Indian Wells: Federer loses to Juan Martin Del Porto

Roger Federer Hyeon Chung Indian Wells

Photo Roger Federer, who has returned to No. 1 at age 36, won his first 17 matches of 2018 and claimed two tournament titles.

Surprisingly, the Argentine totally dominated the final tie-break, and afterwards a frustrated Federer admitted he had no idea what went wrong.

The nailbiting final lasted nearly three hours as the raucous Southern California crowd cheered the 36-year-old Federer along, and both players took occasional issue with the chair umpire. How has he done it? "It's like a dream", Del Porto said.

In three sets - is the short answer. Alexander Zverev (Germany) 4,505 6.

The stats enlighten us a little more.

"It was worth everything I've been through to experience this moment", del Potro said.

"It was a lot of frustration after that match point, but then I play well", del Potro said.

Or nerve. Or mettle. But del Potro's also got a loveable personality that is appreciated greatly by tennis fans.

All it lacked was a suspenseful thirdset tiebreaker, but Federer's serve unexpectedly deserted him.

For all of his physical qualities - the power, the flatter than flat forehand - there's a mental strength locked away in that 6ft 6in frame of his.

In the women's singles final, Japan's Naomi Osaka claimed her first career title with a commanding 6-3, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina of Russian Federation in a battle of 20-year-olds.

Roger Federer Hyeon Chung Indian Wells
GETTYFederer beat Chung in the semi-finals of the Australian Open

Surprisingly it was the first masters' 1000 title for Del Potro, the former grand slam champion. It's the reason he is a one-time Grand Slam victor as opposed to multiple.

"And obviously there is not too much time to dwell over it".

The 29-year-old has been hampered by wrist problems in recent years and has had three operations which left him struggling to use his backhand.

"I don't know. Having Juan Martin come in and having to hit something past me that's very uncomfortable for him, and you pick the wrong side and you're like, Why am I picking the wrong side?" I mean, we played a great level of tennis.

Considering those ingredients which make, in effect, the flawless tennis player, it is hard to imagine that he would not have gone on to challenge the big four in the years that followed his triumph at the US Open in 2009. "I'm doing this because I love it".

He has managed to return to the top ten after both layoffs, but the impact of such injuries is deeper than just the time missed.

It was an emotional match for both players as each took turns questioning the chair umpire. He committed six forehand errors, including one return, while contributing just one forehand return victor.

"Should I have won the US Open final I don't know", Federer said.

"I'm excited to keep surprising myself, the tour and seeing what I can do".

And as Murray continues down that road to recovery, that champion belief must remain.

Federer's attention will need to switch quickly to the next event on the tour, the Miami Open, which begins on Wednesday.

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