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?