Double Digits and Counting:
It's Indian Wells 2012
Is it time to debut or get back?
So maybe you are like us and the pilgrimage to the desert is an annual tradition (not exactly sure but it could be a dozen or more years for me now...) Or maybe you keep reading these articles every year and thinking: “Damn that sounds good, I should go there.” Or maybe you are somewhere in between those extremes.
But if you were going to pick a year to debut--or to make your grand return--2012 would be as good as any and--depending on what happens with the actual tennis--maybe even better. (Stating the obvious, you never know about the tennis until it happens.)
Remember, Larry Ellison, Oracle founder and world's second richest man, owns this event now and that seems to mean every year has to be bigger and better--at least in his eyes. But, from what I've discerned, this year is truly bigger in a few ways--and I'll have to say I agree that it is probably better as well.
To me the event gets huge credibility for installing Hawk Eye instant replay on all match courts--the only tournament in the world that does. Not sure what that costs, but it's sufficiently substantial that no one else has yet followed suit.
Larry Ellison: new owner and standard bearer.
And that includes the Slams. So the BNP Paribas Open--as the press officers like us to call this event--has 8 courts--twice as many courts with instant replay as Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. That's more than impressive when you think about it.
They bumped the prize money too. $1 million for the winning man, and the same for the woman. Now I'm not sure Roger Federer needs another million. But they also claim to have raised the money all the way down the line, including the first round losers.
I need to get the actual numbers on that, but if so, it's a small step in the right direction. Ever wonder why the names on the computer are always changing below say about number 75-100?
That's because you can't win enough to pay your expenses with that ranking--it costs around $150,000 a year just to travel, train and play--and that's without a full time coach and definitely not staying at the 5 star resorts, or anything remotely close.
Think about that for a minute. There are pro baseball and basketball players sitting on the bench all year who are making 10 times that figure or more.
But in tennis the guys that don't make the later rounds are disposable. Sure it's their choice to play, but you have to wonder if how the money is split up between the events, TV, the top players, etc is fair in any realistic sense of that word. So yeah Larry, pay those guys that make up the majority of the draw.
Hawk Eye at Indian Wells: on twice as many courts as the Slams.
So more replay, more money, but also more shade. This year there will be a gigantic shade structure in the big grassy area with the tables and chairs and the big screens in front of the main stadium.
And more big screens and score towers too. It may not be everyday--depending on the weather in a given year--but some days that shade might be the oasis.
From our experience, you can actually freeze to death in the cold wind at night--unlikely but an occasional variation. Or--with a somewhat higher frequency--you could overheat and stroke out around 2pm on a still, sunny day. That's when we like to wrap ourselves in white towels--just like the cool pro coaches.
Most days though it's just damn pleasant warm, slightly breezy spring weather--and that climate is a major attraction. Better than Wimbledon. Better than the Open. Better than Cincinnati. Better than Miami. Well, those are the other ones I know well.
OK, check on the weather, but what about the tennis? I keep waiting for the year that the BNP becomes an overcrowded zoo like the Open in the first week. But so far it hasn't happened.
New for 2012, among other things, a giant new shade structure.
At the Open or Wimbledon if you do get a seat on an outside court you better stay put and watch what comes on in front of you. Because if you do try to move to see different players you better hope they are playing really long matches because it might take an hour or so to get in the new court--if you can get in.
So far, Indian Wells still hasn't achieved that level of congestion. Except maybe on the practice courts. They are beautifully positioned for viewing right outside the main stadium. You can watch the players from 10 feet if you can get a spot in the first row or two. And good luck with that.
Unless you want to show up early and wait for Roger for like an hour or two (or Rafa if that's what works for you.) So you might have to dedicate half your day to get that experience.
But when it comes to the other match courts it's still possible most days to buy some type of ticket for the big stadium--and that gets you the grounds pass. Which means you really do have a chance to move around among those eight match courts.
And, if you are a club player trying to get better, that also gives you the chance to create the osmosis effect from multiple experiences. (The osmosis effect? What's that? Click Here for one example.)
Before you decide to go though, here is what you need to know about the dates. The official dates of the event are Monday, March 5, through Sunday March 18. But that includes the qualifying on the first three days. Which is great if you like qualifying.
