Emotion and injury trumped great tennis Sunday in the women's final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Flavia Pennetta of Italy won the title and the $1 million that went with it. Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland was the 6-2, 6-1 victim, and her plight brought an outpouring of tears from her and an outpouring of sympathy from the usual sold-out crowd of 16,100 in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Pennetta, a 32-year-old Italian in the midst of a compelling comeback story, played her usual solid game from the baseline and the service line. But her victory, fair or not, will be remembered as one achieved when Radwanska suffered a knee injury that severely limited her mobility.
Radwanska was in tears as she accepted her second-place trophy and told the crowd, "I'm so sorry I couldn't run." From somewhere in the massive stadium came the voice of a sympathetic fan.
"We love you, Agie."
That was followed by huge applause and more tears from Radwanska, who may eventually feel better when she gets that $500,000 runner-up check.
Pennetta's story should not be lost in the events of the day. She is 32, in her 13th year as a regular competitor on the women's tour, and in the middle of a long comeback from serious wrist surgery in 2012.
The first main fruit of that comeback effort was in last year's U.S. Open, when she got to the semifinals. Sunday, was an impressive second step.
Actually, there appears to be something in the water in California that agrees with Pennetta. She acknowledges that her previous best victory was in the women's tour premier-level Los Angeles stop at Carson in 2009, a tournament that no longer exists.
Pennetta entered the Indian Wells tournament ranked 21st, seeded 20th and on nobody's radar as a likely champion. As of Monday, she will be No. 12 and well positioned to get back to the top 10, where she was briefly in 2009.
That's a lot to deal with, and Pennetta was the first to admit it.
"I need a few days to realize," she said, adding that she would go to the next tournament site in Miami, relax and have a celebration dinner with friends.
She was asked if she will pick up the check.
"I have to," she said, unable to hide her sudden new wealth. That $1-million winning check represents about 13% of her career winnings.
Radwanska said she hurt her left knee a few days ago in practice.
"But I didn't expect it to be much worse today," she said.
But she said she tried everything, including tightening the tape on it every time she called the tour trainer on breaks between games.
"Sometimes," she said, "the pain is so bad, nothing is working, no painkillers, no tape. That means it is really bad."
She said she had no specific diagnosis, but that she would try to continue on to play next week in Miami.
Pennetta is the lowest-seeded player to win this tournament. Radwanska will remain No. 3 in the world, behind Serena Williams and Li Na.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun