Indian Wells Masters Review: Thiem Wins Maiden Masters 1000 Title
The first Masters 1000 of the year has come to an end, and it was filled with its fair share of epic contests, upsets, and disappointments. It showcased the action and drama fans have come to expect from the Major-wannabe and has left fans pondering its implications.
The tournament was notable for having a virus running amok among several players in the draw. It claimed victims that included Goffin, Zverev, and even world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. These seeded washouts opened up the top half of the draw. By the Round of 16, no player in the top half of the draw remained that had won a Masters 1000 before.
Even with the upsets in the top half of the draw, fans' eyes were instead drawn to the looming matchup between Federer and Nadal in the semifinal. It seemed that the 39th meeting between the two was all but certain, as both had not dropped a set through the quarterfinals. Despite this, the Spaniard's perennial knee issues had been aggravated by the unforgiving nature of the hardcourt, and not even the potential matchup with his longtime rival could motivate him to fight through the pain. Nadal had to withdrawal and reluctantly forgo the opportunity to add another chapter to their storied rivalry.
And though fans were disappointed by the missed opportunity, they were reassured of an interesting final after Thiem held his nerve and dispatched Raonic. It was set to be an all one-handed backhand affair with Federer set to face Thiem. Their head-to-head record of 2-2 indicated a competitive rivalry, but Federer had won both of their previous meetings on hard court. Regardless, the fans did not expect the 25-year-old Austrian to just roll over.
Federer came into the tournament having conquered in Dubai the week before. He was vying to win in Indian Wells too and achieve the "Desert Double". It is an achievement that he has done three times before in '04, '05, and '12 with Djokovic being the only other to achieve it in '11.
Thiem had entered the tournament with little buzz around his name, despite being the 7th seed. Coming into the tournament, he had an unimpressive 3-4 record for 2019. Even though he had been exiting early in previous tournaments, he had now found himself in his first hardcourt Masters 1000 final. Was it a fluke or was the high-bouncing, gritty court of Indian Wells playing dangerously similar to his most successful surface, clay?
Thiem had not been broken going into the final, yet was blitzed in the first set dropping his serve twice. He had rebounded in the second set, breaking Federer's second service game and didn't look back. The third set had both players battling, but it was Thiem who proved to be superior. At 3-4, 30-40 Thiem faced a break point that would have put the match on Federer's racket, but Thiem overcame his nerves and forced the error. After that, it seemed the wind had left Federer's sails and Thiem hoisted the trophy shortly thereafter.
It was Thiem who was the better player when it most counted. He exhibited grit and determination battling Federer to take the title 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. It was another exciting championship lasting just over two hours, with Federer having now appeared in three consecutive finals, and having come just short in the past two.
Though Federer left California with the runner-up trophy, he assured the press that he is "not too disappointed" with the outcome. He understands that he playing well, feeling healthy, and full of confidence heading into Miami. An experienced champion like himself does well to soon forget losses like this.
Thiem's win at Indian Wells is extremely significant in the scope of the ATP Tour, it may signify a changing of the times. There have been 19 ATP tournaments since the start of the year, and each event has been won by a different person. Yes, you read that correctly. Nineteen tournaments have come and 19 different players have been crowned champions. The variance in winners is unprecedented considering the dominance that fans have become accustom to from Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray over the past 15 years. Is the suppressed talent finally breaking through the hold that these men had on the tour all these years or can we expect to see more consistency in title winners throughout the year? Only time can tell.