Tennisplayer desert headquarters--just kidding our house is nice, but this one happened to belong to Frank Sinatra.
But the main draw for the women starts on Wednesday, March 7. The men's main starts on Thursday, March 8. The first seeded women play on Friday March 9. The first seeded men star on Saturday, March 10.
The reality, however, is that the name players will play mainly on that first weekend. Then again on Monday or Tuesday. So by the end of the day on Tuesday March 12-- assuming they win in the first round--all the top will all have played two matches.
So if you were going to pick 4 days, I'd go for Saturday March 10 through Tuesday March 13. That will maximize your experience seeing the most players on all the courts. But please, don't email me if it turns out your favorite player lost before you showed up--email the player's website.
So here is the link for tickets. Click Here. And here is the link for ticket and and hotel packages. Click Here.
If you're interested in a package move fast! They are selling out. If you want more info about them after you look online, you can call our friend Linda Sullivan directly at Travel and Player Services. 760-200-8434. Tell them John Yandell from Tennisplayer.net sent you! It's possible they will be nice!
Just a couple of other personal observations about other stuff I like that makes the event great. If you have ever shopped online for anything tennis related, you've undoubtedly discovered TennisWarehouse.com.
They have literally everything, the price is right, and the service is great. At Indian Wells they are there in person with a big ol' tent at the back end of the property. And they have a practice court. So if you want to demo every racket that exists, or just hang out and pester the knowledgeable sales guys and stringers, this could be your location.
The Tennis Warehouse tent at Indian Wells: a noted side attraction!
Find my friend Don Hightower, former noted teaching pro and longtime TW second in command, and tell him John Yandell says you deserve an extra discount. (He won't give it to you, but you'll probably make him laugh.)
The other thing I like: the Fila tent. I've had a weakness for Fila since the 1980's and still wear their stuff exclusively. Indian Wells has the single largest brick and mortar collection of Fila stuff probably anywhere in the world. You'll probably find me in there stocking up on the hard to find stuff like Fila socks and sweat bands that you can't even get from Tennis Warehouse.
Yet I digress. On balance I have to say that the event has, for want of a better word, integrity. That goes back to the creation of the event, and its organic growth, and a few near death experiences it had along the way. (Like almost going to China, Click Here.)
Last year I got a chance to sit down with Charlie Pasarell who owned the event all those years ago with another former elite world class player, Ray Moore.
Yes, they sold to Ellison, but they are still running the event, and when you talk to Charlie you quickly feel that means something to him. (Click Here to read about the legendary match he played at Wimbledon with Richard Gonzalez.)
Listen to Charlie Pasarell and feel the history of Indian Wells.
If you didn't watch the interview last year--or even if you did--it's still worth seeing because you get a real feeling for what the tournament is about.
So yes! We are psyched. After haunting the Indian Wells, Palm Desert,and La Quinta hotels, bars, and restaurants for years, we decided to try something a little different and rented a house in Palm Springs for 2012. Our crew is pretty excited because everyone gets their own bedroom with a flat screen--and we have a backyard with a pool and a heated spa.
So instead of driving up and down Highway 121 after dinner after drinking a couple of glasses of wine--looking for those sobriety checkpoints--we'll be wandering on foot through the restaurant district in old Palm Springs.
Hey it's not Cincinnati (not that I don't love that event), so I think it's time to experience the full range of what the desert cities have to offer. We are just damn lucky to have this event in California if you ask me. If you want to meet up and bend our ear about tennis, or Tennisplayer, or what restaurant you should try, send me an email at email@example.com.
John Yandell is widely acknowledged as one of the leading videographers
and students of the modern game of professional tennis. His high speed filming for
Advanced Tennis and Tennisplayer have provided new visual resources that have changed
the way the game is studied and understood by both players and coaches. He has done
personal video analysis for hundreds of high level competitive players, including
Justine Henin-Hardenne, Taylor Dent and John McEnroe, among others. In addition
to his role as Editor of Tennisplayer he is the author of the
critically acclaimed book Visual Tennis.
The John Yandell Tennis School is located in San Francisco, California.
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