Fritters and I made it out to Indian Wells for Day 1 action – at least the WTA main draw started today. Justine Henin was the only major star on the schedule today thanks to lame first round byes for every seed. Glad she made it through Magdalena Rybarikova, at least.
But who needs real, competitive matches (or say, Bacsinszky vs. Flipkens ) when you have major stars crowding the practice courts like the elderly hackers on my public courts every Saturday morning? Actually, these practice courts give you more unfettered access to your favorite stars than a regular fenced-in public facility ever could. It’s all part of the laid back charm of the California desert.
Note to Indian Wells visitors – due to the hot-blooded fans who insisted on mauling Rafa and Roger last year. . .
. . .Indian Wells has blocked off the sidewalk running between the main practice courts and the practice field this year. But there are now bleachers on the other side of the courts, making for some very comfortable viewing. So I thank the tournament for making the best out of what became an inevitable scary security situation. (Medical fact: touching Roger’s shoulder or pinching Rafa’s ass will not cure what ails you. So let’s stop treating these guys like animals in a petting zoo – or wild game on an autograph hunting safari – before we’re all forced to watch them practice via closed circuit television, okay?)
Rant over. So what did we see today?
Players punching the clock: Robin Soderling, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Kirilenko all took two practice sessions today. I heard that Rafael Nadal practiced early and played some futbol late (but unfortunately didn’t catch him in action.) I did watch Roger Federer practicing for almost two hours! I’ve never seen Roger practice for so long at this tournament – he must be wanting some extra court time after being out with the lung infection.
Roger’s practice was really entertaining. He played with young American Michael McClune (thanks, Peter!) a twenty-year-old with a huge serve and a one-handed backhand (and a whopping $52,000 in career prize money, per Wikipedia). They played some games and chatted about television during “changeovers.” Roger’s dad came by to take photos with his camera, which made me feel better about snapping shots like a desperate private detective.
Roger was in good spirits during the practice session, giggling at almost everything Severin Luthi said, moaning about his errors and laughing at Michael’s winners. As the guy behind me said “that was worth the price of admission.” ($25.00)
I may have to buy my own tickets, but one benefit of being un-credentialed is that I can ask for autographs whenever I damn well please! So after his hit, I actually stuck a crumpled corner of today’s newspaper over the fence and came away with my very own Roger Federer autograph! This is my first ever autograph by any player, so I’m feeling pretty proud. After I thanked Roger, he looked up and asked “Okay?” At which point I should have answered, “No, you missed an ‘r’” but I preferred to grin like an idiot.
But hey, even Roger’s fellow-pros are star-struck in his presence. Melanie Oudin (practicing with Lucie Safarova) and Victoria Azarenka (practicing with Fedophile Marion Bartoli, who remained oddly aloof) were on the court next to his, and kept sneaking not-so-furtive peeks. No actual pleasantries were exchanged. No autographs were signed. But I caught the evidence:
Some other practice session observations. Evgeny Korolev with Robby Ginperi. Korolev is being billed as the “new Safin” (click here). He’s a good looking guy but can he compete with Marat on the Big Sexy Russian level?
Gasquet and Gulbis were practicing together at around 11:00 a.m. Something about the two of them together just seemed. . .vulnerable. Nikolay Davydenko came out after them, with both Gulbis and Gasquet sitting court side for a brief scouting session. Oudin hit with Safarova, Azarenka with Bartoli, Kirilenko with Ivanovic (and Petrova), Rezai with Cornet, Djokovic with coach Todd Martin, and Andy Murray with Feliciano Lopez (bet mum Judy loved that one!) Go back to our homepage to check out the various photo galleries from the day.
We’ll be in the desert at least through Saturday. We’ll try to bring you more photos and reports.