As a tennis fan, I love the four yearly Grand Slam tennis tournaments. But this not-quite-a major tournament fills my heart with tennis joy every spring. Here's why:
Palm Springs - The tournament takes place in Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley. While most know it as the site of the world famous music festival, I know it because I grew up in Orange County, a scant hour-plus drive away. And all of those glorious mountains in the background? The San Jacinto Mountain range (particularly the mountain town of Idyllwild) was the site of my family vacation camping trips. It’s great to see those familiar vistas on TV.
The tennis family seem to love it - It’s the only tournament not to take place in a major metropolitan area, so views of vast desert vistas and mountain backgrounds persist through most TV shots. I remember Rafa Nadal stating in an interview that Indian Wells is his favorite two weeks of the year, and many of the players and commentators fill their social media fees with views of said desert vistas and mountains while at the tournament. When she was an active player, Martina Hingis would tweet (or Instagram?) some shots from hikes she would take in the nearby San Jacinto mountains (the same trails I hiked as a kid).
TV friendly time zone - The largest tennis event on the west coast, the time zone is perfect for east coast viewers. Matches begin mid-afternoon and last through primetime into late night.
Winter in Southern California - The crowd shots showing spectators bundled in parkas, scarves, and ski hats are hilarious, when you consider the night-time temps at 66 degrees. Tennis Channel commentator and Newport Beach native Lindsay Davenport spends considerable air time in cheeky defense of her fellow SoCAL tennis fans. As a native of southern California I can attest - when you haven’t lived anywhere else, 66 degrees can be bone chilling.
Credit:Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open
Best-of-three mens matches - Don't get me wrong. I love the tension of a good five-round mens match. But with today’s TV watching habits and social media attention span of the average viewer, it's high time the five-set major be retired. The mens’ three-set matches here are just as entertaining, and one doesn’t need to commit to a four- to five-hour block of butt-hurt to enjoy it. An exciting three-set match usually takes about 2.5 - 3 hours, which is a perfect time commitment for me.
Doubles FTW - All the top men and women playing in doubles? Please and thank you! And while we’re at it, how about more mainstream TV coverage of doubles in general? Enthralling points and a format that leads to a tight and tidy match, not to mention prime TV coverage for lesser-known but still exciting players. FOR. THE. WIN.
The Players' Pitch - The facility has a dedicated pitch of grass where players stretch and work out during their stay. Often times, scenes of players doing their workouts serve as bumpers in and out of commercials and breaks between games. The most enjoyable scenes are the ones of European players kicking around a soccer ball. The site of Rafa or Novak having a kick-around with opponents and training staff just kinda gets me in the feels, you know? Every year, at least one of those bumpers is accompanied by a Tennis Channel commentator mentioning how kicking around a soccer ball is great for footwork training (photo at left of Novak and Andy courtesy of daily chuckle.typepad.com ).
March Madness - I know I’m out of touch with the rest if the world on this, but I loathe college basketball, and March Madness bracket-talk around the office (and online) drives me nuts. Thank god Indian Wells and its sister tournament in Miami are here to bring me out of my winter funk while I await my true and lifelong sports obsession to begin its season (baseball, in case you are wondering).
First round bye - I’m not sure if other non-major tournaments do this, but I love this format. It allows lower ranked players to get some screen time before the big guns start their pursuit. Must also be a great pick-me-up for the players to get a victory in before facing a top-ranked player.
What say you, tennis fan who has somehow randomly found my blog? Leave your notes in the comments. Let's have a discussion!
Photo Credit: IWTG