INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka rolled to easy victories in the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, with the top-ranked Serb collecting his record fifth title and Azarenka winning for the second time to get back into the world’s top 10.
Djokovic beat Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 to improve his match record to 22-1 this year.
It was the Serb’s third consecutive title in the California desert, breaking a tie with four-time champion Roger Federer, who lost to Djokovic the past two years in the final and skipped this year because of a knee injury.
Azarenka defeated error-prone Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4.
Azarenka’s victory and Williams’ return to the final for the first time since 2001, when a hostile crowd triggered her 14-year boycott, was overshadowed by comments from tournament director Raymond Moore. Earlier Sunday, he criticized the WTA Tour and its players, saying they “ride on the coattails of the men” while describing the women as “physically attractive and competitively attractive.”
Williams objected, saying, “Those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.” Azarenka also expressed disappointment.
Djokovic and Azarenka each earned $1.02 million.
Djokovic needed 1 hour, 17 minutes to dispatch Raonic, whose big serve got broken five times. The 25-year-old Canadian served just four aces and had 27 unforced errors. His first serve averaged 205 kph — much faster than Djokovic’s 178 kph — but he connected on only 55 percent. The Serb landed 68 percent of his first serves and was never broken.
“He’s the best returner probably of all time,” Raonic said.
Raonic was bothered by an injury shortly after the match began, although afterward he wasn’t sure what was wrong. He was playing his first event since a thigh injury in the Australian Open semis in January.
“I don’t think it affected my effort,” he said. “I thought he played much better than I did.”
Clearly the crowd favorite, Williams gave fans little to cheer about on an unseasonable 91-degree (32 C) day while making 33 unforced errors. After getting broken to trail 3-0 in the second set, Williams returned to her seat and smashed her racket.
Trailing 5-1, Williams won three straight games and held two break points on Azarenka’s serve in the last game. But Williams ended the match with three straight errors.
“Just unexpected nerves maybe. I definitely didn’t expect to be on that stage again,” said Williams, who was back at Indian Wells after ending her 14-year boycott last year.
It was Azarenka’s first victory over the top-ranked Williams since the Cincinnati final in August 2013. She will move up seven spots to No. 8 in the rankings released Monday, her first time back in the top 10 since August 2014.
Azarenka, who won here in 2012, hit just 10 winners and had 20 unforced errors in the two-hour match. She connected on 60 percent of her first serves and broke Williams’ serve three times. Williams converted just 1 of 12 break chances.
“I have to go for it,” Azarenka said. “She’s not a type of player that if you’re going to play safe she’s going to give it to you or she’s going to miss. You really have to go out there and take (it) away because there is nothing coming easy.”
Williams was bidding to become the first woman to win three titles at Indian Wells, where she won in 1999 and 2001.