In Brief | Golf & Tennis | 3-17-14


Djokovic, Pennetta win Indian Wells titles

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Novak Djokovic came into Indian Wells for the first time in four years without a title.

He left with a $1 million check and his first trophy of the year, beating Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open for the third time.

“Not winning a title and coming here, there were certain doubts,” Djokovic said. “I had ups and downs in my concentration in opening rounds, but I managed to stay mentally strong and have that self-belief. That’s something that definitely makes this title very special to me.”

Federer rallied from a break down and a 5-3 deficit in the third set to force the tiebreaker, but he made a slew of mistakes to lose the 33rd meeting between the rivals.

Federer still leads the series 17-16, having beaten Djokovic in three sets in the semifinals at Dubai two weeks ago. Djokovic will remain No. 2 in the world, while Federer will rise three spots to No. 5 today in the ATP Tour rankings.

Flavia Pennetta routed injured Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-1 to win the women’s title, the biggest of her career.

Federer was trying to win a record fifth title in the desert, and at 32, he would have been the oldest Masters 1000 winner since 34-year-old Andre Agassi won at Cincinnati in 2004.

But Djokovic wouldn’t allow it.

After Federer breezed to the first set in 31 minutes, Djokovic settled down and locked into the punishing rallies that marked most of the match. He earned the lone break of the second set to go up 5-3 after Federer pulled a forehand wide.

“I know he always comes out confident, aggressive,” Djokovic said. “He doesn’t give you the victory; you have to earn it.”

A year ago, Pennetta was close to retiring from tennis.

Her ranking plunged to 166th in the world in June, and she had struggled to rebuild her career after having right wrist surgery the previous August.

Now she’s glad she stuck around.

“After so many years, so much work and everything, this is the moment I always waited for,” she said. “And it’s coming when you don’t expect. It was something I was waiting since long time, and finally I have a good trophy in my hands.”

As the 20th seed, Pennetta became the lowest to win the title. She came in ranked 21st and is projected to rise to No. 12 in the world today in the WTA Tour rankings. She beat top-seeded Li Na in the semifinals on her way to winning the title worth $1 million.

Senden breaks 7-year drought with Valspar victory

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — John Senden ended more than seven years without a victory by making two late birdies, including a chip-in from 70 feet on the toughest hole at Innisbrook, for a one-shot victory on a wild and windy Sunday at the Valspar Championship.

Senden, two shots behind going into the final round, closed with a 1-under 70 for his first PGA Tour win since the 2006 John Deere Classic. The timing couldn’t have been better. The victory sends the 42-year-old Australian to the Masters next month. Senden finished at 7-under 277.

Kevin Na had a long birdie putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff, but it never came close. He closed with a 72.

It took what Senden called a “magic shot” to shake loose from a traffic jam along the back nine of the Copperhead course. The tournament was up for grabs over the final two hours, with nine players separated by three shots at one point, and Senden part of a three-way tie for the lead heading into the treacherous, three-hole closing stretch at Innisbrook known as the “Snake Pit.”

He went birdie-birdie-par.

After driving into the trees and playing short of the green on the 16th, Senden lofted a pitch with perfect pace and watched it tumble into the cup for one of only two birdies in the final round. Equipped with a one-shot lead, he followed that with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

Equally important was the par on the 18th, which was just as difficult as the birdies. He needed two putts up a ridge and breaking slightly to the right before it went swiftly down the slope and breaking to the left. The 40-foot putt settled inches from the cup.

Couples takes Toshiba by 1 stroke

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Fred Couples won the Toshiba Classic for his 10th Champions Tour title, birdieing the final two holes for a one-stroke victory.

The 54-year-old Couples shot a 5-under 66 to finish at 15-under 198 at Newport Beach Country Club. Also the 2010 winner, he made a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and holed another 4-footer on the par-5 18th.

Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Steve Pate tied for second. Langer had a chance to force a playoff, but missed a 20-foot birdie try on 18 and settled for a 70.

Montgomerie had a 62, the best round of the week, and Pate shot a 66.

By wire sources