Commentary

Clijsters, Roddick lead the way in Miami

Updated: April 5, 2010, 11:54 AM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- After our favorite form of Madness in March -- back-to-back tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami -- we've reached the four-month mark of the tennis season. An appropriate time to exhale and draw a few conclusions:

The women's game is suddenly wide open: Serena Williams got more face time at the Sony Ericsson Open than her sister Venus -- and she didn't even play. Serena's balky knee kept her out of the tournament, but she was everywhere, soaking up the sun and fun.

And then Venus limped out of her 6-2, 6-1 final loss to Kim Clijsters with, yes, a chronic knee issue. With injuries to No. 2-ranked Dinara Safina (back) and three-time major champion Maria Sharapova (elbow), where would the ladies be without the return of the Belgians?

Nowhere.

Clijsters emerged from Miami in the best form and Justine Henin -- who lost to Clijsters in a three-set marathon that included not one, but two 61-minute sets (three minutes longer than the entire final) -- isn't far behind. Henin should be the favorite at the French Open, and Clijsters could defend her title at the U.S. Open.

Andy's randy: Just when you thought he was ready to fade out of the top 10 (like his friend James Blake) and enjoy more time with his wife, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker, Roddick has found another gear. He executed a perfect go-for-it strategy against Rafael Nadal in the Miami semifinals, surprising Rafa with a flurry of forceful forehands and charges to the net.

Roddick schooled Tomas Berdych in final, 7-5, 6-4 to win his first ATP World Tour Masters title since 2006 in Cincinnati. If Roddick can continue to walk that fine line of risk and reward, he is likely to be a factor at Wimbledon (again) and the U.S. Open.

Berdych was so disoriented he lined up on the wrong side to serve in the ninth game of the first set.

"I was going to try to let everyone just kind of keep it under the -- keep it chill and we were just gonna go with it," Roddick said. "I guarantee you, every person who's played tennis before has lined up on the wrong side.

"I would say something, but I'm guaranteed you could find tape of me doing that sometime somewhere."

Jelena Jankovic seems to be back: Who would have guessed that the only one of the Serbian power trio without a Grand Slam singles title would show the best in the American hard-court swing? Jankovic, who reached No. 1 for all of three weeks in 2008 but fell to No. 8 last year, won in Indian Wells. She defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the final and has the retrieving-centric game to go deep at Roland Garros, where she's reached the semifinals twice.

[+] EnlargeJelena Jankovic
Michael Heiman/Getty ImagesJelena Jankovic finally seems to have snapped out of a prolonged slump.

Meanwhile, Ana Ivanovic (2008 French Open champion) and Novak Djokovic (2008 Australian Open champion) look shaky, which is a less-than-artful segue to...

The Big Boys have some work to do: No. 1-ranked Roger Federer lost to Marcos Baghdatis in the third round at Indian Wells, then fell to Berdych in the fourth in Miami.

"It's no secret," Federer said. "I've struggled the last five matches I've played in the States. My game has issues at the moment."

Federer said the lung infection that he incurred after the Australian Open might be the reason.

"My game is lacking timing -- I don't know where that comes from," Federer said. "Maybe the sickness did take it out of me more than I thought.

Meanwhile, No. 2 Djokovic and No. 3 Andy Murray departed even more swiftly at the Sony Ericsson. Djokovic lost his first match, to Olivier Rochus, of all people, and Murray lost his first match to the suddenly slim Mardy Fish.

Caroline Wozniacki should be a threat in Paris: The blonde Dane that Bud Collins has dubbed "The Golden Retriever" reached the final at Indian Wells and lost to Henin in the Miami quarterfinals. A pretty good effort for a 19-year-old. She is ranked No. 2 in the world and should fare better at Roland Garros than a lot of those marquee big hitters.

The Sony Ericsson Open remains the most fan-friendly tournament: A record total of 312,386 fans swarmed the Crandon Park Tennis Center. Kudos to retiring impresario Butch Buchholz, who reigned for 25 glorious years and saw the winning men's and women's trophies named in his honor.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.