Tennis

Federer's fairy tale continues

Swiss becomes oldest ATP player to win an elite Masters title after Indian Wells triumph

Roger Federer claimed a record-equalling fifth Indian Wells Masters title yesterday morning (Singapore time), continuing his career resurgence with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Stan Wawrinka.

Federer, sidelined some six months after knee surgery last year, returned to win his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.

With yesterday's triumph in the all-Swiss final, Federer joined Novak Djokovic as the only men to win five Indian Wells titles, adding to those he won in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.

At 35, Federer is the oldest player to win one of the elite Masters titles, supplanting Andre Agassi who was 34 when he won in Cincinnati in 2004.

"It's been just a fairy tale week once again," said Federer, who missed Indian Wells last year because of injury.

"I'm not as surprised as I was in Australia, but still this comes as a big, big surprise to me, nevertheless, to win here again and beating the players that I did and the way I did.

"I couldn't be more happy. It's an absolute, huge start to the year for me. Last year, I didn't win any titles. I don't think I was in any final except maybe Brisbane last year. The change is dramatic, and it feels great."

The speedy progress means Federer, who moves to sixth in the rankings, will have to reassess his 2017 goals.

Before the Australian Open, his aim was to get his ranking to as high as eighth by the time Wimbledon was over.

“Only the Grand Slam is bigger, the only thing that can beat this win.”Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina

"The goals are clearly changing after this dream start," Federer said.

While Federer had won 19 of 22 earlier meetings with Wawrinka - including a semi-final win in Melbourne - he noted that his compatriot would be no easy mark as he played his first tournament in America since winning the US Open in September.

After a keenly contested affair, Federer eventually clinched victory with a volley winner.

A choked-up Wawrinka told Federer at the trophy ceremony: "I've lost some tough ones against you, but when you played the final in Australia, I was your biggest fan.

"So congratulations on your comeback and congratulations on today."

Although he owns three Grand Slam titles, Wawrinka was playing in just his fourth Masters final and has won just one of the prestige events - beating Federer in the final at Monte Carlo in 2014.

"It's a tough loss," he said. "In a way, I'm really happy to make the final. It's a great result on that, but you always want more."

In the women's draw, Elena Vesnina capped a stellar campaign with a hard-fought 6-7 (6/8), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Playing in her first final at the elite level, Vesnina, who is now ranked 13th, battled through a tense three hours and one minute to subdue seventh-ranked Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion.

The victory continues Vesnina's rise of the last year, during which she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and captured Olympic gold in the doubles event in Rio de Janeiro.

It capped a tournament that saw her down both Germany's Angelique Kerber, who returned to the top of the rankings yesterday, and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

Vesnina said: "I was playing a bit more free when I was down in the score and I think Svetlana got a bit tight on some moment and I saw that and I just took my chances."

For a while, it seemed Kuznetsova's steadier play would win the day, but in the end it was Vesnina's aggression that paid off, even though her 49 unforced errors out-stripped her 46 winners.

"I felt like when I was playing, I didn't feel good today, because she was very aggressive, and I was a little bit out of my game," Kuznetsova said.

"I was too passive. I think that's why I lost." - AFP

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