By Erwin Ong, Nicholas McCarvel and Stephen Villatoro
Photos by Billie Weiss and Michael Cummo
From the opening ball hit by Larry Ellison at the McEnroe Challenge for Charity inside the brand-new Stadium 2 to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer‘s epic finish, the 2014 edition of the BNP Paribas Open was one to remember. Here, we recount the moments that were at a tournament that won’t soon be forgotten.
Third Time’s a Nole Charm: Djokovic lifted his third trophy at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden after defeating Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in their 33rd meeting. Djokovic improves to 16-17 in his head-to-head against the four-time champion.
Flavia’s Fine Moment: World No. 21 Flavia Pennetta picked up $1,000,000 and a Baccarat crystal trophy after her 6-2, 6-1 triumph in the women’s final against No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska. Pennetta struck 20 winners, staying aggressive and focused during their 73-minute encounter. The Italian vaults to No. 12 in the rankings with her title run, picking up 1,000 ranking points for her victory. | More: Pennetta Comes Full Circle
Double(s) Dipping: In doubles, world No. 1s and top seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan retained their BNP Paribas Open men’s doubles crown by beating second seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-3. This title gave the twins their 27th ATP Masters 1000 title and 95th overall.
The world No. 1 women’s doubles team, Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai, won their first trophy at Indian Wells with a win over Cara Black and Sania Mirza, the fifth seeds. Hsieh/Peng, the reigning Wimbledon champions, move to a remarkable 11-0 in WTA doubles finals. How’s that for perfection?
Upset Bug: No. 4 seed and defending champion Maria Sharapova fell to unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi in a dramatic three sets in the third round, while third seed Victoria Azarenka dropped her opening-round match to American Lauren Davis, revealing her foot injury had not quite fully healed.
A New Era: The Indian Wells Tennis Garden proudly added a new structure to its complex when they opened Stadium 2 in time for the 2014 tournament. The 8,000-seat complex gave fans another chance to see their favorite players in an intimate stadium setting, and the players were curious, too. Roger Federer, in his first doubles match with partner Stanislas Wawrinka, requested to play in the new facility.
“It was great,” said Federer. “I requested to stay on Stadium 2, to be honest, just to see how it was going to be. I’m happy we did. I don’t know if it was sold out, but it felt very, very full.”
The stadium features three sit-down restaurants: Nobu, Chop House, Piero’s PizzaVino, the first two offering seating that overlooks the action on court. | Bonus Video: Eighth seed Petra Kvitova learns how to make a shrimp tempura roll.
Notable to our green sensibilities: The tournament also installed Brita Hydration Stations for folks who want to use their own water containers to stay cool during the event!
In Doubles, Singles A-plenty: The BNP Paribas Open regularly boasts a deep and entertaining doubles field,and this year’s draw was no different. Along with great teams like reigning US Open champions Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek and American powerhouse Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, singles players also dotted the draw: Roger Federer pairing with countryman Stanislas Wawrinka; Juan Monaco with Gael Monfils; Ernests Gulbis with Milos Raonic, and more. The players often cite the spread-out schedule of the 12-day event, which allows players a day of rest between matches in the early rounds, as incentive to enter in the doubles draw.
Baby Pictures! Can the best tennis players in the world identify one another as babies? We tested them on just that this year – with hilarious responses from Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and more. (Which player got a perfect score?)
Target Practice: These throwing arms are no joke! We got top seeds of the WTA draw at Indian Wells to TA are champion tennis players. But how good are they at throwing water balloons? Off of a roof? We found out. | Watch: Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and WTA Stars Throw Water Balloons
Hangin’ with Genie and Andy: Both third seed Andy Murray and Canadian Eugenie Bouchard sat down with us for a some Google+ hangouts, and both stars answered questions solicited from fans using the #AskGenie and #AskAndy hashtags. | Watch: Google+ Hangout with Genie Bouchard | Google+ Hangout with Andy Murray
We Got Next: If the results at the 2014 BNP Paribas are any indication, the future of men’s tennis is in good hands. No. 28 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov defeated three Top 15 players, including a shocking upset of top-seed Rafael Nadal, en route to his first semifinal berth at an ATP Tour World 1000 Masters event. Grigor Dimitrov and Ernests Gulbis played arguably the most electrifying match of the tournament, drawing plenty of fanfare in their third-round contest. The quick-firing and always entertaining Gulbis came out on top, eventually advancing to the quarterfinals, but the “good looking” Dimitrov provided plenty of jaw-dropping highlights like this and this before his exit.
