Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rafael Nadal vs Ryan Harrison LIVE BLOG

COME JOIN THE PARTY as we cover an event live!

Meeting Roger Federer

Enjoying a little lunch with my good friend Roger Federer

There are very few people left in this world that I consider to be transcendent stars. By that, I mean someone who when you see them, you can't help but become nervous due to the realization that this is a person on a completely different stratosphere of fame. In today's media saturated culture, being famous does not equate to being talented (see the Kardashians, Ke$ha or most members of the New York Jets). Plus many of those in the public eye are now ubiquitous, able to be seen everywhere and at all times. But there are a few people that due to their talent, fame and overall aura, stand above the regular crowd. They are worldwide celebrities, those that could go anywhere on the planet and immediately be recognized and celebrated. Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Prince, Madonna, Bono, are just a few of these people, individuals who create a different level of "wow, there they are!," whenever they are seen.

In the sport of tennis, there is no one with more of that "it" factor than Roger Federer. In part because of his status as one of the elite handful to ever play the game and in part due to his personality that often leads him to shy away from interviews and public appearances, Federer is the rare star that is both famous and a bit unknown. That is why today when I found myself eating lunch beside him, I became a bit excited.  I have been fortunate over the years in my college sports coverage to meet most of the big names in that arena and I thought I passed the point where I would be shaken by the sight of any athlete. But while enjoying my turkey panini (one thing you can say about tennis events, they do well with the food) at lunch, I looked up and noticed Roger Federer sitting five feet away from me. I called Drew, told him to bring the camera, and thought that this could be a chance to get a picture that I could keep forever.

But as I waited on Drew to arrive, it occurred to me that I had to do better than simply a picture. What does a picture with a famous person say beyond "hey I bumped into this guy and had him stand next to me uncomfortably so that I could savor the moment we bumped into each other for eternity." No, I wanted something else, something bigger and more unique, that would suggest to Roger and all who heard it, "The Outer Courts" have arrived. Because Kentucky had just completed its college basketball game today (a huge win over the Florida Gators that could put the Cats in the Tournament and had us rocking in the media room), I was obliged to do a UK Postgame Show that is syndicated across the state of Kentucky. It is basically a hour long show in which fans call in and either moan a bad performance or, in the case of today, celebrate a huge win. So why not take advantage of this unprecedented moment and create what I am confident has never before taken place, Roger Federer on a college basketball Postgame Show. 

So how was I to make this moment happen?  Federer had a small entourage around him (although to be fair, it was much smaller and significantly more polite than the entourages of many significantly less decorated tennis players), and I had the feeling that as they listened to me talking, they were growing skeptical of my intentions. Roger simply wants to eat a salad and doesn't want to be bothered by two yokels from Kentucky trying to get him to talk. So maybe if I didn't ask for an interview (he would never want to waste that time) and simply just asked for a quick soundbite, then he would agree. Maybe if he just said "Go Cats!", I would be happy, the state of Kentucky would be happy and he would only be slightly annoyed. As I got my courage up, I asked Drew the percentage chance Federer would yes. He went with a very optimistic (in my eyes) 4%.

As the Postgame Show went to its first break, I stood up meekly, showcasing none of the "fortune favors the bold" mentality that I utilize in my daily life. There was something about asking not just a tennis player, but a Hall of Fame superstar that was making me nervous. What if he was angry and gave me an evil eye? What if he had me kicked out? What if Tennis Channel went off the air because of the outrage of my interruption of his nice salad with cranberries and walnuts? All of these questions ran through my head, but I still proceeded to his table and said meekly, "Roger, I don't mean to bother you but (actually this was a lie...clearly I meant to bother him as I was currently bothering him), I am doing a radio show for UK basketball in Kentucky and I was wondering if you could just say 'Go Cats!' to the fans." He looked at me with a slight smile as one of his entourage members said, "are they a Nike school?"  That was an issue I never even imagined could matter, but luckily for me, Kentucky represents the swoosh. When I answered in the affirmative, Roger said, "sure, I would be glad to."

