Indian Wells, California — The biggest names in tennis took to the courts in the doubles draw at the BNP Paribas Open.
Rafael Nadal of Spain teamed up with countryman Marc Lopez for the second match of the day on Stadium Court 1. Roger Federer took to the courts with fellow Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka while Scotland’s Andy Murray once again partnered with his brother, Jamie Murray.
Nadal and Lopez are the defending champions here and they showed why with a tough 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) win over the all Polish team of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.
Nadal showed great hands at net, successfully fending off fast reflex volleys throughout the match. Fyrstenberg and Matkowski played a more traditional style of doubles and controlled the net well when playing two-up. However, Nadal’s groundstrokes separated him from the rest as he hit blistering passing shots Fyrstenberg and Matkowski had no answer for. Nadal’s partner, Lopez, took note and upped the pace of his forehand in the second set, racking up some impressive winners of his own.
The team of Federer and Wawrinka look almost unstoppable, even against a team of proven doubles veterans like Max (the Beast from the East) Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor. The Swiss pair rolled through both sets with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 win.
Federer’s serve gave Mirnyi and Nestor trouble, while Wawrinka continued to show the same impressive serve and volley form he displayed on occasion during his run to the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open.
Day turned to night while the Murray brothers battled it out on Stadium Court 2 against the Brazilian team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. The Scott’s got off to a strong start, taking the first set 7-5. The Brazilian’s stepped up their level in the second set and closed it out 6-3. As the match progressed to the deciding tiebreak, the two teams battled closely until the score reached 5-5. It was then that the Murray’s put together a string of points and pulled out an insurmountable lead, finally closing out the breaker 10-6.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki also got off to a successful start in doubles with a 6-3, 7-5 win over the Argentinean team of Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco.
With so many big names in the doubles draw, it was great to see the stands packed again for doubles matches. For the players, it is a chance for them to secure a solid ranking with a fellow countryman in order to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London, England.
Most Palm Springs residents know in mid-March every year a “big tennis tournament” is held at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. Being a local and avid tennis player, that “big” tournament is an exciting two weeks of watching the top men’s and women’s tennis professionals compete at the BNP Paribas Open. In fact, some of my fondest tennis memories derive from the tournament. And this year is no exception as I have come full circle from spectator to media.
Back in 1999, the tournament was known as the Newsweek Champions Cup and was held at the Hyatt Grand Champions hotel. As an eight year old new to the competitive game of tennis, I was invited by a friend to watch the men’s final. To this day, I will always remember Mark Philippoussis defeating Carlos Moya in five sets. I was lucky enough to interview Philippoussis earlier this year for Tennis Warehouse and I was definitely still as star struck as I was that day.
Just a year later in 2000, the venue changed sites as well as sponsors and became the Pacific Life Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. I too changed from spectator to ball kid. For two weeks, I spent all day on the tennis courts running around and chasing balls standing mere inches away from the players! I had so much fun and I think I might have had the best seat in the stadium to watch matches. Watching the pros play was inspirational and motivational for my young tennis career and I secretly hoped someday I might just be playing in the tournament as well.
Four short years, I had my chance when I was given a wild card into the qualifying rounds at the tournament. At just fifteen with no professional experience, I was overcome with nervousness but so thankful for the opportunity. A year later, I was granted another chance to compete and was able to calm my nerves and play some of my best tennis at the time regardless of the outcome.
And now in 2011, a full twelve years later I am still at this tournament participating in the pre-qualifier and working with Tennis Warehouse interviewing the pros. I had minor success at the tournament advancing to the round of 16s (You can watch my preparation and matches on Tennis Warehouse’s Gotta Want It Season 3 on YouTube.) A week later I began interviewing and was just a little intimidated at first. The ten seconds before my first interview was nerve wrecking but Sam Stosur ended up being really nice and I relaxed after (barely) spitting out the first question. Once I completed my first interview, I was hooked. I was really excited for my next interviews with Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters. As each interview went by, I realized just how normal (yet amazing at tennis) these players were.
As each day passes at the tournament, I could not have asked for a better job or even dreamed this is where I would end up. I have grown up with this tournament and have seen so many different sides of the tournament. As I sit here in the media room looking down on stadium 1, I can’t help to think where will I end up next?
Indian Wells, California — Young American Ryan Harrison survived a tough first round match at the BNP Paribas Open today with a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy of France.
The match opened with the players trading breaks of serve before both held all the way to the tiebreak.
Harrison found himself having to dig deep to hold serve in the middle of the set as the Frenchman pressured him with powerful forehands.
