At the moment, the American sports mainstream associates the number 76 with losing. For example, how many more games will the Philadelphia 76ers lose to close out the season? Or, have the Philadelphia 76ers taken the concept of tanking to its most absurd level? As someone who grew up in Philadelphia, I am pleased that today the number 76 will, for me, be associated with winning. Since capturing the 2010 Andalucia Tennis Experience in Marbella, Spain, Flavia Pennetta had a string of 76 tournaments without a title. Things had become so bad for Flavia that she contemplated retirement in mid-2013 when her ranking plummeted all the way down to #166. The former top 10 player was on the elder side of 30, usually a demarcation of diminished play in professional tennis. However, with 30-somethings Li Na, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Klara Zakopalova all winning tournaments already in 2014, maybe 30 is the new 25. Pennetta joined the triumphant tricenarians, as the 32-year old Italian won the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells women’s singles title ending her 76 tournament drought.
It’s too bad that Flavia’s 6-2 6-1 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska came with Aga battling a knee injury. I give Radwanska a lot of credit for gutting it out when she easily could have thrown in the towel. It was heartbreaking to see her tearful runner-up speech after the match. That said, there is no guarantee that Aga would have won even had she been healthy. Maybe she would have, but then again maybe not. No credit should be taken away from Flavia. She was sharp in the final. I’ve seen plenty of matches where a player actually becomes error-prone when their opponent is fighting an injury. It’s almost as if the pressure to win increases on the non-injured player. Flavia didn’t allow what was happening on the other side of the net to affect her focus.
A few brief words on the other 2014 BNP Paribas Open champions. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer gave the fans a terrific battle to close out the tournament. It was a back and forth match that went to a 3rd set tie break. When matters were settled, Nole emerged with his 3rd Indian Wells title. His 3-6 6-3 7-6 (3) victory was his first championship of 2014. If he continues to play as he did in the 2nd and 3rd sets, it won’t be his last. In the doubles competition, top women’s seed Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-Wei ran their record together in finals to a perfect 11-0 by besting Cara Black and Sania Mirza, 7-6 (5) 6-2, to win the women’s crown. The Bryan Brothers, Mike and Bob, continued their march to a future induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame by adding this year’s men’s double title to their boatload of career trophies.
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20 FLAVIA PENNETTA (won 6-2 6-1 vs 2 Agnieszka Radwanska)
2 NOVAK DJOKOVIC (won 3-6 6-3 7-6 (3) vs 7 Roger Federer)
1 PENG SHUAI/HSIEH SU-WEI (won 7-6 6-2 vs 5 Cara Black/Sania Mirza)
1 BOB BRYAN/MIKE BRYAN (won 6-4 6-3 vs 2 Alexander Peya/Bruno Soares)