Okay – first of all, Rafael Nadal is not keeping the kinds of hours I’d expect of a Spaniard. Meaning, I totally missed it when he and Kim and Roger and Ana were all together on the practice courts on Thursday morning. I was still eating my breakfast! Thank goodness there are other crazed tennis fans with cameras out there who don’t sleep in like I do. Click here to check out some of the snaps. (And my apologies, Rafa fans, it’s now our MISSION – kinda like Serena and her $92K – to get some great snaps of Rafa on the courts this weekend. So stay tuned.)
When we finally did show up on-site around 11:30 am, Rafa, Kim and Co. were long gone but Roger Federer and Ivan Ljubicic were in the midst of a heated practice session. Think lots of laser-sharp one handed backhands blazing down the lines. Fed and Ljuby practiced for two full hours: 11am – 1pm. Justine Henin was hitting on the neighboring court for most of this time. It was fun to hear the crowd oohing and ahhing as much over Henin’s strokes as they did over Roger’s.
When Federer’s practice was over, he went next door to sit and chat with Justine (you do recognize the upper back portion of his head, don’t you?) Here’s how I imagine that went:
“How does it feel to be so awesome?” Roger asked.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.” Justine replied, with a hint of a smile on her lips.
Please, someone caption this:
Yes, the practice courts continued to deliver on the second day of main draw action at Indian Wells – the first day of main draw action for the ATP. Novak Djokovic hit with Fernando Verdasco in the afternoon and followed it up with some time in the gym with coach Todd Martin (I saw Todd holding down Nole’s ankles while he did sit ups, giving me flashbacks to sixth grade gym class.) Janko Tipsarevic hit with Tommy Robredo, Gilles Simon with Ivo Karlovic, Marin Cilic with Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hit with doubles partner Julien Benneteau, Gael Monfils showed us his amazing silvery eyes, Maria Sharapova made an appearance (sans boyfriend Sasha), Ferrero and Ferrer proved that they just can’t get enough of each other and Marco Baghdatis, Gaston Gaudio (yeah, Gaudio!) and Juan Monaco played a good-looking game of pick-up futbol on the practice field. Be sure to check out our homepage for tons more photos from the day.
Here are those eyes I was talking about:
I haven’t yet seen Roddick, Blake or Fish, but heard that they’ve been spotted practicing at the tony La Quinta Resort. Why so shy, dudes?
In terms of real, live, actual matches, there are two results worth noting: Melanie Oudin lost to Roberta Vinci, Mardy Fish beat Michael Berrer to set up a second round clash with Novak Djokovic, and Carlos Moya took out American qualifier Tim Smyczek. Click here for more results.
Is it possible to have too much Roger Federer during one 6 hour period? Nah. Roger returned around 3:00 pm for his second hitting session of the day, this time with Serbian player Filip Krajinovic (identified by a nice guy from St. Louis who was sitting next to me.) Krajinovic beat Gaudio in the first round of qualifying, but then lost to American Tim Smyczek, who got beat by Mardy Fish in the first round of main draw action today. I’m assuming a practice session with Roger Federer is a pretty good consolation prize.
I also had a nice chat with big-time Fed Fanatic, Kathy, who will be sharing some really interesting tidbits on the now-famous “Genius At Work” banner with us this week. With some help inside help, Kathy arranged to present the second version of the banner to the Genius, himself, today – after it’s traveled from tournament to tournament picking up signatures from Federer fans around the world! We’ll be publishing her story soon, so keep an eye out.
Now some travel notes to my fellow Indian Wells attendees who will be showing up this weekend: The chicken pita sandwich at John’s (in the IW food court) is surprisingly tasty. The BBQ stand near the main stadium won’t kill you, either. Hang out by the West Gate entrance near the practice field to watch your fave players come in and out of the venue – some, like Sam Stosur, may stop for a photograph with you. Nearby the West Gate is the outdoor extension of the players’ lounge, where you can spy Rafa eating cookies or (more likely) coaches on smoke breaks. Stop by the Tennis Warehouse tent to see when the next autograph session will be. Be sure to pull out the “BNP Paribas Open” section of the Desert Sun newspaper which will likely be delivered to your hotel room door. Not only does it have interviews and news from the tournament, it also includes the draw and the day’s order of play. Oh, and even though I’m about 85% positive that I spotted Francesca Schiavone eating there, Babe’s BBQ restaurant near Palm Springs is pretty mediocre. Don’t be fooled by the outdoor fireplace and bronze pigs flanking the entrance. I have yet to find a divine, reasonably priced restaurant in the Palm Springs area (there are some good not-so-reasonable places.) Any suggestions?