At times, Harrison was hitting too short in the court and Chardy would immediately pounce, dictating play with great affect from his down the line forehand and inside out forehand to Harrison’s backhand.
While Chardy looked the more powerful of the two, Harrison was showing greater variety. Mixing the pace and spin of his shots well, Harrison was able to force Chardy off balance, often preventing Chardy from setting up for one of his powerful groundstrokes.
However, Chardy continued to punish anything Harrison hit short. Harrison was audibly unhappy with the level of his play, but leading 5-4, he earned three set points by taking a love-forty lead on Chardy’s service game. Chardy’s power came to the forefront once again and three straight points in the Frenchman’s favor brought the score to deuce. After a brief deuce/ad trade, Chardy evened the set at 5-5.
Heading into the first set tiebreak, Harrison looked the more likely to win. However, Chardy was able to raise the level of his play, eventually taking the tiebreak on a Harrison double fault.
It was a set that should have been Harrison’s and he did well to not let his frustration get the better of him.
In the second set Harrison looked focused and determined.
After each player held serve, they traded breaks once more before heading into another tiebreak. This time Harrison took a commanding lead in the tiebreak and Chardy was unable to respond.
The third set saw Harrison continue to build momentum. With a 5-0 lead, Chardy found a slight foothold to slow his losing slide. Chardy was able to hold serve, break and then hold again. At 5-3, Harrison served and closed out the third set and the match, 6-3.
At only 18 years of age, Harrison shows tremendous promise as leading the next wave of American talent. Last year he became the first American teenager to beat a Top 20 opponent in a Grand Slam since Roddick (19) at 2001 US Open. Harrison’s win was also at the US Open, defeating then 15th seed, Ivan Ljubicic, in the first round.
In the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, Harrison faces 22 seed, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez from Spain.
Indian Wells, California — Donald Young, having already survived the qualifying rounds, prevailed in three sets today over Italy’s Portito Starace to make the second round at the BNP Paribas Open.
With a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win, the young American showed flashes of brilliance, but also some shaky moments.
After turning pro in 2004, Young finds himself with veteran-like experience even though he is only 21 years old. He also finds himself at an important time in his career. The next year or so could very well make the difference if he is finally able to break through to the higher ranks, or will continue to battle it out with his fellow journeymen players ranked inside the ATP’s top 250.
Currently ranked 143 on the ATP Tour, Young is a ways off his career high ranking of 73 (achieved in April, 2004) and is still searching for his way into the ATP’s top 50.
On Stadium Court 1 at the BNP Paribas Open, Young showed plenty of top 50 ATP potential. He has the ability to raise a crowd to its feet for a standing ovation over the prowess of either his forehand or backhand. His willingness to mix in serve and volley plays is pleasingly refreshing on today’s ATP Tour.
When Young is stepping inside the court and playing aggressively, he definitely looks like a top 50 player. However, when he is forced to defend, he drops back too deeply, leaves too much of the court open and tends to drop his groundstrokes short, which leaves him especially vulnerable. There were lots of moments when Starace took advantage of Young’s tendency to drop too deep in both the first set and the early part of the second.
To his credit, Young weathered the storm. At the start of the second set Young held two tough service games, but was failing to make an impact on Starace’s serve. The Italian was pushing Young back with his one-two punch of a big serve, followed by a powerful groundstroke.
Young continued to improve his form over the next two games, producing shots with the creativity of another lefty who long ago hung up his racquets, Frenchman Henri Leconte. While Leconte and Young hit the ball completely differently, what they chose to do with the ball with their creative shot making bares resemblance.
It is low percentage tennis, though. And while Young is exciting to watch, one cannot help but wonder what a more consistent approach to the game could do for his ranking. It is almost as if someone needs to Brad Gilbert his inner Andre. In other words, dull down the flash and up the grind a little. There’s a lot to be said for winning ugly and Gilbert certainly helped Agassi’s game in that regard. Young’s ‘B’ game is too defensive. He could do well with an Agassi-like solidity from closer to the baseline.
Today, though, there was enough flash in the Young game to see him through to the second round. After pulling away to a healthy 4-1 lead, Starace’s movement was hindered by an injury and Young took command. Young had a minor hiccup by getting broken once more, before breaking Starace back to close out the match.
Next up for Young is the perfect player for him to emulate, number 5 seed, Andy Murray.
At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, the action on the stadium courts featured up and coming WTA players. The seeded players were taking advantage of a day off thanks to receiving a bye in the first round.
