Postcard from Palm Springs: a tennis-mad place

Published by Matt Trollope

Fans jostle for a vantage point to watch Roger Federer practice at Indian Wells; Getty Images
They know the game, travel to watch it and live and breathe it. The crowds at Indian Wells are some of the purest tennis fans at any tournament in the world.

More than once here at Indian Wells, I have overheard conversations between fans talking about their time visiting the Open.

But they’re not talking about the BNP Paribas Open.

They’re talking about the US Open.

Whether they’re make the trip to Flushing Meadows from California each year, or flying in from the East Coast to get a fix of tennis in the desert, a lot of the crowd here at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden are serious tennis fans. Tennis nerds. Tennis nuts.

They lap up the game, as their travel would attest. Most of them play themselves. They crowd the practice courts. They kit themselves out in tennis merchandise and activewear. If they’re not wearing a BNP Paribas T-shirt or slinging as US Open tote bag over their shoulder, they’re jamming an RF-monogrammed cap on their head.

Their knowledge of the game extends far beyond the famous names recognisable to casual tennis and general sports fans.

When Nick Kyrgios faced Alexander Zverev in the third round, Stadium 2 was packed. Neither player was American, nor ranked in the top 15. Yet the fans took a keen interest in this one – they were well aware they were watching a pair of future stars.

Those same fans spotted Sloane Stephens a mile off when she went undercover – complete in BNP Paribas Open staff uniform – to sell programs in a skit on the Tennis Channel.

 

So keen are the crowd here on tennis that they crowd the practice courts just as excitedly as the match courts to catch a glimpse of the pros hitting up.

Some of them are lucky enough to be invited on court to join them.

This young fan – who, naturally, was a very talented little player – caught Djokovic’s eye and thrilled the crowd, and his father, with some exceptional retrieving.

He was one of several youngsters on the grounds each day lapping up the tennis action; it seems their well-travelled, well-versed tennis parents have passed their love of the game down the line.

And it’s easily possible that one of those children inspired by attending the BNP Paribas Open could one day down the track be the last one standing on the final Sunday and lifting the trophy.

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