You May Enter: A record number 431,527 fans entered the gates at the 2014 BNP Paribas open, besting the old record of 382,227 by nearly 50,000 people. World-class tennis, combined with the newly-expanded grounds made the 2014 edition the biggest tournament in its 39-year history. | More: Fan-tastic! Fan Photos At The BNP Paribas Open
Say Cheese: The tournament worked with the city of Indian Wells and Twitter to bring a Twitter Mirror on site. Part photobooth, part status update, the service – which has been used at the Oscars, Grammys, and at Wimbledon and the French Open – reached a new level at the BNP Paribas Open when we gave it some wheels. Some players, like Li Na and Victoria Azarenka, were immediately game, and some needed a little coaxing. In the end, everyone played along, especially in the player tunnel heading out onto Stadium 1: we saw fish faces, Federer playing peekaboo, and Simona Halep and Casey Dellacqua in some photobombing fun.
Sloane’s Steady Success: Much has been made about the next generation of American women’s tennis, and the pressure sits squarely on the shoulders of Sloane Stephens. The World No. 18 battled past Ana Ivanovic and Russian Alisa Kleybanova before falling to eventual champion Pennetta in the quarterfinals. Known for her ability to perform well on the big stages – she has reached the fourth round or better in all Grand Slams since the 2013 Australian Open – Stephens is still in search of her first title on the WTA Tour. She hopes to turn the tide under the tutelage of coach Paul Annacone – who counts Pete Sampras and Roger Federer as former students.
Around The Grounds: Along with the focus on Stadium 2, there were plenty of activities around the grounds – from Wayne Bryan’s Tennis Talk, to live entertainment in the Tennis Village, to the art/beautification project involving the work of muralist Mike Sullivan.
Snappin’ Away: Have you seen our trove of photos? We’ve been setting up galleries over on Facebook and we want to make sure you don’t miss any of the best moments from the past 12 days. See Our: Facebook Galleries | Instagram | YouTube
Take Five: In our quest to break into the psyche of a world-class athlete, we sought 5 Minutes With… some of the best tennis stars on tour. The bonding time provided some entertaining results, revealing a lighter side that we wouldn’t normally see. We discovered that Ernests Gulbis would rob banks if he could teleport, Agnieszka Radwanska would choose a ninja for a doubles partner, and Bethanie-Mattek Sands may have married her husband because he resembles former NFL star Brett Favre.
Li Leads the List: It was the first time that Australian Open champion Li Na topped the draw at a WTA Premier Mandatory event, and the question on everyone’s mind was how she would handle this spotlight. The No. 1 Chinese singles player had struggled with her game after winning Roland Garros in 2011. This time her game might have been “off” – but it was a situation that was her own doing: she and coach Carlos Rodriguez have been tweaking her serve, leading to a higher-than-usual number of double faults. She did not feel any pressure about being the top seed. “Of course everyone wants to win the tournament, but I already tried my best. There’s nothing else to say. I did everything that I could.”
A New Face In The WTA Top 5: This picture – after Simona Halep‘s loss to Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals on Saturday – sums up Halep’s approach to the current trajectory of her game. No pressure, happy with the new experiences, and soaking it all in. The Romanian has picked up 7 titles in the last 10 months, and will enter the Top 5 of the WTA Rankings after they’re released on Monday.
Wawrinka’s Return: Reigning Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka made his return to the tour, playing his first matches since hoisting his maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne in January. It took a lot of energy for the Swiss to get back into practice and prepare for the spring hard court events, and it caught up with him: he fell to the hard-serving 17th seed Kevin Anderson in the Round of 16. “Today I felt that my energy was a little bit down. Mentally I wasn’t ready. I was tired a little bit. I start to complain. I didn’t find the right solution. I think it was a lot about myself.” Still, fans were excited to cheer on the Grand Slam champion in singles and during his doubles matches with teammate Roger Federer
Tennis In A New Dimension: Thought you couldn’t get any closer to your favorite tennis stars? Think again. freeD™, an innovative replay technology used for the first time ever in tennis, provided by Replay Technologies and Gearhouse Broadcast, allowed never-before-seen angles of action at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. With the ability to freeze live-action at any point, and rotating the viewing angle 360-degrees around any plane on the court, 22 state-of-the-art cameras revealed endless possibilities of showcasing the best players in the world. (Video: See a Free-D Demo)
Isner Breaks Back Into Top 10: One of the biggest stories to come out of the tournament was American John Isner’s return to the Top 10 in the rankings after an 18-month absence. “I have been knocking on the door for quite some time,” said Isner about the milestone. “It feels good to get back in there.” The 6’9” was contesting his fifth Masters 1000 semifinal, and now holds a 2-3 record for those matches.