Sunday, March 18, 2012

Federer, Azarenka overcome adversity for BNP titles

   Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka overcame everything but alien invaders in the past two weeks to win the BNP Paribas Open.
  Adversity? You name it -- Federer and Azarenka faced it in Indian Wells.
  In the middle of the tournament, Federer, his wife and two young daughters felt the effects of the virus that devastated many players and fans. Federer also lost the first set against two first-time opponents, dangerous Milos Raonic and Thomaz Bellucci.
  In the semifinals, Federer waited out a three-hour rain delay, then coped with the wind in a straight-set victory over rival Rafael Nadal. Finally, the Swiss star tamed the huge serve of 6-foot-9 John Isner, coming off a victory over top-ranked Novak Djokovic, to win 7-6 (7), 6-3 Sunday for his record fourth title at Indian Wells.
   "When it all pays off after a bit of a scare early on in the week and you get the title and the emotions are going, it's a wonderful feeling," Federer told reporters. "I remember the days when I won three years in a row here, and I enjoyed myself over here." 
   Federer, 30, has won 15 straight matches (three titles) and 39 of 41 since losing in the U.S. Open semifinals last September. He avenged both losses, to Nadal in the Australian Open semifinals and to Isner in the first round of the Davis Cup in Switzerland, in the BNP Paribas Open. Federer also won the Indian Wells trophy for the first time since 2006, when he capped a three-year title run.
   Azarenka, ranked No. 1, apparently avoided the virus but trailed 4-1 in the third set and was two points from losing against Mona Barthel of Germany in the second round. From then on, Azarenka lost only 21 games in five matches, culminating in her 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Maria Sharapova, for her first Indian Wells singles crown (she won the 2009 doubles title with Vera Zvonareva).
   It was the first women's final between No. 1 and No. 2 in the world since 2008. Azarenka improved to 23-0 this year, the best start since Martina Hingis went 37-0 in 1997.
   "Last year was a learning experience for me," said Azarenka, who also beat Sharapova handily to win the Australian Open in January and the 2010 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. "Every loss I analyzed, and step by step (I) just built on everything -- just daily hard work. I had a lot of tough losses last year, and so now I'm really trying to turn it around in my own favor. I have just been trying to be consistent and professional every day. I never dreamed this would happen."
   Both Indian Wells champions received $1 million.
   Marc Lopez and Nadal won their second Indian Wells doubles title, beating Isner and San Francisco native Sam Querrey 6-2, 7-6 (3) in a matchup of unseeded teams. Lopez and Nadal, close friends from Spain, also won the 2010 championship.
   Top-seeded Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond extended their winning streak to 16 matches and four tournaments Saturday, coasting to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over defending champions Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina. It was Raymond's seventh Indian Wells doubles title (three with Lindsay Davenport, two with Samantha Stosur and one each with Rennae Stubbs and Huber) and Huber's first.
   Huber, 35, and Raymond, 38, each have won the Bank of the West Classic doubles title twice but never together. Huber triumphed in 2008 with Cara Black and in 2010 with Davenport, and Raymond prevailed in 2002 with Stubbs and in 2003 with Black.
   Mirza won the Bank of the West doubles crown in 2007 with Shahar Peer.
   Men's Challengers -- Two top-seeded players with Northern California ties, Scott Lipsky and John Paul Fruttero, won Challenger doubles titles.
   Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Lipsky, a former Stanford All-American living in Huntington Beach, defeated unseeded Americans Bobby Reynolds and Michael Russell 6-4, 6-3 in the $125,000 Dallas Tennis Classic.
   John Paul Fruttero, an ex-Cal All-American living in San Jose, topped unseeded Australians Colin Ebelthite and Samuel Groth 6-2, 6-4 in the $50,000 ATP Challenger Pingguo in Pingguo, China.
   Colleges -- The No. 88 Sacramento State women (9-8) lost 6-1 to No. 28 Saint Mary's (8-5) in a nonconference match in the Sacramento suburb of Gold River. The Hornets' Maria Meliuk, a senior, edged Carla Lindlar 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 10-5 tiebreak at No. 5 singles. ...
   The rebuilding Sac State men (3-9) also lost a nonconference contest 6-1, to host Texas-Arlington (4-8). The Hornets' point came from freshman Marek Marksoo, an Estonian who beat Nicolas Moreno 6-4, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.

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