Get your pompoms out: it’s World Tennis Day.
While Roger Federer, this year’s BNP Paribas Open No. 2, prepares for his Madison Square Garden exhibition against Grigor Dimitrov (No. 10), as part of the holiday, men and women qualifiers battle for a place in the main draw here in the desert.
In New York, Federer said, “Now Grigor’s an established player. He’s difficult to beat; he’s got the future ahead of him.”
Grigor admitted he was a bit nervous about his inaugural appearance at this venerated sports venue.
“Amazing experience for me. First time,” he began. “I’m not going to hide my excitement. It’s always a pleasure playing against him, but losing the last three times. That’s fine, I guess. If you put that aside, he’s a great guy off the court.”
Legends Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini will be on hand at the Garden, as well. They will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the only 5-set match recorded in the history of the women’s game. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Seles said, during the same press conference. Seles spent 178 weeks at number one, which ranks sixth overall.
Sabatini honestly spoke about her nerves, but was also quick to add, “I love New York; and, I’m excited.”
Swinging back to the Coachella Valley, Lucie Hradecka and Ana Konjuh worked hard under the penetrating desert sun in their second round of qualifying. The intensity of their games smacked the senses as fans watched aghast. What many thought they might accomplish at their local tennis clubs was quickly dispelled by the reality of what goes into match play.
Considered a Rising Star™ on the WTA Tour, 17-year-old Konjuh, seeded No. 8, had a tough time connecting with winners and holding serve. She struggled against Hradecka, seeded No. 22, who brought much more experience to Stadium Court 4 at 29 years old. It was their first meeting.
Both popped serves upwards to 115 M.P.H., but Hradecka, who holds two Grand Slam titles in doubles alongside partner Andrea Hlavackova, proved more proficient in maneuvering the ball and maintaining a competitive edge as temperatures crept toward 90 degrees. Her perseverance and keen strategies served her well, as she won, 6-4, 6-2, and advanced to the main draw.
Missing out on World Tennis Day at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens are familiar faces many wish could be here. Yesterday, wild card and 2013 runner-up, Juan Martin del Potro, pulled out – his left wrist still not steady enough for play. Lucky loser Thanasi Kokkinakis replaced him in the main draw.
Gael Monfils and David Goffin are also absent, both worn from Davis Cup action last weekend. Monfils complained of a knee injury while the Belgian grumbled about a minor rib problem.
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Petra Kvitova let tournament officials know of their absence last week. Kvitova described exhaustion while Tsonga continues to nurse a sore elbow. The Frenchman, currently ranked No. 13, has not played at all this year. His last match was a devastating loss at the hands of Stan Wawrinka during Davis Cup finals in November.
Tommy Haas, who will turn 37 next month, decided to put his return on hold, too. The Desert Sun reported that the German had not recovered enough from his most recent shoulder injury.
He hasn’t played for 14 months.
Other WTA players not on site are Dominika Cibulkova. She had surgery on her Achilles tendon recently and needs several months to rehabilitate. Casey Dellaqua has a viral illness while Irina-Camelia Begu, Laura Robson, Yaroslava Shvedova, Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai are all injured, as well.
Dominika Cibulkova (@Cibulkova) March 09, 2015
On the brighter side of the day’s celebrations, the tournament announced that Serena Williams will debut Friday the 13th, at 7 P.M. The No. 1 seed and wild card has not played Indian Wells since 2001, winning the title that year and in 1999 – her second career title and second in as many weeks. She remains the oldest number-one player, at 33.
Across the country, the International Tennis Hall of Fame announced yesterday: “Former world No. 1 and two-time major champion Amelie Mauresmo has been elected to receive the highest honor in the sport of tennis — induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.” The news broke in New York City to coordinate with World Tennis Day.
“I’m honored and humbled to be selected for induction,” Mauresmo said. “Tennis has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I extend my gratitude to the selection committee for recognizing my career in this way.”
Mauresmo coaches Andy Murray and should be here with the Scotsman, but has committed to travel with the world No. 4 for only twenty-five weeks out of the year. As a result, Murray told The Guardian yesterday, “I’d say I’m fairly close,” to a decision about a new part-time assistant. That spot had been occupied by Dani Vallverdu until he recently left to work with Tomas Berdych.
The tournament continues tomorrow, until then-
What are your thoughts on all the action on World Tennis Day? Sound off in the comments!