BNP Paribas Open (9)

Coverage from ATP Masters 1000 / WTA Premier Event Tournament at Indian Wells, California, March 8 - March 21, 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011 19:27

Indian Wells: The Final Volley

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I arrive at the grounds early on finals day, taking the long way around the outer courts. As I walk past Court 4, my mind flashes to the night Rebecca Marino went down in three sets to Ekaterina Makarova. She's now the World No. 58 and another great Canadian story that's usually forgotten with the Milos Mania in full swing. I guess I've played my part in that now, sorry Becs! Soon I pass Court 2, where my hopes for an interview were dashed the night Milos Raonic fell to Ryan Harrison in an epic three-setter, in front of a rowdy full house. I don't mind losing the interview anymore. I'm glad we got that match because it turned out to be my favorite of the tourney. And finally I make it around to Court 3, where I got to see the Bryan Brothers for the first time, taking out Raonic and Feliciano Lopez.

As I walk through the practice courts, I realize why the grounds seem different today. There are normally players out there, making some noise on court, maybe playing soccer on the grass. But today there are no players. It's quiet. Many have flown on to Miami, some are probably golfing nearby. A few of the doubles players will be in today for a Pro-Am tournament; doubles players can always use a little extra cash. But now there are only four players in the tournament, and they have the run of the place. I sit on the patio to have a coffee and look over some photographs and await the players. Marion Bartoli is the first to arrive. She walks past me, headphones on and staring straight ahead. Her father is walking a few steps behind, talking on a cell phone. Five minutes later, it's Caroline Wozniacki. Her entourage is slightly larger, but the scene is the same. Caro walks in front, listening to music. She looks the more relaxed of the two. She makes eye contact with me, and smiles. I nod.
Sunday, 20 March 2011 11:32

Indian Wells: How to Shoot Tennis Like a Pro

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Tennis is a tough sport to shoot. I've tried to do it well, a few days here, a few days there, but it wasn't until I was working in "the pit" for a full eleven days in Indian Wells that I really felt I got a handle on it. There are a lot of challenges that are unique to this sport. Horses go faster, but you know exactly where they're going to go. Race cars too, and if you miss them once, don't worry, they'll go around another 499 times. There's a lot going on in a football game, but it's pretty easy to follow a QB and catch him mid-throw (or the receiver mid-catch). Golf? Please, they stand in one spot!

Tennis players move fast. They change direction on a dime. They all have different swings to time, different motions, and their swings change based on a number of factors. I spent my first couple of days with players jumping out of frame, racquets in front of faces, and mostly too early or late to get the ball in frame. But I adapted. I learned from my mistakes. I met some amazingly generous agency photographers who gave me some tips, and I worked hard to hone my skills. Hopefully, you can see my progress in the 2011 BNP Paribas Open Gallery.

I can't tell you how many people have seen me walking or shooting around the grounds and asked for some advice, which I happily gave (sometimes too much I imagine - I do love to talk shop.) Since we'd all like to improve our tennis shooting skills, I thought I'd pass on my best tips - hopefully you find something helpful in here.

Saturday, 19 March 2011 00:46

IW Exclusive: An Interview with Somdev Devvarman

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Somdev Devvarman started the 2011 season ranked World No. 108 but is having a good run, going into Indian Wells as World No. 84, boosted by his run to the final of the ATP World Tour 250-level tournament in Johannesburg. His ranking is going to jump even higher after he came through Qualifying to make the Fourth Round at the BNP Paribas Open here at Indian Wells.

The Indian native was something of a phenomenon in college, playing for the University of Virginia. In 2007, he played a tenacious NCAA championship match against John Isner, winning with a final score of 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(2). In 2008, he had an unprecedented record of 44-1 and won a second consecutive NCAA Championship. 

Devvarman went pro after that, but had an uninspired first couple of years on the ATP World Tour. Asked this week if he was frustrated with his progress while Isner, a guy whom he had beaten in college, rose into the Top 25, Somdev answered that, actually, the success of Isner and other fellow collegiate players, Kevin Anderson and Jesse Levine, inspired him and gave him confidence. He said he felt that, "if they can do it, I know I can do it, 'cause I beat those guys!"

On Wednesday night, Devvarman put up an amazing fight in a thriller of a match against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, and won himself a lot of new fans in the 7-5, 6-4 loss. sat down with Somdev that night to get his take on the match:

Thursday, 17 March 2011 14:06

Indian Wells: Another Game for Milos!

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I'd be lying if I said Milos Raonic isn't a big part of why I looked forward to the 2011 BNP Paribas Open. Even if I were not here doing coverage, I would have been here just to see Milos. As a long-time fan of Canadian tennis, it's been really exciting to have a singles player in the mix for titles on the ATP World Tour.

Raonic first came to the world's attention at the 2011 Australian Open, running through qualifying and reaching the Fourth round, knocking out World No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny on the way. He followed that up by winning the San Jose title (beating World No. 9 Fernando Verdasco in the Final). The next week he played in Memphis, where he lost in the Final to World No. 8 Andy Roddick (he beat Verdasco again in the opening round). After starting the year ranked right outside the Top 150, the Canadian entered the BNP Paribas Open as the World No. 37, but because entry cutoff was six weeks prior, he needed a wildcard to avoid qualifying.

I find Raonic on the practice courts early in the morning and watch his entire session. Having never seen him outside of a match, it isn't obvious at first if Milos is just a very relaxed, efficient kind of guy, or if he is dead tired. I now think it was the latter. He drags himself around the court, looking pretty lazy in the 83-degree heat. Raonic has logged a lot of miles this year. Now, it's one thing to play a lot of consecutive tournaments when you only get one or two matches at each, but Milos has been playing deep into the draw in many weeks. It has clearly taken its toll. He hits at half-power for about five minutes, then sits and talks with his coach. Then he hits a few weak serves and rests again. But the amazing thing is that when his coach asks for energy, Milos summons it up. I watch as he starts practicing his first serve at full power. First he serves into the deuce court: five out wide, five up the middle. Then he does the same into the ad court. Then back again. Raonic is absolutely crushing the ball. He hits 30 serves, about 80% of them in, and all within a foot and a half of the corner he's is targeting. After he's done, he slumps his shoulders, hangs his head and shuffles to the bench. It is the same routine for forehands, backhands, and volleys. I'm guessing this guy is simply on autopilot. He plays his tennis, and his people and the ATP manage everything else.

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