My original plan was to arrive in Palm Springs on Tuesday evening, do touristy things on Wednesday and Thursday, then be a tennis glutton over the weekend before going hiking on Monday and heading home on Tuesday. That is not exactly how things worked out. Because of a work-related trip to Florida, I ended up not making it to Indian Wells until Friday afternoon. After dropping my bag, I headed off to catch as much of the morning session as I could.
The tickets I was assigned based on my pre-order were end of the row, west side of Stadium 1 at the loge level, right at midcourt. Although my photos don’t look very good, the seats are by far better and closer than comparably priced seats at Flushing Meadows. I’m totally spoiled.
First up (second, really): men’s doubles with Novak Djokovic and Victor Troicki playing Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers. As tennis journalists have observed, Indian Wells is one of the few tournaments where highly ranked singles players also play doubles. After the opening day of the main draws, doubles tend NOT to make it onto Stadium 1, and as a result the doubles give die-hard fans of the big names a great opportunity to see them play up close on the outer courts. But the first round matches for the #1 and #2 were on the main stage.
Following the doubles was a WTA match; feeling somewhat lazy, I stayed in Stadium 1 and watched, rather than explore the outer courts. Victoria Azarenka played the unseeded Mona Barthel, who gave her a run for her money. After watching (listening) to a live match, I have to join all the tennis observers who question Azarenka’s insistence that her grunt (wail/shriek) is a natural part of her game that she can’t help. It begins as she is winding up to hit and continues until the ball is bouncing in her opponent’s court; it seems like gamesmanship to me, especially since there was a stretch of hits in the second set when Azarenka was silent. But Barthel choked and Azarenka got hold of the match…after 3 hours of baseline rallies and horrendous serving.
Following that was Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish playing doubles against Jarko Nieminin and Florian Mayer. The Americans lost badly and did not take it well. Then more doubles, this time Rafa Nadal and Marc Lopez playing Zimonjic and Llodra, the #3 seeds. Nadal/Lopez won, much to the disgruntlement of their opponents, who were unhappy with the scheduling. And after that was Petra Kvitova, reigning Wimbledon champion, playing Barbora Zahlavova Strykova, which I skipped since I had been awake for 24+ hours and was exhausted.
Saturday: Being slightly more organized, I printed a copy of the OOP and plotted where I would go. I didn’t actually stick to the plan, but did see some good matches. But first, I checked out the practice courts where a huge crowd was gathered to watch Rafa Nadal practice with Fernando Verdasco. While I’m a huge fan of Nadal’s game and his demeanor or character, my interest in HotSauce is somewhat more shallow. He’s terribly pretty.
Ivanovic played a good match against Johanna Larsson, followed by Roddick’s three setter against Kubot, which he won, much to the joy of the American crowd. I watched a bit of Djokovic’s singles match, then headed out to Court 4, where due to walkovers and withdrawls, the fourth match of the day was played fairly early: more doubles from the Spanish team, but this time Ferrer/Ramos were soundly spanked by Paes/Stepanek. (Stepanek was wearing a diamond patterned shirt in shades of turquoise that I probably would have thought loud and tacky, but Verdasco’s heinous highlighter yellow and orange kit gives better perspective on how truly bad some outfits can be.) Then back to Stadium 1 to watch Wozniacki win (meh), Dulko flounder in the face of Sharapova, and Andy Murray inexplicably fall apart vs. Guillermo Garcia Lopez. (Is it IW? He got knocked out last year by Donald Young in a similarly disappointing fashion.)
Sunday: This was the day for more Spaniards, or for Spanish-speaking players.
First, I forgot my hat and had to stop at the pro shop to buy another. There were a LOT of options. (And yes, I really had to: sitting in the sun for 8+ hours without a hat would’ve ended badly for me.) Following that, I made an early circuit of the practice courts, catching glimpses of Marcos Baghdatis, Li Na (or Na Li? I’ve seen her name both ways), and Sam Stosur, among others. And Nadal again, this time without Verdasco but playing opposite Marc Lopez and getting advice from Francisco Roig.
The Australian qualifier who’s had a good spring, Marinko Matosevic, tried to hang with Juan Martin del Potro, but couldn’t in the end, and Nadal made short work of JMDP’s compatriot, Leonardo Mayer, on Stadium 1. Heading out to Stadium 2, Feliciano Lopez was being thoroughly schooled by Baghdatis. Afterward, David Ferrer handled Grigor Dimitrov easily; although I can see why people would call him “Baby Fed” based on his effortless-looking movement, he seemed to lack drive or effort when he got behind. But what do I know? Then Christina McHale upset Petra Kvitova, again to the delight of the partisan crowd, and Milos Raonic made short work of Carlos Berlocq. Heading back to Stadium 1, Federer disposed of Denis Kudla easily (I was surprised that Kudla won 4 games in the first set actually). And then Pennetta played Radwanska; the first several games of the first set took forever, it felt like.
Monday: okay, I planned to hike in the morning and go window shopping in the afternoon. I did go hiking, and took pictures. But instead of shopping, I decided to go watch more tennis, all on Stadium 2. The very lowest/closest seats on Stadium 2 are reserved and are sold out in the pre-sale, unavailable to fans who are buying one-off tickets. But by hanging around and moving strategically, I ended up in the front row on of the general admission section, right at midcourt. (You’ve got to be ready to move quickly during change overs and between matches.) Stan Wawrinka has a beautiful one-handed backhand, yet I don’t much care for his game otherwise. Simon doesn’t have a single “amazing” component of his game, but he’s consistently good and troublesome to other players, and he just wouldn’t go away, wearing Wawrinka down and frustrating him. Following that, Mardy Fish played a very uninspired match against Aussie Matthew Ebden, whining about lack of care when he tripped and skinned his knee and then complaining when he was penalized for an inappropriate cheer while a point was still in play. (Apparently he didn’t recall Serena Williams getting a similar call at the US Open last year, and gave the umpire an earful.) Ana Ivanovic needed three sets to dispose of Ksenia Pervak, who refused to go away and made Ivanovic work for the match.
And then the match that filled the stands: Nadal/Lopez (2010 champions) played Dolgopolov/Malisse (2011 champions). Although the crowd was clearly pleased to see Nadal, everyone got big applause. Everyone, players and fans alike, seemed to have a great time at this match: there was some extremely good doubles tennis being played on court, but it wasn’t as tense as a match on the big stage. Each team just looked like they enjoy doubles and playing together. For more on it, check out Tignor’s post here.
+ I’ve said it before: tennis is a sport that is 10X better live than televised. The rallies are faster, the hits harder, the crowds engaged. And sitting in the sunshine while watching isn’t bad either.
~ Watching the women and their kits made me wonder what’s up with the shorts worn under the skirts. (FWIW, when I play, I wear gym shorts, so I have little experience with the tennis-wear sold by the big name sponsors and manufacturers.) Yes, Rafa has the wedgie problem. Roger adjusts his hair. A-Rod adjusts his shoulders and his package. But almost uniformly the women are constantly pulling at the shorts under their skirts. If these outfits have been designed for these athletes, shouldn’t they be less irritating or less prone to riding up?
~ Also related to the women and their clothes: how is it possible to make women who are incredibly in shape look dumpy? Kvitova’s kit somehow manages to emphasize what little body fat she may have around her abdomen. And Mona Barthel (and others) looks positively skeletal — you can see her ribs very prominently as she reaches up to serve. And the Adidas kit with the weird ruffle/puff thing at the hem is really not flattering on anyone, not even Ana Ivanovic, who among the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen.