American college basketball aren’t the only ones that get to celebrate March Madness – tennis has its own version!
With Indian Wells and Miami both wrapped up for the year, we look at the big storylines from the past month.
In 2016, Victoria Azarenka emerged victorious and claimed the Sunshine Double. Since then, Azarenka has been gone from competition after becoming a mother later that year.
Azarenka’s absence from the tour meant fresh faces would be lifting the trophy in Indian Wells and Miami this year.
Elena Vesnina claimed the biggest title of her career with an impressive run in the Californian desert. Vesnina holds a number of prestigious doubles titles but this was the biggest win of her singles career.
With a 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 win over countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vesnina broke the many odds against her to win Indian Wells. The victory came one year after Vesnina was an unseeded player eliminated in the first round of the qualifying draw.
Vesnina has become a symbol of “hard work pays off” after a stellar 2016 saw her skyrocket through the WTA rankings. She’s on the cusp of making the Top 10.
Not too long after Vesnina, Johanna Konta got the biggest title of her career in Miami with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Caroline Wozniacki.
The British no. 1 is already a title holder in 2017 with a title in Sydney. All of Konta’s titles have come on hard courts, including a title in Stanford in 2016.
Konta was the world no. 23 one year ago at this time. She made her WTA Top 10 debut earlier this year and currently sits at a career-high no. 7. Konta’s form suggests a higher rise in the rankings is coming.
March was the month to make career milestones. Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski also got the sweet taste of success in Miami with the biggest title of her career. The win came against power duo Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3.
A message from our doubles winners 😃 pic.twitter.com/QGvDTCrsNp
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) April 2, 2017
Dabrowski and partner Yifan Xu went on a tear to win the Miami Open. The unseeded duo defeated many seeded teams along the way, including Grand Slam champions Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova in the quarterfinals.
Between the quarterfinals and championship match, Dabrowski/Xu defeated the no. 2, no. 3 and no. 4 seeds. A very memorable run to capture their biggest career title together.
The 35-year-old Swiss just continues to defy the odds against him. Proving his form in Australia was no fluke, Roger Federer became the oldest man in history to complete the Sunshine Double.
In Miami, Federer overcame long-time rival and good friend Rafael Nadal in the final to capture his third title in Florida (first since 2006). Federer’s run included wins over Juan Martin del Potro, Nick Kyrgios and a tight three-setter against Tomas Berdych where Federer had to save a match point en route to the win in a final set tiebreak.
This all came after Federer’s impressive triumph in Indian Wells. In California, Federer did not drop a set en route to his fifth BNP Paribas Open title.
The Indian Wells title came against Federer’s good friend and countryman Stan Wawrinka with a straightforward 6-4, 7-5 win. Federer was only broken once in 48 service games across five matches. Prior to the final, he only faced one break point.
As a result of Federer’s March success, he now holds 26 Masters 1000 titles. He only trails Rafael Nadal (28) and Novak Djokovic (30).
The standings may look a lot closer come Coupe Rogers time this August. It’s certainly a top storyline to follow this year.