On Wednesday evening, March 18, halfway through the final week of play at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open, storm clouds and gusty desert winds swept across the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
They came and went with minimal impact—much like the highly publicized return of No. 1-ranked Serena Williams to Indian Wells for the first time since 2001.
After winning four matches, Williams withdrew from the tournament on Friday, March 20, shortly before her scheduled semifinal meeting with No. 3-ranked Simona Halep, due to a knee injury.
When asked how emotional it was for her to withdraw, Williams said, “I was really, really disappointed. I was really down. I was really sad.”
Her mood brightening, she continued: “But then I thought, ‘You know what, Serena? This is just an opportunity to be able to come back … and do better next year.’”
So she’s already planning to return in 2016? “I think it’s going to be a must,” she said, smiling.
Halep was the happy recipient of a “walkover” win in her semifinal, which gave her extra rest heading into Sunday’s final. Her rest looked more like rust during a lackluster first set, which her opponent, No. 18 Jelena Jankovic, won 6-2. But Halep then turned on the jets, capturing a tight 7-5 second set and crusing home with a 6-4 final set.
The competitive women’s final set the stage for the return of last year’s men’s singles finalists: No. 2-ranked Roger Federer, and No. 1 Novak Djokovic. And for the second year in a row, Djokovic showed that his game shines in the desert sun, claiming a three-set victory. The first set and the last sets (6-3 and 6-2 wins by Djokovic, respectively) were one-sided displays of Djokovic’s spectacular shot-making. The middle set, won in a tiebreaker by Federer, 7-6 (5), was tense, dramatic and filled with brilliant play on both sides of the net.
Some miscellaneous observations:
• Is it a coincidence that two players who benefited from “walkover” wins in the second week of this marathon championship wound up winning the whole thing?
• Isn’t it unseemly for the impresario of this stellar event, Larry Ellison, to choose not to attend the women’s singles final? Not even the awards ceremony?
• Could there be a better example of irony than Serena Williams being forced to withdraw from her semifinal match due to injury—just as her sister Venus did in 2001?
Until next year! Scroll down to enjoy some images from the second week of the 2015 BNP Paribas Open.