7 Things I Think I Thought About Djokovic And What Happened At Indian Wells
by Sean Randall | March 17th, 2014, 2:18 pm

Boy did Novak Djokovic need that Indian Wells title. After a rather shaky start to the season it was just what the doctor ordered. In an enthralling final, Djokovic edged Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) to win his third straight Masters Series event.

The match wrapped up a 10 days of thrills and spills from the desert. And as we wind halfway through Tennis’s version of March Madness, here are some thoughts:

1. Novak Djokovic Relief
As I said all week no one needed to win Indian Wells more than Djokovic. And not just to silence the anti-Becker talk (though the German was not there, so does it even count?) but more for his confidence.

He had to have it and against the odds – down a set to Federer and then gagging in his attempt to serve it out – he masterfully pulled out that final set breaker playing an exceptionally high level of tennis exactly when he needed.

And while he again choked at 5-4, this win should do him a world of good. And I think maybe this “clicks” and we start seeing that form from last fall. I fully expect to see him play much better in Miami this weekend.

2. True Rivalry
Djokovic’s win closes him within one of Federer in their series. Federer still leads 17-16 but this thing is even closer than that. And closer than the one-sided Nadal-Federer (23-10), Nadal-Djokovic (22-17) or even Murray-Federer (Murray leads 11-10 but it doesn’t feel that way, does it?).

So while Federer-Nadal, Nadal-Djokovic get all the attention, this rivalry hasn’t been too bad either and through the years has produced some pretty good drama as we saw yesterday.

What a charmed era we live in!

3. Federer Back
If there was any doubt of where Federer’s game is at, I think Indian Wells should have put that to rest. Federer made the finals without losing a set and at times against Djokovic the 32-year-old father of two looked 25 again – there was one point where he absolutely ripped a breathtaking angle off his backhand, then finished the point off with the forehand winner to the open court, wow!

The back injury we visibly saw 12 months is gone and that’s allowing him to move as beautifully as ever.

Sure, his strokes broke down in the third and on the grittier Indian Wells court it’s treacherous to move forward as much as he would have liked, but it was a still a great week.

Despite the loss, things are definitely going in the right direction for Roger. The trend is up.

4. Nadal The Back Patient?
While Federer showed his back is back to 100% for now, Nadal’s back is…??

If you were watching Tennis Channel I think it was Jim Courier who opined Nadal’s back didn’t look quite right during his loss to Dolgopolov. And even more disconcerting is that Brett Haber or maybe it was someone else referenced the old axiom, “once a back patient, always a back patient”. There’s truth in that.

With another week of pounding away on the hardcourts in Miami, and then the all-important clay season looming, Nadal better hope that back isn’t susceptible to further maladies.

Remember Rafa will turn 28 during the French, and it’s an old 28 people.

That said, if it is still that big of a problem – it’s been six weeks since the injury in Melbourne – maybe skipping Miami to be 1000% ready for the clay is the the smarter course.

Whatever it is, as I said before Nadal’s already suffered set losses to Gojowycz, Monfils, Andujar, Dimitrov, Stepanek and a now loss to Dolgopolov. So things just don’t look right with him in general this season.

5. Where’s Murray’s Magic?
Speaking of back injuries, Murray had surgery on his in September. After playing a bunch of events already this year and playing well in some, how much longer do we give him a “pass” for the injury?

Is he ok, is he still suffering, when will he be fit again?

These questions keep popping up during and after every one of matches! So I ask what’s the expiration on this?

I’ve never had back surgery (knock on wood) so I can’t really speak from a physical standpoint what’s it’s like to comeback from one, but he’s been playing a heavy schedule from Jan 1 and did a training block well before that. So is he fit NOW? Or is he just no longer the players we this he is?

Regardless, he’s up for a title defense in Miami later this week. He better be in shape.

6. The Future Is Not Now
With all the talk of this next generation and of all the hope that Stan Wawrinka supposedly gave to those lower tier players in the locker room, in the end at Indian Wells when the desert dust settled it was still two of the Big Four once again playing for the title.

That makes it 27 of the last 28 Masters Series events going their away, the exception being David Ferrer in Paris a few years ago.

Eventually it will change, but when? Maybe next year.

7. Women’s Tennis Is A Hot Mess
What a great comeback story for Flavia Pennetta winning Indian Wells a year after thinking about hanging it up. The 32-year-old likeable Italian beat two Top 3 players en route to the biggest title of her career.

That said, geez is women’s tennis a mess right now. Without Serena it certainly felt like there was a lull over the event (Li Na as a No. 1 seed just didn’t look right!). Then corporate-queen Maria Sharapova early exited, Azarenka’s still injured, the young American’s fizzled and honestly, the matches were hard to watch and then we had to sit through the Radwanska injury in the final.

Like a pair of dice, if could “roll” that women’s draw 10 times I’d bet you’d end up with 10 different winners. This roll came up Pennetta, so good for her.

Serena does return in Miami which should restore some order. But she’s no spring chicken at 32.

