Indian Wells: How Many Folks Expected a Fed-Isner Final?

Federer d. Nadal, 6-3 6-4

Photo: Reuters

Rafa raises his eyebrows at the cloudy skies while the wind does some serious flattening-out damage to Roger’s hair (don’t you just hate when that happens?)

This was a pretty surprising result, given Fed’s H2H against Nadal on outdoor surfaces.  Fed used his FH to neutralize Rafa’s BH, while Fed’s own FHs were on-song for the duration of the match.

It’s a testament to Rafa’s fighting capabilities that I’d figured Rafa would comeback to win the match, even after Fed had taken the 1st set.  However, Rafa’s UFE count was high during this match and he was playing too passively.  The most surprising part was the 2nd set, when Fed went up a double break, due in part to a DF from Rafa.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse, as the windy conditions became the third opponent in the match.  While Rafa is usually capable of overcoming the elements, I think his recent attempts to play more aggressively (with the aid of a new racquet and more vicious FHs) may also have meant that the wind messed with his mind a lot more than it usually would.  Rafa defeated Muzz in the 2009 IW final, in extremely windy conditions.  However, the recent changes that Rafa is trying to bring to his game may have complicated his game plan in this year’s SF.  Rafa wasn’t even going after some of the balls that he would normally scramble for.

Before Fed served for the match at 5*-4, Rafa took a bathroom break.  I mistakenly judged this to be a gamesmanship tactic on Rafa’s part.  In my defense, no matter who the player is, taking a bathroom break right before the opponent is serving for the match is worthy of a raised eyebrow.  If DelPo had taken a similar bathroom break, I’d have raised an eyebrow too.  However, Rafa returned to the court before the allotted time was up.  That erases any speculation on my part of gamesmanship.  Apologies to Rafa for my hasty assumption.

Still, the drama continued — Fed had MP on his serve, only for Mother Nature to intervene.  Rain started to fall and so a rain delay was called, at MP.  Literally.  Woody Allen, director of actress Scarlett Johansson’s career in Match Point, would have chuckled at this instance if he were watching the match.

Photo: Getty

Photo: Reuters

Fortunately, for the sanity of both players and their respective fans, the rain delay only lasted 2 minutes.  Fed served a decisive ace and won the SF encounter.  He’s now into the final, where he faces surprise opponent John Isner.

Rafa and Fed had their celebrity friends cheering them on during the match.  Ben Stiller, he of Zoolander fame, tweeted this after the match:

Stiller is a loyal Rafa fan!  I hope he makes more appearances at Rafa’s matches, and hopefully earns BFF status like Gavin Rossdale has done with Fed.

Fed’s coach Paul Annacone has been ill with the stomach virus that had taken down so many players at IW.  Annacone was not present at the match.  Gavin Rossdale, the ultimate Fed fan, attended IW as Fed’s “coach” instead.

Will Ferrell was in attendance at the Novak-Isner SF.  Confession: I am a begrudging fan of Will Ferrell movies 🙂  I wonder where his tennis allegiances lie…

**

Isner d. Djokovic, 7-6 3-6 7-6

Isner defeated Djokovic in a match that saw Djokovic fail to consolidate from a winning position.  I didn’t see the match, but going by reports, it seems Isner was clutch at the net and clutch with his serves, while Djokovic was playing below his superstar-2011-level.

Given how the folks at IW vaunted their man Isner as a top 10 player before he’d reached that status, I’m guessing they’re tickled with themselves that Isner’s reached a M1000 final.  With this SF win, Isner now takes his place in the top 10 at the expense of DelPo, who falls to no. 11.  I thought I’d done a decent job dealing with Fish and Tipsy’s presence in the top 10 — it seems the tennis gods are prone to throwing new hardships my way.  When will this travesty end?  I ask the cyber-space.

I’m not a fan of Isner’s game, nor the overblown U.S. media coverage of “the new wave of American dominance” that is sure to follow.  Yes, Isner played aggressively in this match, but ultimately, his game owes too much to his serve.  Also, I’m somewhat superficial: I could sit through two hours of Reeshie hitting errant FHs from 3m behind the baseline, if only to catch a glimpse of the beautifully angled, eye-opening BH winner down the line that will yet again (hopelessly) revive my faith in his future prospects.  Same with DelPo (except DelPo’s not hopeless).  I could not be motivated in a similar way to watch an Isner match.

Let’s just say, I hope Fed takes the IW title on Sunday.  From the start, I wanted someone from the bottom half of the draw (Rafa/Fed/DelPo) to win the tournament.  Also, Fed, if you’re going to take out DelPo and Rafa, you better take down the Isner as well.  

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About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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6 Responses to Indian Wells: How Many Folks Expected a Fed-Isner Final?

  1. queridorafa says:

    Isner gained some points w/ me, just by beating Djokovic! But the hype is definitely overblown–winning 7 best of 5 matches is so different from 5 or even 6 best of 3. Isner has improved a lot from the baseline–I remember a couple of years ago, he could barely hit two or three shots back to pretty much anyone. But, he’s still very hit or miss, relatively speaking!
    Isn’t Rafa afraid of storms? Maybe THAT’S why he played so inexplicably poorly–frozen by fear! It was just a bizarre outing. Kind of like Roger’s match against him last year in Miami in its one-sidedness, but even worse! The bathroom break was really unusual, but I agree, since he came back w/in the allotted time, it’s no big deal. But apparently he actually took 2 yesterday during the doubles match. I guess it’s just b/c it was unusually cold? At first I thought he might be sick, but he’s looked fine b/f and after matches. It’s a little bit odd, for sure though–hopefully won’t become a habit!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Isner doesn’t have a whole lot of pts to defend in the first half of the yr, so it’ll be interesting to see if he takes advantage of that (at poor DelPo’s expense) and goes further up the rankings (…I hope not)

      Rafa *is* afraid of storms! Maybe Tio Toni made it rain to express his displeasure with Rafa playing behind the baseline? It was a strange match—you’re right, kind of like Fed’s loss to Rafa at Miami last yr. It never really felt like one plyr ever settled comfortably into the match. Maybe the cold really did affect the bathroom breaks! I did wonder how tough it must be to play in cold, windy conditions like that. The bathroom break did seem like a bigger issue at the time, but I guess since it didn’t interrupt the momentum of either plyr and also b/c Rafa was back before the time was up, it seems less so now.

  2. Yeah, I think the whole “American dominance” is quite rediculous. And I, like QR, do not want to see a game of big servers serving aces at each other!

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