#5 Francesca Schiavone
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Day 4 on Stadium-2 was Francesca Schiavone’s first win of 2014 – a 3-set fight with Germany’s Mona Barthel. Coming into Indian Wells, Francesca was 0-7 on the season with 1st-Round singles losses in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Paris, Doha, Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis. Her reaction to the win rivaled her victory celebration after winning the title at Roland Garros in 2010…it has hilarious, actually. As we walked to center court for the post match interview, she stopped, knocked the clipboard from my left hand, grabbed by arm, and together we raised our fists in victory, jumping up and down, celebrating as if she’d just won the welterweight title. She was out of her mind. She told the crowd that she knew it was ridiculous to be THAT excited for a 1st-Round win, but it’d been a frustrating first two months of the season. (She would go on to lose in the 3rd Round to Australia’s Sam Stosur)
#4: Roberta Vinci
On Day 5, fellow Italian Roberta Vinci did the same, winning her first match of the year over American Madison Keys. “Finally!” we barked at each other as she came to center court for the post match interview. While thanking her team and doubles partner Sara Errani – shockingly, she and Sara lost in 1st-Round doubles play – she broke-down; tears of relief after two months of sheer frustration. It was an endearing moment, in stark contrast to Francesca’s hilarious “Rocky Balboa” moment. (Roberta would go on to lose to Australia’s Casey Dellacqua in the 3rd Round)VIDEO: An Emotional Victory
#3: Bob, Mike, Novak, Milos and Ernests
Day-6 finished strong on Stadium-2. First, Bob and Mike Bryan launched their 2014 Indian Wells campaign against Scott Lipsky and Florian Mayer. They only dropped four games during the match, much to the delight of “Team Bryan,” which covered a large swath of General Admission seating on the upper level. After the match, the twins again demonstrated their class and gratitude by signing nearly everything shoved in their face and bringing the entire Team Bryan crew onto the court for a photo. For the record, Mike said striving for that 100th tour title would bring serious satisfaction to an already unparalleled career: “It’s a nice, even, big number.” (Bob and Mike would go on to win their 95th career title together, and second consecutive BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells)
— Andy Taylor (@StadiumAndy) March 9, 2014
After the match, fans were excited to hear that the Novak Djokovic / Filip Krajinovic vs. Ernest Gulbis / Milos Raonic doubles match had been moved to the new Stadium-2, giving them an opportunity to see the #2 player in the world. After a two-set win, Ernests and Milos placed orders at Nobu and Piero’s Pizza Vino from the court. Thanks to hard-serving, the pair owned their Serbian opponents – to the point where Novak tried returning Raonic’s serve from the court’s back wall in the final game. Afterwards, Ernests said he was happy with the win but “pissed” at his partner. They had a wager before the match to see who could deliver the most aces. Going into the final service game, Gulbis was up 4-3. Raonic then pounded 3-aces in the winning game. Ernests bought dinner. (Milos and Ernests would lose to Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in the 2nd Round)
Djoker returning Raonic's serve from the back wall pic.twitter.com/HRt69rT86u
— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) March 9, 2014
#2: Ernests Gulbis
On Day-9, Stadium-2’s third match provided the highlight: Grigor Dimitrov vs. Ernests Gulbis. It was their third meeting in the past month: Gulbis got the best of Grigor in Rotterdam’s Round of 16 (6-4, 7-6). Grigor then defeated Ernests en-route to his second career title in Acapulco (4-6, 7-6, 7-5). At Indian Wells, Ernests outlasted Grigor 2-6, 6-1, 7-5. The third was a hell of a set, featuring – as expected – flared tempers and smashed raquets. At 2-3 Ad-Dimitrov, Gulbis received a time-violation warning. It appeared as if the wheels were about to come off for Ernests, but he delivered an unreturnable serve, then evened the set. At 5-all, Gulbis scored a clutch break and went on to win the match 7-5.
Afterward, Ernests said he had to beat this younger guy now because young Grigor is on his way up and Ernests is on his way down, already an old man at 25. I told him he was full of it…those words were in stark contrast to his comments after winning Marseille last month, where he insisted that his focus is still on becoming World #1. He then offered me a job as his motivational coach. When asked if he’d smash the rest of his racquets and hand them out to adoring fans, he declined, but said the chair umpires need to be a little more lenient and allow some emotion on the court. It’s great for “the show.” (Ernests would reach the Quarterfinals, where he lost to John Isner in two tie-break sets)
— Andy Taylor (@StadiumAndy) March 12, 2014
#1: Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka
Day-5 featured Stadium-2’s first capacity crowd…thanks to a highly anticipated doubles pairing. Fans started lining-up as soon as the gates opened at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with hopes of finding a prime seat to watch 4-time BNP Paribas Open Champion Roger Federer and Australian Open Champion Stanislas Wawrinka take-on the #6-seeds Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohann Bopanna. What a match! Roger and Stan took it 10-6 in a match tie-break, and thrilled fans during their post match interview on the intimate court.
I started off the conversation by congratulating Stan on two major accomplishments – winning the Australian Open and achieving a career-high ranking of #3 in the world. As always, he was humble and gracious. Then with a wink to Roger, I asked how Stan felt being the #1 player from Switzerland. – Mandatory affable emcee question, manufacturing a faux “awkward-situation” for the benefit of a packed house. Emcees are idiots…and aware of it – Again, Stan handled the question with dignity and modesty, singing the praises of arguably the greatest player to ever grip an oversized racquet.
— Andy Taylor (@StadiumAndy) March 7, 2014
My first question for Roger, after winning his 78th title in Dubai and passing John McEnroe on the all-time titles list: “Have you talked to John and rubbed it in yet?” For the record…he has not; but he will. Roger then talked about how the scheduling at Indian Wells is conducive to seeing so many top-ranked players in the doubles draw, and we sang the praises of the tournament and the brand new Stadium-2. It was fun, super-loose…the type of laid-back post-match conversation that feels unique to Indian Wells.