After retiring during his quarterfinal match at Wimbledon last July, Djokovic did not play again for the rest of 2017 in an attempt to heal his right elbow problem without surgery. He returned for the Australian Open with a revamped, abbreviated service motion designed to relieve pressure on the elbow and showed flashes of fine form before eventually losing in straight sets to Hyeon Chung in the fourth round.
After that defeat, he decided to undergo a medical procedure on his elbow in Switzerland: one the 30-year-old Djokovic has yet to explain in detail. But he did say on Sunday that he initially did not expect to be ready to play in Indian Wells but recovered more quickly than anticipated.
Asked if he was concerned about reinjuring the elbow when he faced Daniel, Djokovic answered “not really.”
“But obviously having played only a couple matches in nine months, you are still in a way battling inside of your mind whether you are fit or not,” Djokovic said. “And even though you don’t have pain, you are still thinking about it because it’s something I’ve been feeling and dragging for over two years.”
On the women’s side at Indian Wells, Amanda Anisimova has suddenly gone from being a player to watch for the future to being a player to fear in the present.
Just 16 and still subject to playing restrictions, she had not won a match on the WTA Tour before arriving in Indian Wells.
She has now won three straight, beating the No. 23 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round and then transforming her first appearance on this tournament’s main court into a coming-of-age moment by upsetting Petra Kvitova, the No. 9 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion, 6-2, 6-4, on Sunday in the third round.
Watching from on high, as Anisimova kept her composure during and between points, you would never have known that she had not been on this kind of tennis stage before.
“It feels crazy; I mean, I’m still in shock,” said Anisimova, whose parents are Russian but who represents the United States, where she was born and raised. “She’s the best player I have ever played, and it was the biggest court I have ever played on. So it was definitely nerve-racking kind of, but I was enjoying it so much out there. And I was playing my best. It was a good day.”
A very good day and also the latest sign that a new generation of talented teens are emerging from the United States and elsewhere.
In January, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine reached the third round of the Australian Open at age 15. Anisimova, who did not make the long journey to Australia this year, was watching and taking note.
“Definitely, I think it’s motivating,” Anisimova said in an interview last week. “When Marta Kostyuk got to the third round, you say, ‘I can do that, too.’ But it’s also cool that I’m playing here in the same tournament as Venus and Serena. Two different generations playing in the same tournaments, and it’s so exciting to have Serena back. I’m glad I get the chance to play while she’ still playing.”
With Serena Williams, 36, and Venus Williams, 37, set to play in the third round on Monday night, only one of the sisters will be in Indian Wells for much longer.
But at a time when top players are continuing to excel deep into their thirties — Roger Federer is back at No. 1 at age 36 — it is easy to overlook the re-emergence of the prodigies.