Indian Wells Tennis: a newbie’s guide

I just got back from three days at the Indian Wells tennis tournament, or as it’s officially called, the BNP Paribas Open. It was my first year to attend, and I’m already planning to go back next year. This post gives my newbie’s guide to the tournament and why I think it makes an excellent getaway for tennis lovers.

 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells

The Indian Wells tournament, owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, is an ATP Master’s 1000 event as well as a WTA tournament, and nearly all the top pros participate. It’s a great place to see your favorite tennis pros in action while you enjoy typically great weather in the Palm Springs area. A contender for the so-called “Fifth Slam,” Indian Wells offers tennis fans a chance to see their favorite pros in a smaller venue that nonetheless has great “creature comforts.”

Getting There

You can fly into the Palm Springs airport, which is about 20 minutes from Indian Wells, but a lot of people go through Ontario, as the prices are much cheaper. And, since Ontario is served by Southwest, there’s more flexibility if you need to change your flight (for example, to stay one more day and see just a few more matches). The Ontario airport is about 1.5 hours away from Indian Wells. Once in the Palm Springs area, there are plenty of hotels in every price category. Your hotel may even offer a shuttle bus to the tournament venue, which will help you avoid traffic and parking lots that are sometimes far away from the tennis courts.

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden

The IW Tennis Garden is spacious but walk-able. The main stadium lies at one end, and the food court at the other end. They plan to build a second stadium next year. The ground-breaking for Stadium 2 occurred while I was there, in fact. Plans look exciting, and improvements will likely generate even more interest in this tournament — at least that’s what Ellison and others are likely counting on.

Indian Wells Tennis_groundbreaking

Show Courts and Practice Courts

There are eight show courts at Indian Wells, and early in the tournament you can see great matches on all of them. Later on there are fewer matches, so they don’t use all the courts all the time. Until the construction of the new stadium, you have been able to enter the tournament grounds with your Stadium 1 ticket, then wander to any of the other courts on a general admission basis. This policy will still be in effect next year, although since Stadium 2 will have reserved seating, there may not be general admission spots there in the future.   [Read more…]

Cougar, er, Ladies Day at the SAP Open

Ladies Days

“Ladies Days” bolster ticket sales for daytime matches during the SAP Open, a USPTA tennis tournament that is being held for the last time in San Jose this year. Ladies Days at the SAP occur midweek, where groups of women purchase tickets that give you access to all daytime matches, plus a catered lunch in the Arena Grill with complimentary wine by La Crema, discounts on tennis merchandise, raffle prizes and the chance to take your photo with real live tennis pros. All this, and you get to spend the day with your tennis friends while shirking your regular responsibilities.

I organized a group of tennis players and fans from Ladera Oaks to attend the event at HP Pavilion, and we enjoyed some exciting singles and doubles matches, as well as witnessed interesting behavior by some of the other attendees. I don’t know if it’s always like this when groups of women get together, or if tennis-playing women are particularly outrageous — but it seems that stories coming out of the day resemble some I’ve heard coming out of USTA matches.

 

Cougar-Ladies-SAPTennis

 

Cougar Days

At lunch, Justin Gimmelstob, a former pro and Tennis Channel commentator, emcee’ed the raffle giveaways and did interviews with four pros who had ladies jumping up with their iPhones and no shame about blocking others’ views while they took pictures and videos. At least it wasn’t as crazy as last year, when an inappropriately-dressed woman grabbed onto Gael Monfils and wouldn’t let go. This year our designated pros were Mike and Bob Bryan, Fernando Verdasco and Jack Sock. I imagine it’s just another duty they have to perform as part of their contracts — but the women love it.

Cougar_Ladies_SAPOpenTennis_LaCremaOne cougar lady with white lipstick and overly blonde hair was particularly excited to see Verdasco. Murmuring something about a benefit for breast cancer, she passed me her iPhone after I invited her to sit at our table. (I had asked her to join us since she was standing in our line of sight, and it was clear she had no intention of moving.) Anyway, I glanced at the screen and quickly averted my eyes, as it contained a nearly-naked picture of the tennis pro. “He has the most amazing thighs,” the cougar-lady said. “I touched them.”

TMI. I passed the phone back, speechless. After that we left to take photos with the pros. I noticed she stood next to Verdasco in her photo, which for the sake of discretion, I have not shown here. I hope she left his thighs alone.

Was it the wine? Unless women were chugging their chardonnay, it would have been hard to imbibe enough wine to loosen inhibitions that much during our short luncheon. So I can’t say why the cougar behavior seemed to dominate. Although I did hear later about some gals who were caught trying to sneak out with several bottles of wine, and I saw even more attempting to leave with beer cups full of pinot (this was not allowed, in case you were wondering).

