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

A non-cyclist’s guide to spinning, part 2

In my last post, I went over some spinning terminology and outlined a few of the reasons I keep going back to spin class, even though the workout is punishing and leaves me with tighter hamstrings than a three-set tennis match.

Today’s spinning “benefits” might be thought of as negatives, depending on your point of view. Going over them can help you decide whether spinning’s really for you.

Spinning fashion is boring

Compared to tennis fashion, most sports lag in terms of fashion interest, and spinning is no different. One test of fashion-worthiness: you wouldn’t want to run errands after class in your spin clothes, even if you didn’t get all sweaty — no one’s derrière looks good in those padded shorts. A cute tennis skirt with matching top and jacket, however? I’ve actually been asked if I got dressed in tennis clothes just to shop at the fancy grocery store in town (the answer was “no,” by the way — although I do like tennis outfits better than some of my other clothes).

SpinningGuidePt2-Bike-Shorts

 

Plus, who wants to own more than a couple of pairs of those bike shorts anyway? It’s no wonder they come mostly in black, leaving possibilities for interesting color combinations limited. The best we can do is to wear a good top and maybe some lively socks. But it’s all going to get soaked in sweat, so what’s the point? Maybe spinning’s non-emphasis on fashion is actually a benefit, after all.

Spinning is social. Well, sort of.

There’s a regular crowd that attends our Tuesday/Thursday class. People have their usual bikes, even. The same gals are always in front of me — they never miss a day. One of our class member’s friends saves her a bike so she can arrive late. Another one sings to the music — and she has a good voice. People visit a bit as they’re changing their shoes and setting up their bikes. But once the lights go down and the music goes up, no talking is allowed. If you’re talking, you’re considered to be slacking off. Which leads me to my next point.

 

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A non-cyclist’s guide to spinning, part 1

In a previous post, I talked about going to spin class after trying (and failing) to find easier ways to stay in shape while tennis elbow prevents me from playing my favorite sport. It’s true, spinning produces endorphins, those amazing neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals that decrease sensations of pain and increase feelings of well-being, often referred to as the “runner’s high.”

But it’s not just the endorphins that keep me coming back to spin class. There are a number of other reasons spinning works for me.

Spinning burns serious amounts of calories

Since I don’t run  (bad knees), there’s no other exercise I do that provides me a comparable workout. I love the fact that, on days when I go to spin class, I don’t worry about having dessert or an extra glass of wine — I earned it!

SpinningGuidePt1.4_PhotoCreditSciAmerican

 

Spinning doesn’t require a ton of physical coordination

Yes, there are fine points of weight distribution and balance, but face it: you’re pedaling a stationary bike. You can’t fall over, can’t run into a tree or a ditch. You fix your feet to the pedals with clips on your bike shoes, or by putting your toes into cages that hold them in place — you’re not going anywhere. So much less embarrassing than having to lunge and kick and spin, all on the count of four that repeats before you figure out how to do it properly.

There’s a spin class at Uforia in Palo Alto called Revolutions that incorporates dance moves to give a full-body workout while riding the bike. You lift some weights and do pushups on the handlebars. Some people prefer it or find it more efficient and/or fun, I suppose. For me, however, dancing on a stationery bike is not spinning.

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Spinning: why pedal furiously on a bike that’s going nowhere?

“Take it up to 100 rpm, flat road.” I’m pedaling like crazy, grateful my feet are clipped into the pedals and can’t fly off. Knowing the next command from our spinning instructor is going to be “add a touch” [of resistance, that is], while simultaneously taking the “cadence” up to 110 revolutions per minute.

I, too, used to believe everything non-spinners said about spinning: it’s too hard, it’s ridiculous even in concept – why don’t you just go for a bike ride outdoors? Not to mention: it’s boring, there’s nothing but you and the bike (which, in case you forgot, isn’t going anywhere). Oh, and did I mention, it’s really hard?

 tri-ing to be athletic_spinning

Spinning out of my mind

I had even tried spinning once or twice, thought it was terrible. Did not relate to the super-young, overly enthusiastic instructor. Plus I couldn’t imagine myself joining a class of people who were either grubby t-shirt + multiple sweat towel types, or else petite women wearing only teeny spandex and sports bras.

But since I couldn’t play tennis this fall, and I was desperate to find a way to improve my cardiovascular condition — having found that even vigorous walking wasn’t going to achieve it, I thought I’d try spinning again. After all, I’d been told that biking would strengthen my quads and reduce the knee pain that bugs me when I run too much on the tennis court.

So I checked out a few classes. I wound up at Uforia, the same place where I had done the Jane Fonda-style aerobics class. The first few classes were hard, really hard. Just as I was getting used to the regular instructor, he went on vacation and got a sub. She seemed crazy. Kept on telling us to increase the resistance, climb the hill. There was no recovery time at all — I couldn’t even get a sip of water from my bottle clipped to the handlebar.

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