5 Things We Learned In Indian Wells
(1) Juan Martin del Potro is a Top 2 Contender
Over the past 14 months, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have created a monopoly atop the ATP Rankings. But, with his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown on Sunday, the Tower of Tandil has thrust himself into the Top 2 conversation. With a shiny new No. 6 next to his name, Del Potro is in prime position to make a charge during the upcoming clay-court season.
At the age of 29 and with his injuries behind him, the Argentine looks to be back to the form that carried him to a career-high of No. 4 in 2010. His mammoth forehand was large and in charge throughout the tournament and he showed great maturity and poise with his back against the wall. Trailing by a set against Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarter-finals, Del Potro was at his resilient best. And when he stared down the barrel of three championship points against Federer in Sunday's final, he refused to go down without a fight.
His reward? The missing prize in his trophy case: a first Masters 1000 crown.
“It's so big,” Del Potro said of winning his first Masters 1000 title. “I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis. We played great tennis today. I'm No. 6 in the world, I think? Which is so good to me. And I'm excited to keep working... I just want to keep winning titles like this if I can.”
(2) Roger Federer Continues To Put The ATP World Tour On Notice
Sure, Roger Federer fell just short of claiming his 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event and a record sixth BNP Paribas Open trophy. In fact, the Swiss had three match points — on his serve, no less — in the third set to triumph once again in the Coachella Valley. But while he leaves Indian Wells as runner-up, how close he was illustrates a statement he has made throughout 2018 — the 36-year-old does not plan on going anywhere.
The World No. 1 guaranteed that he would maintain his spot atop the ATP Rankings on Monday by advancing to the semi-finals. And then, when it appeared he was on his way out of the tournament, he recovered from a set and 2-4 down in the semi-finals against rising star Borna Coric, and then a break on two separate occasions in the third set, to make an eighth Indian Wells final. It’s not like the Swiss was ousted early. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Federer set a new personal record for best start to a year by triumphing in his first 17 matches before losing to Del Potro on Sunday.
"It was maybe a point here or there, maybe a shot, maybe a forehand, maybe a chip. So that's how it goes. It's unfortunate,” Federer said.
All it would have taken was one shot to go differently for this to be a very different conversation, so don’t worry about Federer. That is for the rest of the ATP World Tour to do.
(3) Innovation Is Driving Indian Wells To New Heights
Year after year, the BNP Paribas Open continues to set the benchmark for tennis excellence on the ATP World Tour. The prestigious tournament in Indian Wells is consistently at the forefront of sporting innovation and is highly regarded by players and fans as one of the best events on the calendar.
During the week, the tournament in the California desert was honoured once again, receiving its trophy as the top Masters 1000 event in the 2017 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon. It marked the fourth consecutive year in which it has celebrated the achievement.
Prior to the 2017 tournament, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden underwent extensive renovations designed to enhance the overall fan experience, including substantial upgrades to Stadium 1 – ranging from a massive expansion of the Stadium Plaza to renovating all the suites and hospitality spaces to adding 21 new restaurants and concessions. Leading up to this year's edition, the tournament underwent a full-scale beautification project, including the addition of 62 palm trees, as part of a sweeping 'green' initiative.
(4) The Youth Revolution Is Alive At The Masters 1000 Level
Last year, Hyeon Chung and Borna Coric made their mark on the ATP World Tour with appearances at the Next Gen ATP Finals. Chung and Coric starred in Milan and they carried the momentum into 2018, putting their talents on full display at this week's BNP Paribas Open.
Chung reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final, falling to Federer, and Coric advanced to his first Masters 1000 semi-final, also falling to the World No. 1. Both players earned statement wins en route, with the Korean toppling Tomas Berdych in straight sets and the Croatian clipping seventh seed Kevin Anderson in a deciding tie-break.
Chung and Coric weren't the only members of the ATP's youth revolution to make strides at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. For the second straight year, Taylor Fritz was the last #NextGenATP standing, earning a pair of comeback wins to reach the Round of 16. And the ascents of Alex de Minaur and Felix Auger-Aliassime continued, with both teens securing their first Masters 1000 match wins.
“Last year, I never would have thought I'd be here talking to you guys in the second round of a Masters 1000," said Auger-Aliassime. "I was still playing juniors. This transition went pretty fast for me, so it's quite unbelievable to be here so early. But as a kid, those are the moments you dream of and those are the stages you want to play on.”
(5) Jack Sock Is A Doubles Dynamo
Well, we already knew that. But the 2018 BNP Paribas Open only reaffirmed the belief that the American is one of the best two-way players on the ATP World Tour. The World No. 10 in singles added a 10th tour-level doubles crown, teaming up with countryman John Isner to prevail in the desert.
It was Sock's third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title and second in Indian Wells, having also triumphed with Vasek Pospisil in 2015. A magician at the net with rapid reflexes, few players' court instincts can match those of the Nebraska native.
Moreover, Sock and Isner did not drop a set through four matches, becoming just the third team to do so in the past 30 years in Indian Wells.
"I have been fortunate enough to be in my third final here," Sock said. "I've been able to win two of them, which has been super special. Like John said, obviously it's an incredible 10 days here. Probably almost every player's favourite event of the year. Family and friends and loved ones are out here and you're renting a house. And it's relaxing, and you're still getting to play super high-level tennis. And then the crowds, on top of it, are just amazing."