We discuss our favorite memories from Indian Wells in this week’s episode of the Changeover Chat, a quick back-and-forth exchange between the writing staff at The Changeover.
Amy: The start of Indian Wells is always a fun part of the season. It’s the first Masters 1000 event and the first Premier Mandatory WTA event of the year, so it can set the tone for the rest of the year on both tours. What’s your most memorable Indian Wells moment from the past?
Juan José: I think one of the earliest memories I have from this specific tournament is the 2007 final. Nadal won his first Indian Wells title over Djokovic, who made his first ever Masters 1000 final. I remember it because it was the first Nadal-Djokovic match I saw in person with my wife, AmyLu.
Lindsay: I’m going to go off the beaten path a little bit and talk about doubles, because Indian Wells always produces some really fun doubles teams since the singles players have a day off in between matches and everyone plays best-of-three (Slams, TAKE NOTE). I look forward to the doubles draw every year. I have two great recent memories of doubles winners — in 2009, Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick won, which was hysterical, and in 2011, Xavier Malisse and Aleksandr Dolgopolov stunned the world by taking the title and were lovingly called the “Bun Boys” or the “Ponytail Express.”
The best part about it was that they beat so many top teams (IndoPak, Bryans, Murrays, Fedwrinka) in the super tiebreak, and they only signed up 15 minutes before the draw came out. I remember being in a bar with my friends checking my Blackberry for scores of their final vs. Fedwrinka and squealing with delight when they won. It was a true fairytale run.
Amy: I’m glad you brought up doubles, Linz, because I was going to bring up a fun piece of trivia. Indian Wells is where two of the three Federer vs. Nadal doubles matches have happened: Nadal/Robredo d. Federer/Allegro in 2004, and Federer/Wawrinka d. Nadal/Lopez in 2011. (Their other meeting in doubles was in Rome: Nadal/Moya d. Federer/Wawrinka in 2007.)
Juan José: The Ponytail Express! Man, that Dolgopolov-Malisse team was so much fun to watch. About that Federer-Nadal doubles match from 2007 … I still remember Moya looking ridiculous wearing Nadal’s same kit.
Amy: If anyone has an hour and half to spare to watch the Fed vs Nadal doubles match from 2011, someone was kind enough to put the whole match on YouTube:
Lindsay: I never followed the March swing very closely until 2008 when my daily tennis viewing was in full effect (it began in summer of 2007). Both Ivanovic and Djokovic won Indian Wells in 2008 – such a peak year for Serbian tennis. I remember reading a piece on them that really stuck out to me, about how they passed each other in the halls between their matches.
Juan José: Indian Wells 2007 was also when — in my opinion — the Roger Federer prime ended, with his first set loss to Guillermo Cañas. The Argie was coming back on the tour after his doping suspension. Interestingly enough, Cañas was a lucky loser that week, and went on to beat Federer in Miami a little over a week later. Bear in mind, Federer had just won the Australian Open that year without losing a set and looked untouchable. A few weeks later, Federer also won Dubai. Everybody thought a fourth straight title at Indian Wells was a lock for him, and then Guillermo Cañas happened. Twice in the span of two weeks, no less.
2007 is also interesting because Djokovic and Murray started to make their mark as 19-year-olds. They played each other in the Indian Wells and Miami semifinals, which is remarkable considering the state of today’s teenagers. It’s pretty much a sure thing that we won’t see a single one even in the Round of 16 this year. The 2007 final was quite straightforward: Djokovic looked like a deer in the headlights for most of the first set, and then mounted a quasi-challenge in the second. Nadal was largely untroubled. But that was Nadal’s first Masters 1000 title in the United States (he had won Canada in 2005, beating Agassi in the final).
Lindsay: I loved 2010 Indian Wells, except for the final when Ljubicic served like God, because it was really the first time since 2009 Wimbledon (AAAH) that Roddick played like a top player again. He took out Soderling in the semis to make the final, and set his stage for his upset of Nadal and win in the Miami final later that March. What a great month that was. Crazy to think that there were two hard court masters series back-to-back without Nadal, Federer, Murray, or Djokovic in the finals, and this was just three years ago!
Juan José: I still think 2010 Indian Wells was the most random Masters 1000 in history. The Big Four played, and none other than Ivan Ljubicic won. Federer lost to Baghdatis (!), Murray lost to Soderling, and Djokovic and Nadal both lost to Ljubicic. Amazing.
He said that as he and Venus were walking to their seats for the final, about a dozen fans used the racial slur and one spoke of skinning him alive.
Williams said he resisted a temptation to respond. Instead, he said, he watched near tears as fans jeered Serena and cheered when she double-faulted en route to a victory against Kim Clijsters. He characterized the crowd as white and wealthy, with all but about a thousand fans in the crowd of 16,000 booing his daughter.
