Posted: Monday April 4, 2011 12:59PM ; Updated: Monday April 4, 2011 1:51PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

Best of Five: Streaking Djokovic outlasts Nadal in classic Miami final

Story Highlights

Novak Djokovic is still undefeated in 2011 after Sunday's win over Rafael Nadal

Victoria Azarenka showed Slam-worthy skills in a victory over Maria Sharapova

Other Miami storylines: Roger Federer's slow fade, Andrea Petkovic's latest strides

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Novak Djokovic (above) managed to outlast the tireless Rafael Nadal in the Sony Ericsson Open men's final on Sunday afternoon.
Novak Djokovic (above) managed to outlast the tireless Rafael Nadal in the Sony Ericsson Open men's final on Sunday afternoon.
AP

A Best of Five after Nadal and Djokovic played as fine a best of three as you'll ever see ...

1. All hail the Djoker. Djokovic not only won the Sony Ericsson Open, but he also kept alive his 2011 unbeaten streak while -- numbers be damned -- impersonating a champion. He did what many thought impossible and made Rafael Nadal look like the less fit player in Sunday's insta-classic of a final. By the time the 200-minute epic was over, and Djokovic had won 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), he looked the fresher of the two. We can debate whether this is a killer hot streak, or whether Djokovic is truly the new king. Clay-court season will tell us a lot. But man, is he the story of the year so far. Weakness-free tennis. Improved serving and fitness. Quickness. And now he's winning wars of wills? Against Nadal? Who's not watching this reality show?

GALLERY: 2011 ATP Champions

2. Vika for victory. Congratulations, Victoria Azarenka, your Sony Ericsson Open women's winner for the second time since 2009. Pounding the ball relentlessly off both wings, she punished opponents all week, not least Maria Sharapova in a fairly lopsided final. (Credit Sharapova, now back in the top 10, with her decision to continue grinding and to play through pain. But how does she contend for majors again with such a moody serve?) Azarenka is simply too good not to win a Slam sometime soon. Having said that, her matches -- especially the final -- were marred by the audio. I needed extra bandwith to accommodate those of you complaining that the shrieking is out of control. (My favorite comment: "I'll have what she ordered.") You guys are starting to convince me not to trivialize this; the WTA has a real issue on its hands. Or ears.

GALLERY: 2011 WTA Champions

3. Fed to black? The tournament marked another episode in the decline of Roger Federer. (Yes, it was inevitable, but that doesn't make it less dispiriting to watch.) In a semifinal encounter against Nadal, Federer was a shard of his former self, shanking balls with his small racket frame and committing gobs of errors. He served erratically and failed to conjure his usual magic, and lost to Nadal for the 15th time in their 23 head-to-head encounters, 6-3, 6-2. As Federer left the court, he got a poignantly rousing ovation from the crowd, an acknowledgement that greatness might be headed into the tunnel.

We'll say it again: Only a fool would bury a player who's achieved so much and, for all his struggling, is still THIRD in the world. Even Federer, normally mild-mannered, is clearly peeved by the talk of his demise.

"I know that I can do many more things in the game," he said. "I don't feel like I'm 35 like you guys make me sound I am. I'm still only 29, and I have many more years left."

Still, it's clear that with Federer looking increasingly un-Federian, the most compelling ATP rivalry now pits Nadal against Djokovic.

GALLERY: The Federer-Nadal Rivalry

4. Reunited and it feels so good. The men's double title went to Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, who, deep into their 30s, are playing as well as ever. There is something bittersweet about this reunion. Great to see the "Indian Express" succeeding as they did in the late '90s. But what could have been had these guys kept their egos and entourages in check and not broken up in the first place?

5. Petkorazzi charms again. Though she fell to Sharapova in the semis, Andrea Petkovic played a scene-stealing role. She charmed fans (and the media) with her engaging, quirky personality and disposition that seemed to say: "You know something? This job is really great and this sport is really fun." Along the way she took down the current No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, and former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic. Now in the top 20, Petkovic has transformed herself from a fun cast member into a potential star.

Flotsam and jetsam

• Overall, this was a fine tournament for the good folks at Key Biscayne. There were some unfortunate rain delays. The outer courts could use Hawk-Eye. There were some curious scheduling decisions. But the tennis was first-rate. The crowds were rewarded, especially with Sunday's brilliant finale. And after the FSN debacle, congrats on radically upgraded television coverage.

• Nice to see (hear) Mary Carillo back in action.

• Talk about two tours at radically different places. In the women's event, the eighth seed played the 16th seed in the final and it seemed totally reasonable. On the men's side it was one versus two; and has their ever been a longer staircase dividing the top three from the rest of the pack? Not meant to condemn, just to underscore the difference.

• Nikolay Davydenko socred a win over Nadal in January. (OK, Nadal was sick, but still.) Since then, Daydenko has disappeared.

• Nice tournament for South African (via Illinois) Kevin Anderson, a hard server who reached the quarterfinals.

• Go ahead and lament the state of U.S. tennis (more on this in Wednesday's Mailbag), but let's pause to acknowledge that Mardy Fish is up to No. 11 and took down both Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer last week.

• Speaking of Ferrer, his "baby bashing" went viral. Was it the height of good taste? No. Did he rifle a ball at a toddler? No. (Judge for yourself.) And, no, we never did find who exactly brings a baby to a tennis match. Splurge for the sitter and Netflix next time.

• Let the record reflect: Alexandra Stevenson qualified for the Family Circle main draw in Charleston, S.C. Credit the tenacity.

• In each game of the second set of her match against Sharapova, Petkovic had game points. She lost 0-6.

• Congrats to Andrew Walker of the WTA, who was named to Sports Business Journal's "40 Under 40."

• Good celebrity sightings: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Andy Garcia and Sergio Garcia. Dara Torres. Anna Wintour. Camila Belle. Reggie Bush.

• If you are not following Ivo Karlovic on Twitter, you must do so immediately.

 
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