So here are my random thoughts after the first Masters event of the season:
* Mario Ancic is finally back
The former world number 7 and one of G,S,M's personal favorites has graced us with his appearance on the ATP tour after slumming it for a bit in the Challengers and Futures events (no disrespect to either), as he makes an official return to tennis following rumors of him quitting the game and becoming a full-time lawyer. How horrible would that have been?!?! Lucky for us, Super Mario's days as a law intern seem to be over now and after his first ATP showing in 2010, the Croat has already moved up 253 rankings spots that landed him at 441. Ancic, who made it to the 3rd round at Indian Wells with victories over Bobby Reynolds and Julien Benneteau, before falling to Nadal, has a wild card for Miami, where he faces talented Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, in the first round.
* Nadal played some kickass tennis, yet dropped to number 4
Four incredible performances and one single flop in Indian Wells, earned Rafa a drop to number 4 in the world rankings (I blame the shorts, shame on you Nike). The Spaniard played some punishing tennis against Rainer Schuettler, Ancic, John Isner and Tomas Berdych, before he suffered what he called "an accident" against eventual champion, Ivan Ljubicic, in the semis. The good news for Rafanatics is that the forehand is as brutal as ever, the knees seem strong, and our beloved Nadal is upbeat about the future:
"The mental thing, I gonna do it well. I always was a winner. I was a very good competitor, and I gonna be very good competitor and winner another time, no?"
-- Nadal after losing to Ljubicic in the Indian Wells semifinals, before heading to the Masters event in Miami.
* Ljubicic enjoys new tennis highs at the age of 31
My first reaction to the Ljubicic - Roddick final was: "What is this, 2006?"
Naturally my first reaction to Ljubicic winning the whole thing was: "Wow, he really hadn't won a Masters Series title already?"
The former world number 3 said it himself:
¨There were times in 2005, 2006, when I really felt like I deserved one. Madrid, I was break up in the fifth against Rafa in the final. Tomas Berdych, Bercy, lost in five. Not really the one I lost in Miami to Roger. I mean, it was three tiebreaks, but he was dominating it... But, I mean, looking at my career, you know, in general, I did feel like, you know, I was missing it. It's really fantastic feeling to finally have it.¨
The Croat is back at number 13 in the world rankings and has become the oldest player to win a Masters title for the first time. Now I wanna know what Ljubicic has been eating to be able to serve like that all week? Good for him!!
* Jankovic mans up to win Indian Wells for the first time
Ok, seriously, who cares if she couldn't lift the trophy?? Jelena Jankovic overcame extreme heat and some tough conditions throughout the week to grab her maiden Indian Wells title. Her near-loss to Sara Errani in the 3rd round was what the Serb called "a wake up call" and indeed, following that match, Jankovic played the kind of tennis that saw her rise to number 1 in the world 2 years ago.
* Serving master Roddick commends Ljubicic's serve
From one serving machine to another, Indian Wells runner-up, Andy Roddick expressed his awe of Ljubicic's serving throughout the tournament.
"He served great. The last two days was an exhibition in how to on serving big points... I felt I had a lot more opportunities throughout the sets than he did, but he just served hugely. He had complete control over all four spots. You know, he hit em," said Roddick after the final.
Coming from Roddick, I think Ljubicic must feel like a serving god!!
* Tennis players finally discover social media
It's been a long time coming, and it's true that both Federer and Nadal have both been Facebookers for quite some time now, but more recently, many other players have hopped on the social media band wagon and are filling our news feeds and twitter pages with updates on their lives, some of which we truly appreciate, while others... well let's just say some athletes are better left unheard :)
Recent Facebook joiners include Marcos Baghdatis, Mario Ancic and Juan Monaco, while the Twitterverse has welcomed Baghdatis, Daniela Hantuchova, Gael Monfils,and Svetlana Kutznetsova to name a few.
* Rafa + Federer = Class Act; Agassi + Sampras = Not
I have to say the pettiness of the whole Agassi-Sampras debacle that took place during the Hit for Haiti before the tournament kicked off was really beneath both of them. I mean sure it gave the press something to talk about for several days, first the video of the awkward moment on court, then the reactions from Nadal and Federer, who obviously felt like leaving at that point, then Sampras acting like a victim and finally Agassi's apology.
I think what we can conclude from all this is that the contrast between a rivalry like that between Federer and Nadal, and that of any other former sports legends is humungous. The respect they bring to the game is just beautiful!! That's the word. And as for Sampras and Agassi... They seriously need to grow up!!