- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic, 20-year-old Serbs who rapidly have established themselves among tennis’ top players, won Pacific Life Open titles yesterday.

No. 3 Djokovic ended American Mardy Fish’s string of upsets at Indian Wells with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 victory, and No. 2 Ivanovic cruised to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women’s championship match.

The Serbian stars’ his and her championships came some two months after they just missed a sweep in the Australian Open. Djokovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the men’s title, and Ivanovic lost to Maria Sharapova in the final.

Both Djokovic and Ivanovic won their championship matches at Indian Wells mostly by powering shots down the lines. Djokovic obviously had a tougher time with No. 98 Fish.

Djokovic was the tournament runner-up last year, losing the final to Rafael Nadal. He knocked off No. 2 Nadal in the semifinals this time.

Despite the loss, Fish had a remarkable run at Indian Wells. He had never beaten two top 10 players in a tournament before, but he upset No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko and No. 7 David Nalbandian before stunning top-ranked Roger Federer in the semifinals.

The 26-year-old Fish, who ranked as high as No. 17 four years ago but has been hampered by injuries, built up a backing along the way, with fans at Indian Wells chanting “Mardy! Mardy” during the final and one waving a sign reading, “Go Fish.”

Djokovic seemed on his way to an easy victory after winning the first set and going up 4-2 in the second. But Fish came back to win five of the next six games and force a third set. Djokovic seemed to slip out of his rhythm during Fish’s comeback, twice slamming his racket to the court after missing shots.

But he broke Fish’s serve in the second game of the final set, then each held serve the rest of the way. After wrapping it up with a service winner, Djokovic raised his eyes and arms skyward, then shook hands with Fish and hugged him.

In the women’s match, Ivanovic used well-placed ground strokes to keep Kuznetsova scrambling from side to side. She capped her victory with a shot that seemed to typify her play in the final: She whipped a forehand winner down the line on a service return.

Ivanovic served five aces, and Kuznetsova had none, and Ivanovic hit 29 winners to 14.

The two traded service breaks early in the second set, then Ivanovic broke through again to take a 4-3 lead. She held her serve, then broke her Russian opponent’s serve again to end the match and win her sixth tour title and first of the season.

She celebrated with a beaming grin and a little hop as she headed forward to shake hands with Kuznetsova.

After both players held serve through the opening eight games of the match, Ivanovic broke through to take a 5-4 lead. She then finished the set quickly, serving out without losing a point.

The win was Ivanovic’s sixth in nine career finals and her fifth victory over Kuznetsova in their six meetings.

The 22-year-old Kuznetsova lost for the eighth time in her last nine finals appearances. Her only victory during that stretch came when Agnes Szavay won the first set of their title match at New Haven in August but had to quit in the second because of an injury. Kuznetsova has a career mark of 9-15 in tour title matches.

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