World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Simona Halep captured titles on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., but what do the two championships mean for the players nearing the tail end of the U.S. spring hardcourt season?
Halep is No. 1 — in 2015. She leads the points race in 2015-only points, meaning she has been the best player thus far in 2015, and leads the race to qualify for the year-end WTA Championships.
It didn’t hurt when No. 1 Serena Williams defaulted to her in the semifinals with a knee injury.
“This is my biggest title and I will never forget it,” said Halep after beating Jelena Jankovic in the final 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, with both players dealing with lower-body injuries.
Halep trailed practically the entire match, with Jankovic leading a set and a break in the second at 4-3, and 5-4 serving for it. But the former No. 1 Jankovic was a mess, as illustrated by a coaching visit captured by ESPN where she admitted she was lost. Her coach raining down random instruction in an attempt to give her a bit of confidence, to no avail.
In the end the two players shook hands, with Jankovic unsuccessfully trying to hide an eye-rolling expression of handing the Romanian the title after her tight play.
“I was limping three days before the tournament started,” Jankovic said in regard to a hip injury. “I was actually in doubt if I could even play. When I came to these courts, on the first day I hadn’t hit a ball for 10 days. I was hitting, but I was standing. I was not moving. But I was hitting the ball so great without any practice. I had a good feeling. I felt so great. I was just so happy to be out there again. But I didn’t think I would make the finals after not preparing.”
The 2010 Indian Wells champ Jankovic will return to the Top 20 when the WTA Rankings are released on Monday.
While the world No. 1 Djokovic beat Roger Federer 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 in the men’s final, the Swiss showed that there continues to be little separating the two.
Djokovic showed how much his rivalry with Federer gets to him by locking up in the second-set tiebreak, throwing in two double faults to prolong the match to a third set.
Neither player had a lost a set en route to the final.
It was the fourth Indian Wells title for Djokovic, who lost to Federer a little less than a month ago in Dubai, but in the end successfully defending in Indian Wells.
Federer in the third stumbled himself at 2-3, double faulting to give Djokovic a 4-2 lead.
“Novak did well to sustain the lead for most of the match; I think he found an extra gear in the end,” Federer said. “It was tough. You know, I enjoyed the match; it had a bit of everything. Controlled aggression was the key out there to try to play like that from the baseline.”
For Djokovic it is the extension of a lead at No. 1 that may be hard to touch for Federer or anyone else.
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