SCORE!  We came back from break and I told my audience that I had a surprise for them and live from Indian Wells was tennis star Roger Federer, who took my phone and said, "Hello radio guys, Go Cats!" You can hear his comments at the link below:

Yes, I know in theory I am supposed to be a professional journalist. And in theory, I shouldn't care about meeting a player or get starstruck at five words from another human being. But you know what, theory goes out the window in circumstances like this. For the first time in a long time, I was genuinely nervous and excited about meeting someone I have always admired. And unlike other times when I have met those I admired from afar (I am looking at you Michael Jordan), this time the star couldn't have been nicer and more accommodating. In a tennis world where many I have met have done all they could to avoid external communication and showcasing even the most basic politeness, the biggest star of all was willing to help a Kentuckian out and be a hero to the Big Blue Nation. That counts as a major highlight of the Indian Wells experience and a reason to once again tip my hat to the great Roger Federer.

Redfoo Gets Some Kicks In With Djokovic

When he's not party rockin' in the house tonight, Redfoo enjoys a friendly game of soccer at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. 

The LMFAO party rocker and boyfriend to Victoria Azarenka got in some kicks with Novak Djokovic, the current No. 1 tennis player in the world, during a friendly match in an open field outside Stadium 1.

You can see Redfoo in the photo shaking hands with some of the other competitors after a heartbreaking loss.

Know Your Underdog: Denis Istomin

As the sport's top-ranked stars hit the courts today in these early stages of the BNP Paribas Open, the tournament's lesser-known players have the opportunity to defy the odds and advance to Round 3 when almost everyone expects them to lose.  Today, we'll get to know these underdogs as they face the uphill battle of standing across the net from the greats.  

Up first, Denis Istomin... 

Denis Istomin

Age: 26

Born: Orenburg, Russia

Height: 6 ft. 2 in.

Weight: 180 lbs.

Plays: Right-handed


Record: 95-97

Tiles: 0

Highest Ranking: No. 33 (August 2012)

Current Ranking: No. 45

Today's Opponent

(2) Roger Federer

How He Got Here

Defeated qualifier Vasek Pospisil 7-6 6-3 in the opening round

Last Meeting w/ Federer

2012 London Olympics, lost 7-5, 6-3

The Rundown

Istomin and Federer have met three times over their tennis careers and Istomin has yet to win a set.  Today, he'll look to upset second-ranked Federer in their fourth meeting in the second round of the 2013 BNP Paribas Open.

We just saw No. 4 David Ferrer go down to South Africa's Kevin Anderson, so the upset Gods are out and active in Indian Wells.

Can Istomin make it two?

It's unlikely, but we'll know soon once John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt wrap things up here on Court 1.

We're Ready For An Exciting Saturday At The BNP Paribas Open

Good morning/afternoon!

Matt and I are posted up in the media room in the closest unclaimed seat to the lone power outlet and we're ready for an exciting day of tennis.  Today is the first day of action to feature more than two or three tennis players we're familiar with, so we're very excited to see what the sport's superstars have in store for us on this gorgeous Saturday in the second-largest tennis stadium in the world.

We're already in a great mood after our Kentucky Wildcats won a potential tournament-clinching basketball game on Senior Day, now it's time to devour a yogurt parfait from the cafeteria and get ready for a long day of Masters 1000 tennis.

Madison Keys and Samantha Stosur open things up in the first match of the day on the big stage, followed by John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt in the never-ending tale of America versus Australia.  If it were up to us, the winning nation would be awarded Keith Urban's citizenship.  But I'm not sure we have that kind of pull, yet.

We'll check back with you soon after a brief meeting with our new co-workers from Tennis Channel.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ivo Karlovic Is Great At Tennis, Better At Twitter

I have a confession, friends.  I'm slightly obsessed with Ivo Karlovic.  The 34-year-old Croatian tennis sensation just defeated American up-and-comer Jack Sock, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, to advance to a second round matchup with Sam Querrey.

But the come-from-behind victory has very little to do with my new obsession with Karlovic.  His world record for fastest serve?  Impressive, but not all that interesting to me.  

I'm on Team Karlovic for his sense of humor on Twitter, which I discovered while researching him after taking in his match with Sock from courtside.  

Leave the rackets and tennis balls aside, Ivo Karlovic is my new favorite tennis player for his personality. 

There is so much to learn about it him from his presence on social media:

He enjoys the Sesame Street R&B album:

And his daughter has complete control over the television at home, apparently.

He knows his way around the kitchen:

But he can't do too much at once or his brain will explode.

He prefers versatile socks:

Don't you dare try to tell him which is left and which is right.

He will wish awful things upon you if you disrupt him on an airplane.

Yeah, he went there.

He likes... books?

Yeah, books.  Right.

He produces music videos with his mind:

You could be the star of his latest production and never even know it.

Don't beep at him while he's listening to music and using telepathy in his car:

You'll get outlasted when the middle fingers come out.

He's innovative:

It's brilliant!  Someone get the Ivo Karlovic Electric Soup Blower in production right away!

He believes Snoop Dogg is full of it:

He, somehow, some way, keeps coming up with funky [expletive] like every single day.

Do yourself a favor and follow Ivo on Twitter.  He won't disappoint you, I promise.

Some Mid-Day Notes from Indian Wells

Your two humble bloggers with Tennis Channel's Lindsay Davenport, one of the nicest people we have met here at Indian Wells

Today has been an excellent day of action so far in the desert, as we have become settled into our media surroundings, while also catching some great tennis action. A few notes from the rather cold afternoon:

--- Today has once again convinced me that tennis truly is a star sport. Virtually all action and movement at Indian Wells is based upon where the stars are at any given moment.  Specifically, the action and movement across the grounds follows the "Big 4" of the men's game, Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray. Throughout the event, wherever huge throngs of people gather, inevitably something is happening with one of these individuals. See a massive group of humans standing in a circle in the middle of a field?  Well it must the Big Four dawning construction hats dedicating the beginning of a new stadium construction:

Are people packed four deep at a practice court straining their neck to view someone practicing volleys?  Well then Rafael Nadal must be getting his pre-match workout on Practice Court 6. Even though action is occurring everywhere simultaneously across the ground, simply seeing one of tennis's stars is a primary objective of a large portion of the people here. And along those lines, the most valued piece of currency inside the walls of Indian Wells is one of those massive oversized tennis balls for which autographs can be obtained. I am convinced that there is a large segment of the Indian Wells crowd that comes and sees no match, but simply walks around hoping to catch a lock of Roger Federer's hair blowing in the wind. For those people, today's first round match between Bjorn Phau and Alejandro Falla (a barnburner on Court 6 that I missed due to a fairly spectacular yogurt parfait I found in the cafeteria) is of no interest. There is a possibility that Andy Murray may be walking to his car, and all focus must be spent on capturing that moment.

--- Today I consciously tried to get someone, anyone not associated with Tennis Channel to talk to me, and I failed miserably. At lunch, I sat next to a group of people dressed in tennis gear, which at this tournament can mean that they are anything from a player in the field to an low-level entourage member assigned to pick the blueberries out of a player's fruit cup, and did all that I could to get them to say anything, even if it were an obscenity, in my direction. I asked to borrow a chair, commented on the weather and even laughed heartily at one of their bad jokes not aimed at me, hoping to win them over. Nothing however could make them deviate from their primary mission, to ignore me at all costs. I then moved to a table of eight for the sole purpose of hoping that someone in the crowded eating space would be forced to come and speak to me and Drew, due to nothing more than a lack of seating options. Finally, a woman came over with a food tray in hand asked if we cared if she joined us.  She was dressed warmly (a sign that she might be choosing comfort over fashion) and her big smile suggested friendliness, leading me to say, "why of are more than welcome!" The woman then reached over, took the table and pulled it ten feet away from us so she could sit by herself and not be connected, even by an eating counter, with the two Kentucky bloggers. The possibility of communication with anyone at this tournament outside of Drew continues to grow less likely. But I am determined and will not give up.

---  Drew and I left the cozy confines of the Media Room at Stadium One and wandered over to Stadium Two to check out the tournament debut of one Jack Sock. Now you probably know that Sock is one of the most promising young American tennis players on the scene and a potential rising star in the field. But honestly, Drew and I wanted to see him less for these superlatives, than for the fact his name was gloriously, Jack Sock (it is the same reason that I initially became friends with a man in my hometown named Dick Tamer...I am very juvenile and easy to please).  I had been warned that if we kept hanging around Jack Sock, we would go blind, but I was not to be deterred, and Sock's match with Ivo Karlovic did not disappoint. Karlovic possesses an unbelievably strong serve and even though Sock clearly had the crowd on his side, he became rattled during a tiebreaker in the second set and was then run over by the Croatian in the third set. The match was my first lesson in how one's on-court behavior can have lead to adverse results for players in hostile situations. Sock became crusty at the umpire after a couple of close calls and let his frustration have a detrimental effect on his play. While the 34 year old veteran stayed calm and carried on, Jack Sock became stiff and was unable to hit the big shots, including missing a backhand down the line on match point. Sock let a potential huge win slip away from him and the elder statesman Karlovic moved onto the next round. The happiest person in the stadium was the elderly man in the "Alaska...Established in 1959" hat sitting next to us who said, "I like don't have to be an American to be a good person." So true, and yet so wise.

We are on a break now before Agnieszka Radwanska and the Bryan Brothers take the court tonight. I am off to find some dinner and give yet another attempt at human interaction. See you soon...

Live From Stadium One...It's Time to Party!

Day 2 of the BNP Paribas Open is underway! I admit that I feel a bit cheated as part of my excitement about coming to Indian Wells was the supposed perfect atmosphere, where I assumed it is always 80 degrees, sunny and beautiful women are galavanting around the premises, while smiling at you with knowing glances. As of now, it has generally been cloudy, chilly and the beautiful women I have seen have all been grunting while pounding a tennis ball as a slightly angry coach with a 5 o'clock shadow screams at them in the background. But that doesn't change my excitement about today. I am posted on Court One, where we will have appearances from Maria Sharapova, James Blake, Agnieszka Radwanska and the Bryan Brothers. But that is later, first we have a battle of two warriors attempting to make waves, Pablo Andujar of Spain and American Steve Johnson, currently on hiatus from his duties with the Buffalo Bills. With that type of start to the day, a Running Diary seems in order:

11:01 am: Stadium One here at Indian Wells has a smartly dressed MC, who comes out onto the court prior to the match to try and get the crowd energized about the action ahead. He lets us know that today Stadium One will be "the place to be!" as the action will heat up a rather cold morning. As he introduces the players, the Indian Wells DJ cranks "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones so loudly that a woman in front of me jumps and tells her husband "why does everything have to be so noisy?"  Very good question ma'am.

11:13 am: The match kicks off with a loud round of applause for local boy Steve Johnson. Johnson played his college tennis at USC, where he was imminently more successful than Lane Kiffin, but likely paid far less. He has a strong base of support here and they are somewhat rowdy...or at least as rowdy as one can be at eleven in the morning, while sitting in 55 degree wind gusts. Johnson comes out wearing a loud lime green shirt, while Andujar is in all white, refusing to embrace the spirit of the party atmosphere of Stadium One. Advantage Johnson.

11:21 am: Johnson kicks off the match with an early break and the crowd erupts with excitement. I notice that the USC graduate is sporting some snazzy neon green shoes that from this distance seem like the type of thing that I would like to own. This desire to purchase tennis apparel seems to be a common theme for Drew and me throughout our time here at Indian Wells. We have become enamored with what I would call "pro tennis fashion," dry-fit clothes in bright colors that exude both explosive personality and a laid-back, casual vibe. They are exactly the opposite from anything I would ever wear in Kentucky, but since I have been here, I have purchased three such shirts and one pullover. It is the equivalent of when I drove through Texas and bought a custom cowboy hat that has left my closet exactly one time since that trip. You are in Texas and think, "man, women seem to love cowboy hats and they do shape my head well." But then you get home and realize that wearing a cowboy hat in public generally does little but elicit a number of quizzical stares. I fear the same fate may be forthcoming for my new bright pink Roger Federer Nike shirt, but for now, I will remain caught up in the moment.

11:37 am: Early on, Johnson is controlling the match, with Andujar unable to do anything with the Trojan's serve. I decided to do a little research on Andujar and ended up finding this writeup on (which by the way is previewing every match in this Tournament...quite a feat and this is the type of thing that separates this site from its competitors such as TennisMercury and TennisNeptune). In the preview, the post notes that Andujar is currently ranked #46 in the world and is primarily a clay court specialist. However in discussing his chances, TennisEarth states, "Andujar comes into this match with 2-7 win-loss record, indicating the problems the Spaniard has had in stringing together match wins."  This is something I have noticed about tennis journalism in my short time in the field. People are very hesitant to ever say someone is playing poorly or may simply not be talented, but instead use terms such as having problems "stringing together match wins." Look no offense to my friend Pablo (another thing I have noticed in tennis, we all are supposed to say we are friends), but he is 2-7 on the year. "Stringing together match wins" might be easier if he wins the first one more often.

Steve Johnson during his USC days

11:44 am: Johnson breaks Andjuar again and wins the first set 6-2. The Stadium One DJ celebrates by busting out "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.  At this very moment, the Indian Wells janitorial crew has decided that they must mop in the exact area where I am sitting. Even though there is literally no one else in the outdoor media seating area, the spot directly under my feet apparently necessitates attention immediately. The man ringing out the mop water (which is one of the more disgusting sounds imaginable to the human ear), begins casually whistling Mraz's song as he does his work. I think that should become the artist's new slogan..."Jason you can mop to."

11:58 am: The second set has begun and Andujar gets an early break, seizing the momentum from Steve Johnson and his USC entourage. As a long-time viewer of the sport, I have always been amazed at how quickly momentum can swing in a match, especially one involving some of the lower tier players. If a person had only watched the first set, you would think Steve Johnson was a 2013 rising star, serving hard, quicker to the ball and wearing much brighter colors, while Andujar looked like a 80s relic, dressed in all white, not even wearing a hat and with shorts that showcase a bit too much of his thighs. But now Andujar is moving with a purpose, Johnson looks frustrated and another unforced error gives Pablo a 4-1 lead in the second set. The guy next to me responds to the change by continuing to mop and whistle Jason Mraz.

12:08 pm: And just as dominantly as he won the first set, Johnson goes down 6-1 in the second. He seems completely rattled, partially I am sure by the incessant mopping, but also because of the improved play of Andujar. I ask the guy seated next to me what he thinks of Andujar's comeback and he gives me the "who are you and why are you talking to me" look that has become the regular response to all attempts at communication by me. So I simply offer the thought, "he seems much more energetic." My seat neighbor turns away and chooses to watch the mopping rather than engage me in this important bit of conversation.

12:22 pm: With the third set tied 1-1, a ball just skidded off of Johnson's racket on a key point and went deep into the crowd. A woman who I will kindly call "pleasantly plump" had the good fortune to see the ball land at her feet. I immediately felt happy for her as this had become the lady's lucky day. She came to a tennis tournament (seemingly by herself as she is seated three rows away from the nearest human being), and she has the good fortune to have a ball off the racket of former USC star Steve Johnson's racket land in her lap! She now has a souvenir to last a lifetime and a story to tell her grandchildren about when they are wanting to be bored to tears. What a moment! But instead of embracing her good fortune, she stares a gift horse in the mouth and instead attempts to throw the ball back on the court, seemingly worried that Indian Wells has tennis balls on short supply. The baffling decision was made even better when her attempt at reaching the court (she was approximately 20 rows up in the stands) was thwarted by her weak arm, leading to her pegging a woman sitting in the front row on the back of the head. The woman stood up seemingly outraged, but with little outlet for her now righteous anger. She paid good money to sit courtside for Johnson-Andujar and now she is getting pelted in the back of the head with tennis balls from ungrateful commoners above! Without question, my favorite moment of the match.

The Indian Wells Media members actually watching the match right now are me and this guy taking pictures

12:37 pm: This match has become quite intense. Tied 3-3, the players are all giving maximum effort and the Johnson-contingent has become quite vocal. Most of the media members in the media lounge, which is located conveniently right above the Stadium One court and could provide perfect access to watch actual tennis, have responded to the on-court excitement by talking about today's lunch menu. If there is one thing I have learned so far about the tennis media, they seem to watch absolutely no matches at any point. A British reporter who is sitting near me has not looked up from his computer in two days, and seems to be spending most of his time reviewing the various overcoat options online. The vibe here is very laissez-faire, with very few people seeming to care about anything except (a) the time of the next meal and (b) whether anyone is in their seat. Actual tennis viewing is not a requirement.

12:43 pm: "Her name was Lola...She was a Showgirl....With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there!" The Stadium One DJ is feeling it!

