By Ros Satar, in Indian Wells
- Elena Vesnina  def. Svetlana Kuznetsova  6-7(6) 7-5 6-4
- Roger Federer  def. Stan Wawrinka  6-4 7-5
- Trophy whisked away from Vesnina’s press conference amidst Twitter complaints of the men’s match being ‘delayed’ by the women’s final.
INDIAN WELLS – It was a great day of tennis for the men’s and women’s finals – yet once more the tournament courted a little controversy.
Imagine the scene. Last year you bomb out in the opening round of the qualifying rounds. 12 months later you are lifting (not literally) the enormous glassware at the ~BNP Paribas Open as the women’s champion.
Yet while the men’s final was going on, and rapidly approaching Roger Federer’s fifth title here, Elena Vesnina’s press conference was briefly interrupted so that massive trophy (there is only one!) could be hustled downstairs in time for Federer’s coronation.
The fact that the match was still going on when Vesnina’s press conference came to an end made the interruption more laughable with Vesnina arms stretched joking ‘don’t take it away from me’ before acquiescing ‘you can give it to Roger’!
Yet the fact remains the women’s final again this year provided the drama while the men’s final took less than half the time for the result that (no offence to Stan Wawrinka) was always on the cards as Federer continues his comeback to the tour.
Elena Vesnina  def. Svetlana Kuznetsova  6-7(6) 7-5 6-4
To get back to the woman’s final – 11am in the heat of the day with two people most would not have picked for the final, boy did they do battle.
Nerves and fighting spirit were all on display in copious quantities in the Women’s final at the BNP Paribas Open. The draw had suffered a blow with Serena Williams pulling out shortly before the tournament began, turning the draw upside down.
Then again for a while they had big sister Venus Williams on hand to keep home hopes fluttering in the rare breeze in the desert. That was until Vesnina with her unusually endearing ‘HiYA’ grunt put paid to Williams the elder in one of the best matches of the tournament.
Not that the other half of the draw had nothing to offer – her opponent Svetlana Kuznetsova’s path to the final culminated with a tense two-setter with the Russian holding court over Karolina Pliskova.
To these eyes, Kuznetsova needed to dominate in those tie-breaks as she was beginning to look a little weary. She maintained that she had felt good in her post-match press conference, but her year had not started well – she felt burnt out in Australia after he Herculean efforts to grab that last WTA Finals spot, reaching the semi-finals.
The first set saw a great deal of nip and tuck, with a brace of breaks each in the first set before so many momentum swings in the first set tie-break we felt quite giddy at the end of it all. Kuznetsova eded the tie-break over the cruellest of net cords, dribbling over the net after almost one and a quarter hours of fascinating play.
What would that do to Vesnina’s momentum? It seemed to knock her for six, as she swiftly went down 1-4, before Vesnina reeled off four games on the bounce to take the lead. That would change a couple of times once more until Vesnina got the crucial break to serve out for the second, levelling the match.
It was a truly horrible start to the third set for Kuznetsova who was broken to love, but just as quickly as Vesnina started with the advantage, she handed it back, before Kuznetsova almost got a second wind while Vesnina seemed to wane, going down a break at 2-4. She had, after all been on court longer than the No. 8 seed, and this was her biggest final of her career.
Time for momentum to shift again as Vesnina closed the gap again to get things back on serve. With both looking pretty fatigued now, it came down to who would flinch first – and there was to be no third time luckly for Kuznestiva as she failed to hold on to her serve on a fifth break point for Vesnina to serve out for the match.
Vesnina closed out her biggest title to date in her second match point. A very disappointed Kuznetsova might have forgotten how she felt in the last twi attempts to win this title, but she will probably remember this loss for a while, telling press that she had not felt good with her game, even when up a set and 4-1.
But an articulate Vesnina handled the pressure beautifully. She said:
“I was kind of fighting to just stay longer on the court, just don’t give it so easy. I was telling to myself, You’re 4-1 down. Nothing to lose. Just fight for each game, you know, try to win every point, you know, try to deserve every point, because she will not give you anything.
“When I was down 4-2 in the third set, I know these kind of feelings when you’re having so much chances and you’re not using them, then your opponent will have one chance and she will use it.
