>> Wednesday, February 29, 2012
February 2012 is over and possibly the most boring month in the tennis calendar is done. Still, it was a month where we witnessed world #1 Victoria Azarenka won her third title of the season and remain unbeaten for the year. It was also in this month where Roger Federer won his 71st ATP tournament title pushing his career money earnings to more than $68million, a record that would most likely stand in the next 3 to 5 years. This month also saw Juan Martin del Potro continue his climb back after an absence forced by injury – the Argentine reached back-to-back finals in Rotterdam and Marseilles. He lost to Federer in the former, while he won his first title in the latter. On the women’s side, there’s no doubting that this month belonged to Agnieszka Radwanska. Poland’s #1 won in her first visit to Dubai and has now reached a career high #5 in the world rankings. But then, February is done and we move to an interesting month in the tennis calendar.
March 2012 will feature only two tennis tournaments in the ATP and WTA calendars. Yet, these tournaments are possibly the two biggest tournaments outside of the grand slams and the season-ending championships. These two tennis tournaments are the BNP Paribas Open held in Indian Wells, California and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. It’s springtime in the United States and both East and West Coast tennis fans will get to enjoy competition between the best tennis players in the world.
Indian Wells 2012 will continue to host a 96-player singles draw, with 32 seeded players receiving a bye in the first round. In its bid to become the largest event in the ATP and WTA tours, the tournament is awarding $1 million to both the men’s and women’s singles champions. It is the first ever combined tennis tournament to award such amount to both champions outside of the Grand Slams. In less than 5 years, the tournament has doubled the total prize money offered to players, from $5.8 million in 2008 to $11.1 million in 2012.
Most top 50 ATP players will be in attendance for the Indian Wells 2012 tournament, including all of the top 10 men’s tennis players. The field will be led by the three most successful players in men’s tennis in the past 10 years – world #1 Novak Djokovic, #2 Rafael Nadal, and #3 Roger Federer. Djokovic and Nadal have been crowned champions twice in Indian Wells, while Federer holds the record of being the only player to have won three straight titles from 2004 – 2006.
On the WTA tour, the field will be less exciting with the absence of Serena and Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters. The Williams sisters have boycotted the tournament since Serena won in 2001 due to perceived unfair treatment they’ve experienced from tennis fans. Clijsters, the 2003 and 2005 champion is out due to injury. World #1 Victoria Azarenka leads the field and is expected to fare well in the hard courts of Indian Wells although she has never won a title her. She will be challenged most likely by 2006 champion and world #2 Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki. The Indian Wells 2012 field in both the men’s and women’s singles draw features 11 former BNP Paribas Open Champions and 14 Grand Slam Champions.
The Miami 2012 tennis tournament will be as spectacular and star-studded as Indian Wells 2012, perhaps more so in the women’s side of the draw. Both Williams sisters will be in attendance with 5-time champion Serena an annual contender to hoist the title. Her sister Venus was recently awarded a wild card into the tournament as she has fallen outside the top 100 in the rankings. World #1 Victoria Azarenka will remain the player to beat – it was in this tournament where she won her biggest title beating Serena Williams in the title match in 2009. She repeated the feat last year and will be coming in as the defending champion.
On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic is the defending champion as he added last year’s title to the one he won in 2007. Roger Federer has won twice in Miami as well, but surprisingly, this is one of the tournaments where Rafael Nadal hasn’t won a title yet. Andy Murray has done well in the past taking the 2009 title, and Andy Roddick may want to turn around his current disappointing form that has seen him dip to #30 in the world rankings after he won here in 2010.
One particularly interesting story developing for the Miami 2012 tournament is the participation of former top 20 player Alisa Kleybanova. The talented young Russian was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May 2011 and she withdrew from her scheduled tournaments for the rest of the season to undergo treatment. She finished her treatments last December and was granted a wildcard into the main singles draw by the tournament organizers.
March 2012 will be an exciting time in tennis with the Indian Wells and Miami tennis tournaments featuring quality competition and compelling storylines. Will Novak Djokovic repeat his sweep of both tournaments as he did last year? Will Azarenka hoist both trophies to remain unbeaten? Will Nadal win his first ever Miami tennis tournament? Will one of the Williams sisters grab the Miami title for the United States? Will other players get to hoist the champion’s trophy at Indian Wells and Miami 2012? Stay tuned and enjoy the action.