Miami begins this Wednesday with both men and women. And the draws are out. I’ll just do a post on that now.

You Might Like:
Novak Djokovic Confirms He Will Not Be Playing Indian Wells Or Miami
Kim Clijsters Takes Wildcard Into Indian Wells
Andy Murray: The Courts At Indian Wells Are Very Slow, They’re Also Very Slow Here In Miami
Serena Williams Pulls Out Of Indian Wells And Miami
Novak Djokovic Withdraws From Indian Wells Masters

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27 Comments for 7 Things I Think I Thought About Djokovic And What Happened At Indian Wells

Translated Age Says:

1. Djokovic still looks tense. Far from his 2011 best. Highest seed was No. 12 Isner before the final. Jury remains out. Inconsistent against Fed but still managed the win. Well done.

2. Good rivalry (all combos of Top 4 are good). Agreed that we are in a charmed golden era.

3. Fed is looking great but jury is very much still out against a well-playing Top 3 (who are all NOT well playing ATM to be fair).

4. Nadal’s back problems are mental at this point, not physical. At least he’s stopped talking about his back unlike some other player.

5. Murray will be fine. He is in Nole’s quarter in Miami and based on what I saw from Nole, this would be a pick’em.

6. Couldn’t agree more. Media looking for a story that simply isn’t there ATM.

7. pfft.

courbon Says:

Nice article

Margot Says:

A bit soon to start writing Andy off. He’s the only one to have actually HAD a back operation. And a bit soon too to be expecting him to deliver the old Murray Magic. That “back quote” was a bit depressing though tbh.
However, Lendl has said he won’t be ready b4 RG., so not expecting much in Miami, except the loss of yet more points. Bummer.

the DA Says:

“Murray leads 11-10 but it doesn’t feel that way, does it?”

Yes, it does feel like it…to me anyway. It what way doesn’t it ‘feel’ like it to you?

“So I ask what’s the expiration on this?”

I don’t recall an expiration date for Delpo when he was coming back from his wrist surgery. It took him around 9 months. Some players were not quite the same again after returning from surgery (which I hope is NOT the case here). Why all the impatience with Murray? Higher expectations?

Margot Says:

@The DA
Feels like that to me too!

Perspective Says:

Changing of the guards?

Well if the younger players could keep their heads down, talk less and work hard….

Okiegal Says:

My friend has back problems, three surgeries….back no better, still in pain. I feel for Andy, because in fixing what was wrong, picking up where you left off, serving the same way again, would you not undo it? I love this guy, 2nd on my list, and I think he should have taken more time off.

Patson Says:

Very happy with Nole’s win. Wasn’t able to comment earlier. Onto Miami now.

pigoonse Says:

Someone has to believe in the new wave of talent
coming through. They are a questionable bunch, but several of them can be entertaining, if a fan doesn’t go nuts from the hype first.

Yet the present ATP top ten look dim. Rafa – Goat of the weak era, especially come clay season with the over the hill, the walking wounded, and the mentally fragmented rounding them out. Apart from the year Djokovic was on his fluke winning
streak, what decent competition has he had? Rafa is so lucky to be in his prime these past years.
No wonder he has been owning clay season after season, surrounded by a draw of top seeded weak, but charming, Muppets. Federer was his closest competition for years on clay. He was no competition for Nadal, even in Feds prime, let alone in 2014, when he can’t even hold his form through to the pointy end of a Masters 1000 final FTW.

Weak Fedal Era, when will it end.

Choosing Novak Djokovic to win IW was out of sheer desperation for him to end his 2014 title drought. He made it. But I can’t see him backing IW up with a Miami trophy – he is too shaky. It is down to Rafa Nadal to win in Miami and make up the points he lost at IW. That is my pick. No Dolgopolovish nonsense. Rafael Nadal will be ready this time. Let the party begin.

Purcell Says:

At this moment in time, which is now in the past, it’s easier to believe in the primordial gravitational wave theory than the new wave of talent.

SG1 Says:

Wish I could’ve seen the Nole-Fed match. How was Federer’s fitness in this match? Could he have gone toe-to-toe with Novak for another couple of sets?

Win or lose this match, Federer has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with again. He appears to have almost beaten Novak in a Masters 1000 event.

I agree that he should take a week off. Make sure he’s fully charged and injury free going into the clay court season which historically, he’s done well with though I suspect he’ll want to try and peak this season for the grass at Wimbledon.

I am really impressed with Roger so far this year. Didn’t think he could still contend this way. Just goes to prove the heart of a champion should never be underestimated.

Okiegal Says:


To answer your first question, no, imo.

SG1 Says:

Thanks Okiegal. I suspect that if he can stay healthy and get to the faster surfaces at the end of the year, he won’t get stuck in the attrition game which will help him.

Now, let’s hope Rafa, Murray and DelPo can get their health issues resolved so we can have one humdinger of a tennis year.

