The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, is probably tournament tennis at its most relaxed…and most affluent.
Event owner, billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle renown, has pretty well given a blank cheque to organizers and this year the site is resplendent with impressive upgrades.
The first being the new Stadium 2, a kind of medium-sized version of 16,000-seat Stadium 1, which is the second-largest in the tennis world after Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open.
That’s 8,000-seat Stadium 2 in the background behind this beautifully landscaped brand new main entrance to the tournament site.
Space has never been a problem with this enormous property just below Highway 111 in Indian Wells. Including parking, there are more than 120 acres available for the Masters 1000 level event.
Above is a shot of the new grass-covered parking area on the east side of the grounds. Behind that metal barrier are a couple of football fields worth of parking – spaciousness being the hallmark of the Indian Wells event.
MILOS IS BACK?
Milos Raonic was on practice court 4 on Tuesday with coach Ivan Ljubicic watching in the background – and it wasn’t always pretty.
It appears Raonic has only been playing points for a couple of days as he attempts to come back from a high ankle injury that has kept him out of action since the Australian Open – where he injured himself in his opening round before losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.
He hit and played games with Gael Monfils for about an hour and a half. Toward the end of the workout, Ljubicic could be heard saying to Raonic, “try and put a little more intensity in the legs.”
But Raonic struggled, and became frustrated with his poor play. It seemed as if his high-ankle sprain (see kinesio tape above) is still not back to 100 per cent and allowing him total freedom of movement.
Note: The same colour blue trim on his shorts has nothing to do with the blue kinesio tape.
At least Raonic and Monfils had a little fun when they sat down during changes of end. Above, Monfils showed Raonic something on his phone and the two had a good laugh about it.
On the way back from watching Raonic, there was a huge crowd gathered around the main practice court – but I was able to take the picture above of Rafael Nadal from the second row through a couple of heads.
THE MEN’S LINE-UP
They did the men’s draw for the 2014 BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday – that’s American player Jack Sock in the blue shirt in the lower right corner helping out. Crowd members were able to go up and pull out the names of some of the players.
The top half of the draw, headed by No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal seems stronger – and there could be quarter-finals (top and bottom) between Nadal and Andy Murray (5) and Roger Federer (7) and Stanislas Wawrinka (3).
Second-seeded Novak Djokovic could play the left wrist injury-plagued Juan Martin del Potro (6) in the bottom quarter-final of the bottom half while Tomas Berdych (4) could face No. 8 Richard Gasquet in the top quarter-final in the bottom half.
Milos Raonic is seeded No. 10 (one spot above his ranking because of the absence of No. 4 David Ferrer) and will play, after a bye, the winner of Benjamin Becker of Germany and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France in the second round. If he wins there, he might face No. 18-seed Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in the round three, with the possibly of a match against Murray in the round-of-16.
Vasek Pospisil, playing just his second event (first round loss last week in Acapulco) after injuring his back at the Australian Open, is seeded No. 25. Following a bye, he will open against the winner between Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan and a qualifier. He could take on del Potro in the third round.
As for the Canadian women, Eugenie Bouchard, seeded 18th, has a bye and then will play the winner between come-backing Vera Zvonareva of Russia, a wild card, and Peng Shuai of China. Further down the road, she could face No. 9 seed Sara Errani followed by No. 6 seed Simona Halep – not a bad draw.
Aleksandra Wozniak, using her injury-protected ranking for the last time, will play Urszula Radwanska with No. 15 seed Sabine Lisicki awaiting in the second round. All three players are of Polish ancestry.
Qualifier Sharon Fichman takes on Shahar Peer in her first-round match on Wednesday.
SPIDER-BIT POLANSKY OUSTS DIEZ
Peter Polansky advanced to the second and final round of the BNP Paribas Open qualifying on Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over fellow-Canadian Steven Diez.
There wasn’t too much to say about the one-sided match played on Stadium 9 – except that it’s hard to believe there is a ‘stadium’ (as opposed to a ‘court’) 9 at a Masters 1000 event. But that says a lot about how things have grown at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Everything is bigger here.
Diez, who was born and grew up in Toronto until he was about eight years old, now lives in Spain.
“I played very aggressively, and was getting into all of his service games,” Polansky said about the match with Diez. “I was playing really well today so he didn’t stand much of a chance.”
