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.
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 TennisPhotographs.com 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.
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.
ProTennisNews.net sat down with Somdev that night to get his take on the match: