Sunday, March 10, 2013

Afternoon in Indian Wells...I am Hot

Notes on a hot afternoon at Indian Wells...

--- The heat has turned up a bit here at Indian Wells, both literally and figuratively. Figuratively, the matches have been closer and there have been a number of near upsets. But literally, I am now officially sweating profusely after going to The Outer Courts. It seemed to make sense at the time. Our blog is called "The Outer Courts", so we go out to the Outer Courts, watch a match and relive the experience. Unfortunately that means spending time in the "elements" which translates into baking in the desert sun. While the weather at Indian Wells is perfect in the shade (80 degrees and breezy), when sitting with the sun on your face and denim covering part of your body (tomorrow will definitely be a shorts day), the novelty of watching a match on Court 7 quickly dissipates. Nothing against my good friends (see again, we tennis media have to say that the players are our friends) Alexandr (the "e" is not needed, nor wanted) Dolgopolov and Carlos Berlocq, but after a hour, I had to leave the bleachers from which I was watching their impressive rallies. The sun shining bright is great in theory, but only in very small doses.

--- I have however been able to see a number of very good matches. Stadium Court One opened with the return of Mardy Fish, who got a big victory over fellow American Bobby Reynolds. Over the course of two hours, the match had that usual ebb and flow that  I have noticed in tennis among those not in the big four (person wins set one, plays poorly in set two and the battle is set three), and it was great to see a somewhat emotional Fish get the victory. After the match, he spoke of battling the demons in his head, a problem I am not sure one hears too many athletes acknowledge. I have no idea beyond the physical issues just what Fish has going on in his head, but I am now even more determined to root for him as he moves on to the next round.  We bloggers also have to deal with the demons as well, although it is usually more mundane issues such as faulty wireless internet or excess flatulence by the people we are sitting around (there is a man in this room who is wearing large sun glasses, thigh-revealing shorts and a baseball cap, who passes more gas than Enron and seems oblivious to the disgusting smells emanating from his body...if he weren't old, I would be upset).  But I salute any athlete who will acknowledge the same and show vulnerability in a world where few will do the same.

---  Andy Murray had a bit of a scare from Russian Evgeny Donskoy, who took the first set from the British star and had Stadium One in a bit of a buzz. Donskoy played with aggression, hitting multiple great passing shots and putting Murray on notice. But the reigning US Open winner settled down, found his game and was able to take the last two sets rather comfortably. The first set won by Donskoy may have been the best tennis I have seen since I have been here and it is unquestionably the highlight of the on-court action. During the changeovers, the Indian Wells DJ seemed to agree and decided it was the perfect time to break out the world-class jams to mark the occasion, giving the entire Stadium a treat with C&C Music Factory's timeless classic "Gonna Make You Sweat." With Finesse Williams' vocals as inspiration, Donskoy and Murray carried the Stadium to a classic first set, before bowing to the inevitable in the last two. Evgeny may have not gotten a win, but he and the Indian Wells crowd will all have those few moments when it looked like he would get a win and we all thought we were seeing a "Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm."

--- Finally, a shout out goes to Maria Kirilenko, who won a nearly three hour battle over American Mallory Burdette in the scorching hot sun of Stadium Three. I caught the third set of action and Kirilenko was a rock, returning shot after shot consistently, taking advantage of Burdette's impatience on big points. Kirilenko (who is officially my Indian Wells crush) had a loud fan section, including 8-10 guys dressed in club attire and wearing enough hair gel to support an extended season of "The Jersey Shore." Their shirts were tight, their pants were black and their sunglasses were douchey, but they provided a great deal of support as Maria fought to the victory. After the match, she acknowledged them by hitting a signed tennis ball in their direction, but she ignored me, the blogging fan who wanted her to win, but also wanted to dress not like I was heading to Tao. Being from Kentucky, I may never grab Kirilenko's heart like this hard beat-driving group of young men, but I do want her to know if she is reading this, Maria my admiration is just as strong, even if my sweater is not at as tight.

Djokovic is next. We shall return....