“I don’t know how I have it in my mind, you know, serving for the championship point, championship game, you know, and don’t be so nervous. I was really — that game, I was really calm. I was not thinking that if I’m going to lose this game it’s going to be 5-All. I was not afraid to lose, you know, maybe for the whole match. I was just trying to play.
“And I think Svetlana, end of the match, she was afraid to lose the match, and this is the difference maybe.”
Roger Federer  def. Stan Wawrinka  6-4 7-5
Meanwhile over at the men’s final, it took just one opportunity for Federer to snap Wawrinka for the lead in a highly competitive first set without the sniff of a break. His chances came with a break at the start of the second set, and it looked as though the crowd were in for a treat in the sweltering set.
Federer missed his chance to break back in the next game, but made no mistake next time around, as he levelled and with that Wawrinka was on borrowed time.
Around 4-4 was when Vesnina’s temporary claim to the trophy came to an end, as time was ticking away from the No. 3 seed (who will incidentally go into Miami as the No,. 1 seed in the absence of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic and their troublesome elbows.
But we were good for a few games more, as once more Federer pounced to break this time for fifth title in the desert. Yet these pesky emotions were present even with the rugged rough-tough men as Wawrinka was in tears in his on-court speech, saying: “”I want to congratulate Roger. He’s laughing. He’s an asshole but it’s OK.”
He, of course, elaborated far more politely in his post match press conference.
“It’s a tough loss. Probably a bit of everything, you know, but some tough match. In a way, I’m really happy to make the final. It’s a great result on that, but you always want more. And to lose a final, it’s never easy. Had some really tough weeks, also, after Australian Open. I was injured. It was really tough for me.
“Anyway, I’m really happy to be that quick at that level, but still lost the final. So it wasn’t easy.”
Federer had actually been trying to cheer Wawrinka up during his speech before admitting it was the first time he had been called that on camera on court.
“I was trying, when he looked at me, not to give him the sad face. I was looking at him, going, You’ll be fine, and gave him a laugh, say, maybe gets his mind off it. I guess I achieved that (smiling).
“[Are you] joking? [Been called that] many, many times before. That’s why I take that as a compliment, you know, (smiling). There’s not always cameras around, so I get called that sometimes. Quite often, actually. On the court is the first time, but it felt good.”
Delay or Scheduling Issue?
There was a sour note when Sky’s Mark Petchey seemed to imply that the continuing women’s match had caused an unacceptable delay to the men’s final. The schedule allowed just two hours with the men’s match ‘not before’ 1pm. Those who follow tennis stringently know this means that the following match could well be delayed.
There will be a delay to the men’s final. Not sure 2 hours plus a presentation 4 WTA Final is enough time to realistically give b4 a final
— @markpetchey (@_markpetchey) March 19, 2017
What delay? The schedule said the men would play after the women finished, so the men are right on schedule. https://t.co/CXYxtdeXVP
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 19, 2017
Vesnina was asked whether, after such a titanic battle, and its personal significance for her if she was frustrated that people still seem to treat the game as an insignificane, she replied:
“Even people will say, Okay, the next final was a little bit delay. Come on, guys. You know, you had one of the best match in the final you can have, you know. It was, like, ups and downs. And the underdog won, you know, (smiling). I think this is the best scenario. Then you still have Roger in the final. You still will see him, you know.
“It’s always going to be like this. People will be upset about something, you know. But in the end of the day, the woman tennis will play three-sets match, like, nothing — not many people were expecting that I could win this match. It was so — I think, till the end, you couldn’t pick the winner. I think it was so interesting and so exciting to see this final. I’m proud of what we did with Svetlana today.”
But more importantly, when asked had he been irritated by the wait to get out onto court, Federer elaborated:
“You have to understand how many times we have been waiting in our career. That’s part of our life, really, waiting for matches to end. So this was actually really, really easy today (smiling).”
While it was not quite the controversy of last year’s comments by Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore, it was still another sign that we are a long way from people accepting that women can produce exciting tennis.
It might be worth noting, in the time it took for us to go to press for both Kuznetsova and Vesnina, the men’s match was almost over. If there needs to be a change, then it needs to be directed at the scheduling of the two finals, not an implication that a three-plus hour battle for one of the most prestigious titles on the tour is ‘unacceptable’.
Indian Wells closes with two great comeback stories. It should be remembered for that.
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