Walking back to the locker room with his mother after the match, Polansky talked about a misadventure he had as a result of a spider bite while spending the Valentines Day weekend with his girlfriend in Lexington, Kentucky.
He woke up one morning and felt a soreness in his left foot. “By seven or eight o’clock that night, I could barely walk,” he recalled. He went to emergency and was proscribed anti-biotics.
That didn’t work and after six days with the badly ankle swollen, he went back to the doctor. “They cut it open and got out all the blood and puss,” Polansky explained. “There was a swelling about the size of a golf ball and it was stopping the blood from circulating.” That intervention finally did the trick.
He had planned to play the ATP 250 event in Delray Beach but the bite put an end to that.
Polansky did not actually feel the bite and there is no certainty what kind of spider it came from. Speculation is that it might have been a brown recluse (or ‘violin spider’), which is known to have a “venomous bite.” He can certainly vouch for that.
In the second and final round of qualifying on Wednesday, Polansky plays No. 6 seed Guido Pella of Argentina. In the first round at Wimbledon last year, Pella pulled his hamstring against Jesse Levine of Canada and to be taken off the court on a stretcher.
Sharon Fichman advanced to the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday when she defeated No. 125-ranked Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-3 in the second round of qualifying.
The 20-year-old from the Ukraine looked to be in a favourable position when she led 6-3, 5-2 against Fichman, whose demeanour was very much like the picture above.
But Zanevska got a little tight, especially on the forehand side, and Fichman cut down on her unforced errors to gradually take control.
Back in the top-100 at No. 97 this week, Fichman, 23, has drawn Shahar Peer of Israel for her main-draw first round on Wednesday. Peer, 26 and now ranked No. 82 after being as high as No. 31 in 2011, has lost in the first round of her last three tournaments without winning a set – including to Eugenie Bouchard in Acapulco last week.
Peer won her only previous encounter with Fichman, 7-5, 6-1 in Ningbo, China, last September.
A TENNIS WARRIOR PULLS THROUGH
Matt Cronin of Oakland, California, is an intelligent, fun, hard-working, well-respected and generous tennis writer.
It’s tough to find anyone in the business who does not like Cronin, a slightly twitchy, hyper-active and massively enthusiastic tennis guy.
The news was not good a few weeks ago when he informed friends that he had a brain tumour.
Here is what he wrote on Monday about the whole situation.
He had the surgery on Tuesday and apparently all went well. Ever the prolific tweeter, this is what he tweeted Tuesday evening:
Out of surgery talking up storm, docs did great. Thinking clearly. Hope every future day as successful as today. Support wise u all r best!— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) March 5, 2014
He won’t make it to Indian Wells this year, but he should be around tennis for lots more tournaments, to the delight of his many twitter followers, listeners of his online radio work at the Grand Slams and readers of his insights at tennisreporters.net, tennis.com and other outlets.
The media room at the BNP Paribas Open breathed a collective sigh of relief when the good news about post-surgery Matt arrived late Tuesday.
ROGER AND STEFAN
It was a little after 8 p.m. on Tuesday night when Roger Federer and his new coaching advisor, Stefan Edberg, entered Stadium 1 for a session.
Federer went through a series of what appeared to be back exercises (see above), including one where he was down on his hands and knees and did some pelvic thrusting that was – how else can to put it? – suggestive!
The two hit for a little more than an hour.
I didn’t see them play any points but Edberg, 48, certainly looked like a respectable sparring partner.
Towards the end, there was a little levity as Federer hit serves to Edberg, and did some exaggerated grunting just for kicks. As best one could tell, it couldn’t be classified as an exact imitation of any one of his main rivals.
While he was aiming serves at Edberg, he also hit a few wide to where his agent, Tony Godsick, was standing near the playing surface. Godsick managed to get one back in play.
Federer then finished off with three or four deft underhand serves that landed just over the net. “I dare you to do that once, just once,” Godsick said to Federer, appearing to suggest he wanted him to try it in a real match.
After they finished and were leaving the court, Federer sat down in the first row and Godsick took pictures of him looking into his cell phone – maybe he was tweeting. That resulted in a big laugh from everyone, including Edberg.
They then exited – but I still don’t know the identity of the fourth member of the group on court during the practice.
NOTE: We’ll be back later this week when Canadians are playing in the main draw.