“That’s the hardest time in the world I’ve ever had,” Williams said. “I’ll never go to Indian Wells again, because I believe that guy would skin me alive.”
Asked about her father’s allegations, Venus said: “I heard what he heard.” She declined to elaborate.
“I think it’s total nonsense,” Hingis said. “I don’t feel like there is any racism on the tour. It’s a very international sport, and I even would say because they may be black, they have a lot of advantages. … They can always say it’s racism.”
Lindsay: The 2001 incident with the Williams Sisters is a huge part of the story of the tournament, and one that they have never fully made amends for or been able to move past. I wrote earlier this year about my disappointment with how the tennis establishment, mostly white and privileged, handles that incident.
And as Amy has highlighted, it was also really not a shining moment for Martina Hingis, though it certainly seems like she and Serena have moved past all of that.
Juan José: You’d think that happened 40 years ago, and yet it’s only been 12 years, and the players involved (sans Hingis and Clijsters) are still playing.
Amy: I do think Serena and Venus are completely entitled to continue their boycott without being criticized for it. It’s their experience, and nobody else should cast judgment on the way they’ve handled it.
Juan José: I agree. I don’t understand those who claim the Willliams sisters should turn the other cheek and play Indian Wells. I’m rooting for them never to go back there. If I were them, I never would.
Lindsay: The Williams sisters’ absence does open the door for interesting narratives for the women. It’s interesting to look at the winners in the ten years without the Williams Sisters, from 2002-2012: Hantuchova, Clijsters, Henin, Clijsters, Sharapova, Hantuchova, Ivanovic, Zvonareva, Jankovic, Wozniacki, Azarenka. It’s like a who’s who of Slam-less number ones, Belgians, and Hantuchova. It really does feel like Dinara is missing. She should come back just for that.
Juan José: Whenever I think of Indian Wells and the WTA side, the first thought that comes to mind is that Daniela Hantuchova has won this event. Twice. And I do remember Serbiapalooza in 2008.
Amy: That was such a great year for Ivanovic, she’d just come off making the Australian Open final.
Lindsay: I think I’m still traumatized from the 2009 Indian Wells final. It was the first big tournament for Ivanovic since she won the French Open (she made the final), and she played Zvonareva in a complete wind tunnel. It was the worst thing I have ever, ever seen, but it was also Zvonareva’s breakthrough in a lot of ways. The fact that she didn’t just walk off of the court with that wind showed she had grown up some.
Here are some highlights if you want to be traumatized:
Wind is always a factor at Indian Wells. I also think that the surface speed doesn’t help. For years now, Indian Wells has laid the slowest hard court of the tour. It has no relation to what the guys in Europe are playing on, or the guys in Latin America, for that matter.
Lindsay: Indian Wells is certainly on my tournament bucket list, but I look forward to it every year because it seems like the laid back atmosphere of the tournament—the mountains in the distance, the rolling and open fields, the great facilities—brings out a different side of the players. They all seem really relaxed and carefree. Indian Wells produces the best pictures and fan stories because it seems there aren’t as many barriers between fans and players.
Juan José: Yep, it seems like there are enough interesting/fun things around Indian Wells that make the lack of quality matches seem like an afterthought. Everybody who’s been there has a funny Indian Wells story.
Lindsay: One of the funny storylines (to me at least) going into this Indian Wells is seeing if Andy Murray can overcome his demons. He was great at this tournament early in his career — he made the semis by beating two top 10 players in 2007, and made the final, upsetting Federer in 2009, but he hasn’t won a match there since he lost to Soderling in the quarterfinals in the wacky Indian Wells of 2010. The last two years he lost his first match (in the second round because he got a bye) to Donald Young (143) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (92). He hasn’t won a set at Indian Wells since taking the first set over Almagro in the 2010 Round of 16. (Nico retired after one game of the second set.) He’s only 15-7 at Indian Wells, which is really not that great.
Amy: Yeah, that’ll be a big storyline all year. Can Murray improve upon his poor Masters 1000 results from last year? (Yes. There’s nowhere to go but up.) It all starts here.
Juan José: What I find interesting for the ATP side is the correlation between winning the Australian Open and Indian Wells. Since 2004, five out of the nine Indian Wells winners have also won the Australian Open. Federer won that “double” twice (2004, 2006), Djokovic twice (2008, 2011), and Nadal once (2009). Also, Indian Wells is extremely Big Three friendly: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic combine for eight of the last nine titles.
Lindsay: Indian Wells always has a few surprises, and I’d say that Larry Ellison is doing a great job of putting money into the tournament and making sure it’s a place that the players and fans appreciate. Hawk-Eye on every court is fantastic, and they made a lot of upgrades this year. It’s the perfect way to kick off the Masters Series. Well, it would be really perfect if 2001 hadn’t happened, but it’s as close to perfect as it can get without the Williams Sisters.
What are some of your favorite Indian Wells memories? Please share them in the comments section!