12:51 pm: After going up Love-30 with a chance to break Pablo at 4-4 and get a victory, our favorite USC Trojan since Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner just lost four straight points to drop the game and remain on serve. It is clearly a match-changing moment and Johnson responds by throwing his racket to the ground, causing an audible gasp from this very pro-Johnson crowd. I am afraid he may have bent the racket's frame, which could cause him to have to replace it, and seriously detract from the shirt-shoes-racket matching colors vibe he has going right now. A potentially crucial mistake.

12:57 pm: Andujar breaks and steals the match. In front of a hostile crowd and in freezing temperatures, Pablo runs off three straight points to disappoint the California masses and get the victory.  In the post-match interview Andujar thanks the crowd for supporting him (which they didn't) and for being such good fans. This is why I couldn't be a professional tennis player. If I were Pablo, my post-match interview would have gone like this:

"Yes I am glad I won, but let me tell you something, it was no thanks to this crowd. What have I done to you people? I come over here, play hard and even wear traditional white to this event. And what do you people do? You root for the guy in green that threw his racket, just because he happened to be born in the continental United States. What happened to the open-minded America I read about in my Social Studies books? And even worse, you had the audacity to force me to listen to Jason Mraz between points to try and distract me with his winning voice and catchy beats. Pablo knows your game. So yeah give me your polite applause, but I know you wanted Steve to win...but guess what, HE DIDN'T AND I DID!" 

drops the mic and exits to thunderous jeering. But that is why I don't play tennis.

1:05 pm:  All in all, a good way to start our second day here at Indian Wells. A solid three set match and now we have a clean floor in our seating area. More fun I am sure is to come.

Recently Discovered Photos From Nadal's Recovery has obtained three exclusive photos from Rafael Nadal's seven-month hiatus from tennis as he recovered from a knee injury.  The photos were discovered in Nadal's bag during his Bag Check for Tennis Channel late Thursday evening.

The three Polaroid photos capture Nadal fishing in various parts of the world, something he said he did a lot of while away from the game he loves.  The two-time champion at Indian Wells told reporters in his pre-tournament press conference yesterday that more time to go fishing was one of the positives from his injury. 

It looks like he really enjoyed himself during his rehabilitation.

Nadal's first match back on the hardcourt will be Saturday versus American Ryan Harrison.

10 Things To Know About Indian Wells, California

The view from the hotel balcony this morning.

Nestled below the Santa Rosa Mountains and just a short drive from The Land of a Thousand Windmills, Indian Wells is California's oasis of luxury in the middle of the desert.  The pride of Riverside County is a popular getaway spot for Americans and Canadians alike, and it's the home to a number of celebrities, the retired, and, of course, the BNP Paribas Open.

While the popular Masters 1000 ATP tennis tournament is still in its early stages in the Coachella Valley, let's get you up to speed on the city it has resided in for almost forty years.

Here are 10 things to know about Indian Wells, California, written by someone who has spent almost 36 hours of his life in Indian Wells, California.


1.) Five thousand people call Indian Wells home.

Of those 5,000+ residents, over half are 65 years of age or older.*  That tells me most everyone in Indian Wells is early to bed and early to rise, and driving 40 MPH in the fast lane with the left blinker on is as common as finding a Werther's Original candy wrapper on the nightstand. 

* Based on statistics from the 2010 census and me pretending to know statistics since 2010.

2.) It's a lot prettier than Kentucky.

I was born in Kentucky, grew up in Kentucky, and still live in Kentucky today.  So you can only imagine how many pictures I've posted to Instagram since landing in Southern California. 

It's beautiful out here.

3.) Indian Wells has the second-highest percentage of registered Republicans of any city in California.

Lots of Terminator and Kindergarten Cop fans, I guess.

4.) It used to be where tribes would get their water.

But you could've figured that one out on your own.

It's in the name, silly.  Sound it out.

5.) Frank Sinatra and Sonny Bono are buried in nearby Cathedral City.

The epitaph on Bono's headstone reads, "And The Beat Goes On."  Bono was the mayor of Palm Springs, the windmill capital of the world, from 1988-1992.

6.) The city boasts three award-winning golf courses.

Finding a tee time in Indian Wells shouldn't be a problem if you get the urge to swing the sticks.  There are almost a dozen golf courses in Indian Wells, three of which proudly bear the "award-winning" tag, plus many, many more options for a round of 18 in the surrounding area.

Fix your divots, please.

7.) It gets less than six inches of rain per year.

