The first time I went to Indian Wells I remember that it had that great feeling of American hard court tennis. The fans love their sport and as a pro you feel like a big deal – it’s tennis’ Hollywood event.
The players love it because the site and facilities are fantastic; it’s spacious, there’s plenty of room for practice and the weather is magnificent 90% of the time.
And the fans are real tennis fans; they love the game, they are all players and in my experience are always really positive. The fact that it is a real tennis lovers event – a tennis festival – has always set it apart from other tournaments.
One of the most intriguing things about Indian Wells is how important the scheduling is from day to night. In fact, scheduling there is probably more important than at any other event.
Day conditions in the desert are hot, dry and fast – the ball really zings through the air. But then, in the afternoon as the sun sets over the mountains, it becomes damp, heavy and cold. The conditions can change completely in just over an hour.
Depending on what style of a player you are, or who your opponent is, it can be a significant advantage to be scheduled during the day or at night.
As an example, Sam Stosur is a player who would definitely prefer to play during the day there because she can do more with the ball than she can at night. Rafa Nadal would be another very difficult opponent during the day – he can spin the ball and really make it jump. At night, when the conditions become heavier, he can’t put as much work on it.
Of course players are used to those changes in conditions, but they do have to prepare for them. They play with different racquet tensions from day to night. Ball control can be seriously difficult too; it can fly during the day – almost as if you are at altitude – but at night it’s the opposite. All of this means that it can be a tough tournament to find form at because of those variations.
Because of this, I’m looking for two of the hottest players this season to do well. The conditions are set up perfectly for Grigor Dimitrov to continue his streak, with his variations of spin and speed causing opponents trouble. Sam Querry, meanwhile, with his huge serve and regained confidence will love the desert atmosphere.
On the women’s side Coco Vandeweghe should thrive in this environment – her game and personality are made for southern California.
It’s one of the best tournaments of the year and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.
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