Is this the kind of thing that over-40 men do when women aren’t around? Maybe so. Maybe I need to lighten up and be less judgmental. But at the same time, maybe guys look as silly as women do when they act this way.

How come, though, it’s only the women who are given an animal nickname?

 

Cougar_Ladies_SAPOpenTennis

 

 

Image credits:
SAP Open Ladies Day, La Crema Wineries, ucumari via flickr

US Open 2012 men’s fashion: tried and true

The top guys at the US Open are rocking the red, white and blue theme in their clothes this year. That’s great: it’s the US Open, after all, and our national colors are perfect for tennis garb. Plus they look good on just about anyone. Maybe folks are in a patriotic mood after the Olympics and just want to participate in the good vibes of spending a couple of weeks in New York?

While men’s outfits look fine, nothing really stands out. Of course we don’t have Rafa in town — we are missing his typically bright colors, “go for broke” style of play and personal charisma. But let’s see what we DO have.

Roger Federer

US Open 2012_Roger Federer

Always looking fabulous, Roger pulls off the classic American colors perfectly. Sometimes he uses a white shirt, and sometimes the dark blue.  I like the dark shirt/dark shorts combo best. Is Nike’s swoosh getting bigger?

 

Novak Djokovic

US Open 2012_NovakDjokovic

Several months into his new partnership with Uniqlo, the big Japanese sportswear apparel company, Djokovic is still wearing versions of more or less the same outfit. More red, white and blue, just like he did at the French Open and at the Olympics. I guess the uniformity of color could be helpful: if all his clothes match each other, it’s easy to put together ensembles. So far, however, I’m not seeing the innovation I would have hoped for from this partnership — Nole’s outfits are boring compared to his game.   [Read more…]

Olympics bring color to Wimbledon: Part II, the guys

Men’s Olympic Tennis Fashion

Yesterday I gave you my impressions of some of the top women player’s outfits. Now it’s the men’s turn. First, I have to disclose I was as disappointed as anyone that Nadal dropped out of the Olympics due to an undisclosed injury. Or at least that’s what he said. But could it be that he was not going to be caught dead in one of Spain’s uniforms? In case you missed it, field hockey player Alex Fabregas tweeted this photo of Spain’s opening ceremony get-up. Apparently Russian designer Bosco provided Spain the uniforms for free — at least the country’s current economic woes can’t be blamed on what they spent for Olympic garb.

Spaniards aside, most of the guys are looking good for the Olympics — adding a dash of color livens up their tennis fashion considerably after the Wimbledon whites. And, since they have to wear their country’s colors, we are seeing lots of standard combinations. In my opinion, this is generally a good thing: guys look better on-court when their sponsors don’t try to one-up each other with outlandish color combos.

Roger looks fabulous as always, with the classic tennis polo and discrete Swiss cross symbol on the chest.

 

Djokovic’s new sponsor, Uniqlo, has stepped up its design for him since the French Open and Wimbledon. They’re still not going for a super eye-catching look — but maybe they are letting Nole do that with his racquet. However, his blue shirt with striped collar is sharp-looking.  The Serbian flag on the chest is also a nice touch.

 

Tsonga’s bleu, rouge et blanche outfit by Adidas works well, whether he is running around the court or lying down on it. Don’t know whether the boxer waistband is part of his official look or not.

 

Isner’s blue shirt by Lacoste looks good with the dark navy or black shorts — it’s something different, as most of the guys wearing blue shirts pair them with white shorts. As our highest-ranked American male singles player (11), let’s hope he goes deep in the tournament and medals for the USA.

 

My favorite American duo, Bob and Mike Bryan, look great in their K-Swiss shirts with the bold red, navy and white slanting stripe-effect across the fronts.  Maybe the dark shorts are an American thing? No matter, they look strong and so does their game.

 

The “Brit kit” worn by Andy Murray was widely publicized prior to the Olympics, perhaps since Great Britain is the host country. Adidas went all-out in fashioning a shirt with colors and stripes reminiscent of the Union Jack — but of course, updated and way cooler. Love the coordination with the sweatbands.

It’s nice that the Olympics take place in the summer when one’s schedule typically slows down. But seriously: I’m sitting inside, glued to ladies doubles on my iPad when I could be out enjoying a perfect sunny day. At least NBC offers highlight videos and more information than I could ever absorb about the various Olympic sports — not to mention all the specialty websites and blogs out there if I want more commentary. So I could get up and go for a walk now, then watch the video later.

Our house, however, is a veritable sports-fest: TVs and computers going whenever people are home, sometimes with folks watching together and sometimes with us watching favorite sports on our own.

Enjoy your own couch-potato hours, and chime in with a comment on your favorite Olympic sport or fashion!