And the forecast calls for rain today, our first full day of online coverage with Tennis Channel.

It would only happen to us.

8.) The Indian Wells Resort Hotel was founded by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 1957.

If you stay anywhere else, you'll have some 'splainin' to do!

(Sorry, that was terrible.)

9.) It was one of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's favorite vacation spots.

General Ike used to frequent Indian Wells when he wanted to escape the stresses of the real world, like invading foreign countries and commanding NATO.

Eisenhower loved Indian Wells so much, he made it his winter residence.

10.) Indian Wells Tennis Garden's stadium court is the second-largest tennis specific stadium in the world.

Only Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City can seat more tennis fans than Indian Wells Tennis Garden.  Indian Wells seats 16,100 to Arthur Ashe's 23,200 for the U.S. Open.

But Indian Wells is better and we'll be reporting - I use that word very loosely - from the BNP Paribas Open for the next week here at The Outer Courts blog on

Stick around for more once they start swinging the racquets here in a few hours.

Some Thoughts on Day One

Day One is in the books here at Indian Wells and it has been filled with a variety of new experiences/observations that I have found interesting. The play on the court was somewhat lackluster (the only match of the day that truly captivated my attention was the first one with 16 year old Taylor Townsend getting an upset victory, but more on that tomorrow), but the observations off were anything but. A few notes:

--- I attended my first tennis press conference of my life today, and it was a doozy. Rafael Nadal was brought before the world's scribes and asked approximately 700 questions about the state of his recovering knee. The tennis media (a group that seems to consist of primarily two types of people, those that are complaining loudly about something and those that are eating) understandably wanted to probe Nadal about the state of his knee post-rehab and the possible effect of its first encounter with hard courts. However Nadal, whose facial expression throughout seemed to be that of a man perpetually smelling a fart, understandably had little to say on the subject except that he was glad to be back, hoped that his knee would hold up and wanted to play well. But such straightforward statements don't lead to interesting tennis writing, so the media members began asking the question in different ways, all of which were designed to get a winning quote. It culminated in a woman from the back row raising her hand and telling Nadal that she is doing a story on tennis players and the food they ate as a child in comparison to the food they are eating now (what I am sure will be a riveting read that could completely revolutionize the world of child tennis nutrition journalism). While Nadal didn't give the answer that I would have (my blogging training became much better after I gave up Fruit Roll-ups as an adult), he did essentially acknowledge that he didn't have a great chance to win here at Indian Wells, as he wasn't in a place yet to beat the world's best. I liked the honesty. People always try to tell you that so long as you put your mind to it and give something your best shot, you can win. But those people are wrong. Most people honestly have no shot of winning anything, and embarrass themselves by even trying. Today the man with the best hair in pro sports acknowledged that very important fact.

--- Speaking of hair, there isn't a group of people in America with better hair than those roaming around the ATP tour.  Granted, as someone who has perpetually dealt with a cow lick that simply will not sit down on the back of his head without extra strength adhesive, I have always had hair envy for those whose hair style can go beyond my "cut and hope" philosophy. But the men walking around these tennis matches do take it to another level. I can understand Nadal and the other top European players, who have long flowing locks that somehow magically don't move an inch after two hours of running full steam in the desert heat. They are superstars and have only two things to do each day, hit a tennis ball precisely and keep their hair well manicured. But at these matches, the coaches, entourage members and even some media folks all have exquisite hair as well. Our boss for Tennis Channel's website spends his whole day working on digital issues, and as anyone who has ever worked in a building with an IT department knows, there is no profession in the world with worse hair than those in computers. And yet even he walks around looking like he is auditioning for a French shampoo commercial. I expected to come to Indian Wells and be out of place for many reasons, but it didn't occur to me that my lack of perfectly coiffed hair would be one of them.

--- The Taco Bell here in Indian Wells serves breakfast.  To be honest, the idea of Taco Bell breakfast makes me feel the physical equivalent of this media member's shirt I saw today:

Quite frankly, I focused on this guy's shirt all day. It may have been the worst one I have ever seen.

However Drew on the other hand has never seemed happier. He has literally mentioned this to me three times since he first discovered it a couple of hours ago. Our entire weekend schedule is now being adjusted so that he can have Taco Bell breakfast before the day's matches.  I can't imagine it is anything but repulsive, but I will report back after our trip.