Other stadium court matches featured a sprinkling of ATP players finishing up the men’s qualifying rounds. The men’s main draw is yet to get underway, with action starting Thursday and the big guns hitting the courts Friday.
With lower ranked players on the stadium courts, the place to be for many fans was out by the practice courts.
Well, Roger Federer was drawing a huge crowd while he practiced with local favorite, Sam Querrey. After the two hit, they played a practice set. Federer did a very Federer-like thing and served an ace to get things going. He held serve at love before forcing Querrey to struggle to hold his first service game.
Federer looked good. His strokes were amazingly relaxed, yet at the same time his energy level was high. There was a constant smile on his face as he bounced on his toes between points, sharing the occasional joke with a member of his entourage.
While in a match Federer looks relaxed, focused and confident, in practice he looks so relaxed he gives off the aura that he might at anytime attempt the impossible and stun the large gathering of fans by hitting the un-hittable shot. The problem for his hitting partner in such a situation, is that Federer is going to make that shot, impossible or not, and all everyone can do is applaud and smile.
Querrey looked like he was having a good time, too. At least until the points started, then he sharpened his focus in order to deal with the Federerness that was unfolding before him.
On the court next to them the ever glamorous, Maria Sharapova was drawing her own large crowd. Working hard in the 80+ degree heat, her practice consisted of hitting, point play and a solid 20 minutes of backhand drills to finish things off.
Just across the walkway, Novak Djokovic was getting in a friendly soccer match with Andy Murray on the extensive grass workout area to the side of the courts — one of the many features the players love about this tournament.
Djokovic and Murray each took to their own individual practices, but other players such as defending BNP Paribas Open champion, Ivan Ljubicic and WTA veteran, Daniela Hantuchova quickly took up residence on the lawn as each went through their own individual warm-ups and workout routines.
With gorgeous weather, the biggest names in tennis on the practice courts and the journeymen and women battling the up and comers on the stadium courts, today was definitely the perfect start to the 2011 BNP Paribas Open.
If you make it out to the tournament this year, be sure to swing by the Tennis Warehouse tent and say hi.
Rising star Milos Raonic was granted a wildcard into the main draw for the BNP Paribas Open, 2011 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Raonic, currently ranked No. 37 on the ATP World Tour (from No. 156 at the end of 2010), advanced through qualifying at the Australian Open this January and proceeded to blaze into the fourth round. Just a few weeks ago the 20-year old Canadian captured his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose and reached the finals at Memphis in back to back weeks. With his results he became the highest ranked Canadian singles player in the history of ATP Rankings (since 1973).
Kei Nishikori, Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic, Coco Vandeweghe, and Christina McHale wereVeterans James Blake, Vania King, Jill Craybas and Sania Mirza were also given wildcards into the main draws.
Nishikori of Japan, captured a title in 2008 at Delray Beach and reached the semifinals there this year which helped him climb to No. 62 in the world. American Harrison, advanced through qualifying at the US Open last fall, where in the first round, he defeated top 20 star and defending BNP Paribas Open champion Ivan Ljubicic. Australian Tomic reached the third round of the Australian Open earlier this year before falling to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Eighteen-year olds Harrison and Tomic are the two youngest players ranked in the top 200.
They are joined on the men’s side by American veteran and former World No. 4 James Blake, who will be seeking to conjure up memories of 2006 when he made the finals of the BNP Paribas Open. The 10-time winner on the ATP World Tour battled injuries throughout 2010, but is starting to get healthy and looking to climb the rankings.
On the women’s side a host of Americans have been granted wildcards into the main draw including youngsters Coco Vandeweghe, Christina McHale, Lauren Davis, and Sloane Stephens. Vandeweghe, from San Diego, was part of the US Fed Cup team that competed in the finals against Italy last November. A few weeks ago she reached the quarterfinals of Memphis. McHale, who reached the semifinals at Quebec City last fall, also helped the US Fed Cup team to the finals last year by assisting in a win over France early in 2010. Stephens played through qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open last year and made it to the second round of the main draw. Davis finished 2010 as the No. 3 ranked junior in the world.
In addition, veterans Vania King, who captured two Grand Slam doubles titles in 2010, (w/Shvedova) at Wimbledon and the US Open, and reached the semifinals at Strasbourg in singles; Jill Craybas, who reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open and the quarterfinals of multiple Tour events in 2010; and Sania Mirza, a former top-30 ranked Indian star, also received wildcards into the main draw.