Okiegal Says:


Me too, I’m so sick of injuries interfering with my favorite sport! Now, aren’t I the selfish one?? It’s survival of the fittest! You might like to ignore the injuries and brush them under the rug, but it’s always there. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of them were a 100%? But we will never see that. I believe Novak is the healthiest of the top guys now…..remember when that wasn’t so.

I too am looking forward to the rest of the year, there could be some surprises, we will see!

Thanx for your response, nice chat.

Okiegal Says:


Regarding Fed, don’t get me wrong, he looked like the old Fed. I thought he got a little tired in the tiebreak and a little nervous……that old human reaction……PRESSURE!

pigoonse Says:


Primordial Gravitational Wave Theory – that is deep. Near impossible to grasp too. I guess I can imagine Dimitrov standing there holding a GS trophy easier, but I am no physicist or cosmologist. Actually make that Dominic, the Dominator, Thiem reaching #1 – I see it. In some universe, it has already happened, maybe.

pigoonse Says:

But before I get carried away with that thought, I better go check if he made it out of his 1st match qualifying for the Miami main draw. (He = Thiem.

nadalista Says:

3. Federer Back

The back injury we visibly saw 12 months is gone and that’s allowing him to move as beautifully as ever.

4. Nadal The Back Patient?
While Federer showed his back is back to 100% for now, Nadal’s back is…??

If you were watching Tennis Channel I think it was Jim Courier who opined Nadal’s back didn’t look quite right during his loss to Dolgopolov. And even more disconcerting is that Brett Haber or maybe it was someone else referenced the old axiom, “once a back patient, always a back patient”. There’s truth in that.


So, let me get this straight:

a. The saying, “once a back patient, always a back patient” applies only to Nadal, it does not apply to Federer. Federer is back to 100%! It’s Nadal who is the chronic back sufferer now, according to you, Sean Randall, because you can VISIBLY see that……

b. You are not contradicting “Courier’s opinion” that Rafa’s back was troubling him during his match against Dolgo. In fact, you appear to corroborate that with your next statement…
Funny, Rafa categorically said, post-match, that his back was fine, that it did not bother him during his loss to Dolgo. So, who’s making injury excuses for Rafa now? You?

You are this desperate to see Rafa off the tennis circuit you are going to make him a chronic back sufferer now? You are even willing to make injury excuses for him now? Sooooo, he (Rafa) is not allowed to make injury “excuses” but you are, with your x-ray vision?

Sean, Sean, your Fed-fan boyism calls for a Colonel Jessup re-dux:

Rafa’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saved tennis. You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at Fed fan parties, you want Rafa on tour. You need Rafa on tour.

Rafans have long used words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty” to describe Rafa. We use these words as the backbone of a tennis life spent watching and defending a true phenomenon, Rafael Nadal. You use them as a punchline.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of tennis excitement which Rafa provides, and then questions the manner in which he provides it!

I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you learn to read through what you write first, and stop boring us with your contradictions. Either way, some of us don’t give a damn what you think you can VISIBLY see!

Giles Says:

@nadalista. Excellent post. A + + + +

Okiegal Says:


I was taken “aback” by #4 myself, a bit confused??

skeezer Says:

@4:56 am post
Re; Col. Jessup
He also got handcuffed.

SG1 Says:


It’s just a fact of life in every physical sport. Injuries will happen. Some are manageable with treatment, others just aren’t. I’m a huge hockey fan. So much of a team’s success comes down to luck. The team that best combines good health with talent usually wins the Cup. In pro sports, there is such a fine line between winning and losing. How can injuries not play a role in the result (unless of course, both players are badly injured).

Sean Randall Says:

nadalista, did you notice the “for now” part in my assessment of Federer’s back?

Here’s it is again: “While Federer showed his back is back to 100% for now”

Or are you too much of a…oh nevermind.

Okiegal Says:


“How can injuries not play a role in the result?? You got it, babe, It can’t! Some fans don’t really want to hear it. The way tennis is played today opposed to few years back, no comparison imo. As I have said more than once on TX, Roger Federer as the best athletic genes of any tennis athlete I have ever seen. Mono was his first real problem of serious illness that I ever knew of. The back stands to reason, being a little older and all. Novak started out having breathing issues and now he’s like the energizing bunny. He and Rafa’s AO five setter, don’t know how they did it……amazing athletes. We have some iffy ones for sure. We will see! Good luck to your guy. Let’s hope they all stay healthy!

Skeezer Says:

Fed did not go throughout every match lost last year and immediately give an excuse like “oh my back” is “why I lost” . For the most part it was revealed this year.
Rafa however uses it exclusively when he loses, and even before he wins or loses…..

SG1 Says:


I’m pretty much a Rafa/Murray fan. I’m giving Roger his props because the guy is playing incredible tennis at a point in time when most players of his caliber want to wind down. Connors and Agassi are the only guys I can remember with the stuff to compete at 32 going on 33. And Andre kind of extended his career by being in and out of the game during the 90’s. Sampras kind of did to Agassi what Mac did to Borg.

Of course Chris and Martina were still duking it out in their early 30’s but I’m only considering the men right now. There’s Serena but I really believe she plays in a soft era.

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