Wells champion. That’s an amazing achievement also by him.”

The original agreement was for Massu to remain until the Miami Masters, which begins later this week. Although that may now be extended according to the principal coach of Thiem, Gunther Bresnik.

“We’ll talk later, but I would be very surprised if he did not stay after this success. He has an enormously positive charisma.” Bresnik told kurier.at.

Bresnik, who has coached Thiem for more than a decade, has been a vocal supporter of Massu’s inclusion. Previously describing him as an ‘extremely positive phenomenon’ during an interview with tennis.net.com on March 5th.

“He knows his way around elite sports, and he also has a certain care-freeness that is important for success.” Stated Bresnik.

Following his win in Indian Wells, Thiem has risen to fourth in the world rankings. His highest position since November 2017.

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Over Three Months Bianca Andreescu Has Proven She Is The Next Big Thing In Women’s tennis

The rising star ended 2018 ranked 178th in the world. Now she has won one of the most prestigious tournaments on the WTA Tour.

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Bianca Andreescu (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

If somebody said a year ago that Canada’s Bianca Andreescu would win the Indian Wells title at the age of 18, they would have most likely been called mad.

At the time she was ranked outside of the top 200 and battling for points at ITF events across Japan. Even though many knew she was a big talent following a successful junior career, few expected her to rise up the ranks so rapidly. Making her breakout on the pro our in 2019 even more spectacular.

It all started at the ASB Classic in New Zealand at the start of the year. Fighting her way through qualifying, Andreescu stunned the draw with wins over top 10 players Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams. She would go on to reach the final of the tournament before losing to Julia Goerges. Suddenly the WTA Tour was starting to pay attention to the threat posed by the two-time junior grand slam champion in doubles.

Gaining in momentum, Andreescu’s meteoric rise peaked on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open. Accepting a wild card into the tournament, the teenager stunned former world No.1 Angelique Kerber in three sets to win her maiden WTA title. Becoming the first wild card in history to do so and the youngest player since Serena Williams back in 1999.

“I’d like to thank BNP Paribas for giving me this opportunity. Without them I wouldn’t be in this situation right now. I’m beyond grateful for that.” She said during her press conference.
“It’s incredible to have my name beside so many incredible champions. It’s a dream come true.”

The most appealing thing about Andreescu’s game is her ability to mix up her shot selection. Against Kerber, she frustrated her with a combination of delicate drop shots and deep hitting backhands towards the baseline. Preventing Kerber from maintaining her rhythm in the match.

“She played the whole tournament good. I know that I had to play my best tennis. At the end I was not able to take my chances, but she did it.” Kerber said of the Canadian.

The comparisons

Rightfully describing her journey to the biggest title of her career as a ‘fairytale,’ Andreescu will now have to live up to the expectation and comparisons coming her way. In 2018 at the same tournament it was Naomi Osaka in the limelight. At the same event she won her maiden title on the women’s tour. Osaka would then go on to win back-to-back major titles and become Asia’s first ever No.1 player.

“It’s definitely inspiring seeing her claim the trophy last year and winning two Grand Slams right after that has been amazing to see.” She said of the current No.1.
“I don’t really want to focus on the future right now. I just want to enjoy this moment, because I don’t want to take anything for granted. You never know what next week brings. I just want to savour this.”

One of the most striking things about Andreescu’s play is how mature she appears to be on the court and how well she reads the game. Admittedly against Kerber, there were moments of her having a teenage tantrum. However, she was mainly composed and professional throughout. Contributing to an expanding fan base and praise from top figures in the sport.

One of those admirers is Martina Navratilova. Somebody who is deemed as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. Speaking on BT Sport about the rising star, she drew parallels between her and Andy Murray.

“‘She still has a way to go to play like him but she is definitely on that trajectory.” Said Navratilova.
“She’s got all the goods – she just believes in herself. What she can improve the most is the forehand, it gets a little off when she gets nervous, physical fitness – that will just happen, she’ll become more match tough. ‘She’s got really great hands, knows when to use what shots. Her tennis IQ, shot selection is really outstanding.”

Murray was 21 before he won his first Masters 1000 title. The male equivalent to the Premier Mandatory events on the WTA Tour.

A product of Canada’s rise in the sport

In recent times it has been Andreescu’s compatriot, Milos Raonic, who has been flying the flag for his country in the world on tennis. However, with a rapid rise in teenage stars emerging from the North American country, Andreescu belongs to a group of stars in the making. Alongside Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Growing up the Canadian trained at Tennis Canada’s Regional Training Centre in Toronto and then the National Training Centre in Montreal. In 2017 the federation named her player of the year. Sylvain Bruneau, who is the current head of women’s tennis for Tennis Canada, serves as Andreescu’s coach.