--- Finally, it is clear the biggest culture shock that Drew and I must work through over the next few days is that of communication style. We live in Kentucky, a place where people have never met a stranger. It is common custom in the Bluegrass state that if you are passing someone in close quarters, you always say hello, give a smile or a nod and potentially even start up a conversation about whatever is on your mind (it is usually basketball, bourbon or whatever crazy chick happens to be on that season of "The Bachelor"). I have found this is not the case at Indian Wells.  Speaking to those that you do not know seems to be specifically discouraged at all professional tournaments.  Multiple times today, I would look at someone I had never met and give a jovial greeting such as "hello", "how are you today" or "my you are quite tan for someone your age."  Inevitably, all such salutations were received with a look of concern and often a shifting of whatever belongings the person had to the side of their body opposite of me. I am a talkative person and like nothing more than meeting new people and hearing their stories. This is especially true at a place such as Indian Wells, where there are literally people from all over the world together in one spot. I dreamed of the possibility of meeting someone from say, Latvia, and me telling them about the Kentucky Derby and Ashley Judd, while they tell me about all the wonderful things in Latvia (the official Latvian website says the country is proud of being famous for "lampreys, sweet and sour bread, caraway cheese and beer"...maybe we could talk about that, although I would hope we could move on to something else quickly).  Instead, what I usually get is a person wearing some form of tennis apparel staring at me awkwardly and looking to be one step from calling security. It seems such a waste to have so many people from all over and yet no cultural exchange. Drew and I are going to try and fix this asap.

Thats all for tonight. Friday, we are going to go to actual matches, meet tennis rock stars the Bryan Brothers and try to get someone to talk to us. It should be fun.  See you then. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Indian Wells...We Have Arrived

As I walked into the tent marked "Credentials", I noticed the sweetest woman working the desk. She was in her 60s, blessed with the combination of bright white teeth and faded tan skin that suggests a life full of either leisure or great stories (or both). Having never attended a tennis tournament as a member of the working media, I approached the table slowly, trying to make sure I was in the right line. The woman looked at me and said, "And what is your name?" I told her I was Matt Jones, gave her a copy of my Kentucky driver's license and continued to attempt my number one mission for Day One of the BNP Paribas Open, not make anyone mad. She glanced at it, looked at me and then said with a warm smile, "you have never done this before have you?" And just like the last time that question was posed to me (Forrer Dormitory, Freshman Year, Transylvania University), the answer was an obvious yes. 

The naivete that was oozing out of my pores at the Media Credential check-in here at Indian Wells is for good reason. I have never covered a major tennis tournament before. I grew up playing tennis (if you are wondering who the Kentucky 13th Region Doubles Runner-Up team was during my Junior and Senior year at Middlesboro High School, look no further), and still enjoy the sport from afar, but my background has not been covering the pro game. Drew Franklin (the other person who will be posting on this blog) and I actually cover Kentucky athletics at our home site, For the past eight years, we have obsessed about every move of Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie and John Calipari, but have tried to cover it with our founding slogan in mind, "the most ridiculous manner possible." Now we are bringing that view to tennis and writing for Tennis Channel, beginning here at Indian Wells.

Now to be honest, if your vision of tennis writing is a breakdown of the mechanics of a serve, the angles in a point or anything having to do with tennis string tension, then we may not be your best source. But if you have always wondered what goes on behind the scenes in a tennis tournament, what players have interesting stories to tell or photoshops of what Rafael Nadal might have done on his fishing trip this winter, then this blog is for you.

Above is the first example of our goal, as early this morning we ran into Nadal as he was leaving the practice courts. As young women screamed at him, in screeching high voices that made local dogs scramble in panic, I snapped the picture of him heading into the locker room. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my blog cohort Drew was in the background with the unconscious photobomb, ignoring the Hall of Fame tennis player beside him, and instead standing bowlegged and staring obliviously at the flowers. It is the perfect picture to encapsulate in visual form the writing, pictures and videos we will be bringing to your enjoyment of Indian Wells.

We will begin now and continue over the course of the next six days here at the BNP Paribas Open. The tournament is world-class, the weather is great and the tennis will be excellent, We will do our best to keep pace, all the while doing it in "the most ridiculous manner possible." Thanks for reading.