“It’s easy to get distracted,” Bruneau told The New York Times earlier in the week. “But it’s going to be part of my work to make sure she stays in the moment.”

Trying to get the 18-year-old to stay composed may be easier said than done. She exits Indian Wells with a pay cheque of $1.3 million. Rising to a ranking high of 24th after ending 2018 at 178th in the world.

“Everyone’s victory in Canada gives each one of us motivation and inspiration to also do well. If they can do it, we can.” She said.
“I think this win will definitely give many people confidence, young athletes, maybe aspiring athletes also. And I’m just 18, so if I can do it, they can.”

Andreescu is without a doubt a star in the making, but it remains to be seen how great she can become.

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Gutsy Dominic Thiem Downs ‘Legend’ Federer To Win Biggest Title Of Career In Indian Wells

Thiem paid tribute to the 20-time grand slam champion just moments after achieving his Masters 1000 milestone.

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After falling short on two previous occasions, Dominic Thiem has clinched his first Masters 1000 title after defeating Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, in the final of the BNP Paribas Open.

The 25-year-old battled back from a set down with the help of an aggressive game plan. Illustrating why he has been mentioned as one of the principle players to rise to the top of the men’s game when the era of the ‘Big Four’ comes to an end. The triumph of the Austrian is a bittersweet pill for Federer to swollow, who also narrowly missed out on the title last year. Federer was bidding to become the first player in history to win in Indian Wells for a sixth time.

Only three places separate the two players in the ATP rankings, but it was the more experienced Federer who was the overwhelming favourite heading into the final. The world No.5 was playing in his 49th Masters final, compared to Thiem’s third. Seeking his 101st title on the tour. Nevertheless, Thiem prevailed with the help of 24 winners to 25 unforced errors. Winning 70% of his first service points and saving nine out of the 11 break points he faced.

“First of all, Roger it’s such a pleasure to still compete with you, to learn so much with you, to play with one of the biggest legends of all time, to play in a big final with you… it’s amazing. It’s not real for me.” Thiem said to his opponent after the match.

In the fifth instalment of their rivalry on the premier Indian Wells stadium, it was the Swiss player who got off to a perfect start by racing to a 3-0 lead. Capitalising on an error-stricken Thiem service game. Despite his solid start, Federer didn’t have it all his own way during during the opening set thanks to a relentless Thiem battling back to close the deficit to 4-3.

Engaged in a fight, Federer managed to prevail against the increasing predictable serving from the French Open finalist. Thiem’s kick-serve was read like a book by the former world No.1, who returned one of those serves with a backhand down the line winner to break for a second time in the match for a 5-3 lead. The opening set was then clinched with the help of a mistake made from across the court.

Known for his packed schedule on the tour, Thiem’s resilience eventually paid off. An increase in the intensity of his shot-making throughout set number two derailed the Federer express. Abruptly changing the momentum of the match. The assertiveness of the 20-time grand slam champion evaporated as Thiem took proceedings into a decider. Doing so with the help of a Federer backhand drifting long.

With all to play for, there was little to distinguish between the two during the closing stages of the match. In the end it was just a couple of points that separated Federer from the title. At 5-5 in the decider, a tentative drop shot was punished by Thiem for a chance to break. An opportunity he seized after hitting a cross-court winner. Closing in on his maiden Masters title, Thiem prevailed after 112-minutes of action. Claiming victory after a Federer forehand ploughed into the net.

“I think I had to get use to Roger’s game because in the first set he was playing amazing and completely different to my other opponents I have played in this tournament.” Thiem reflected during an interview with TennisTV.
“I was struggling a little bit, but then I was fighting my way into the match. Got a bit lucky when I saved break points early in the second set. Then I think it was a very good match until the end.”

Thiem now leads their head-to-head 3-2 and has defeated Federer for the first time on a hard court. He is the first player from his country – man or woman – to win the Indian Wells trophy. Meanwhile a disappointed Federer, will have to wait another year to have a shot of winning the tournament for a record sixth time.

“For me, it has been a great week. Even though it didn’t work out.” Said Federer.
“What a great week Dominic has had, congratulations. Beautiful play at the end (of the match).” He added.

Now with a new coaching set-up, which features former Olympic champion Nicolás Massú, Thiem will rise to world No.4 when the rankings are updated on Monday. He is the 67th person to win a Masters title since the category was introduced back in 1990.

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