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BNP Paribas Open – The Best Moments of 2014

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.

MORE: Draws | Tournament Photos | Watch: Pennetta’s Journey | Listen: BNPPO Radio Interviews

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.”


Photo by Billie Weiss

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.

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BNP Paribas Open – 5 Minutes with… Music man Randy Jackson

by Nicholas McCarvel and Stephen Villatoro

Photos by Lauren Foley

Music man Randy Jackson knows a thing or two about tennis. The former American Idol judge and music producer has hit with some of the biggest names in the game, and in 2011 served as a chair umpire at the US Open for a heated battle between the teams of Will Ferrell and Matthew Perry and John McEnroe and Jim Courier. Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open we caught up with him while he took in the Agnieszka Radwanska-Flavia Pennetta final inside Stadium 1.

BNP Paribas Open: OK Randy you’re a huge tennis fan! So tell us about when you initially got into the sport.
Randy Jackson: I got into the sport right after college. I had a friend that was a player. I went out and kind of hit the ball all over the fence and everything. I would play sporadically here and there. Then in my late 20s I really thought, “I’m going to do this, I love this sport and want to get serious about it.” I started taking lessons and joined a club. Then I got the proper gear – racquets, shoes. You have to look good to play good.

MORE: 5 Minutes with… Football Star Marcellus Wiley | ’5 Minutes with…’ Series | Tournament Photos

BNPPO: So true. So how often do you play?
Jackson: I play about three times a week. I’ve been working on my serve, trying to get a little more power and have a more consistent toss. I’m working on all facets of my game, but my groundstrokes are pretty good.

BNPPO: You said you’ve been at the BNP Paribas Open for a few years. How have you seen the tournament evolve?
Jackson: I’ve watched it evolve, and I just love that it’s here. I love that it’s men’s and women’s, and I love that you get a chance to see everything here. I go to the US Open all the time, and from year-to-year I’ll visit the French Open, Wimbledon or the Australian Open. But it’s great to have it right here in the L.A. area.

BNPPO: What’s your favorite part of watching the pro players up close?
Jackson: Well that John Isner-Novak Djokovic match yesterday, Isner is such a powerful guy! There were some serves that were almost 140mph. I don’t even know how guys can get a racket on that serve. Also, just to see the finesse of their game, the consistency and how they can change the game to throw the opponent off.

Read more from Randy Jackson – including which tennis player he would mold into an entertainer – AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading

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BNP Paribas Open – 5 Minutes with… Football star Marcellus Wiley

By Nicholas McCarvel

Photos by Lauren Foley

Former NFL Pro Bowler Marcellus Wiley knows his tennis pretty well. The now-retired ten-year veteran of the game is now an analyst for ESPN, but is known to hit the tennis ball around Los Angeles, too. At the BNP Paribas Open for the first time, we caught up with the Rafa superfan for a little one-on-one.

BNP Paribas Open: Tell us about your involvement in tennis. You play the game a little bit, don’t you?
Marcellus Wiley: I’m definitely more of a fan than a player. I don’t have many regrets in life, but one of them is not being introduced to this sport at an earlier age. That’s something my fiancé and I are preparing our minds for our children. So when they come up and start looking in my man cave, seeing a basketball jersey for my fiancé and a football jersey for me, I’m going to tear them down right then and say, “no, no, no,” we’re going to put a tennis racquet up there for them. And I hope they’ll gravitate to this sport like I have in the last three or four years. It’s just the most amazing sport, I love it.

MORE: 5 Minutes with… Series | Photos from the Tournament | Watch: Player Interviews

BNPPO: Is there one initial thing that sparked your interest?
Wiley: When I first got into tennis, it was a challenge of something new, and something that you aren’t good at is exciting. Realizing how much of my game of football that I could have actually enhanced if I just would have been introduced to tennis – the agility, the awareness, hand-eye coordination. With some of the mechanics, you really have to get into a certain place and react in that moment. There were so many elements of the game that I wished I could’ve translated into football. Also, it feels a lot better when you’re walking off a tennis court as opposed to a football field.

BNPPO: When was the first time you picked up a racquet and really got into playing?
Wiley: I would say three or four years ago. Like anyone else, I was horrible. I couldn’t even keep it on the court, let alone the same facility. From there, I thought, “this is amazing, I suck.” So just being in that world, feeling like I’m seven years old back on a pop-warner football field again, it felt like that at the age of 35 playing tennis. Then I walk off the court and see 60-70 year olds playing doubles, and they’re letting the ball move for them and are hardly moving their bodies. I’m thinking this is something I could do forever and will be good to me.

BNPPO: What’s been your takeaway from seeing this world-class tennis up close?
Wiley: The athlete ego in me is looking for the day when I can actually get on the court with one of these guys. I don’t care if he’s the top-ranked or No. 1,000. I just want to try returning one of their serves. But the realistic side of me respects every part of the game. It’s amazing to see it live and in person. It’s like that when you see John Isner with his serve, and how it’s coming downhill from the top row.

Read more from Marcellus Wiley – including what his tennis nickname is – AFTER THE JUMP. Continue reading

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BNP Paribas Open – 5 Minutes with… Mary Pierce

By David Rosenberg

Photo by Nicolas Luttiau/L’Equipe

One of the hardest hitting players of her generation, Mary Pierce stormed to the French Open final in 1994, demolishing defending champion Steffi Graf in the semis. She would reach six more grand slam finals during her career, winning twice: at the 1995 Australian Open and the one that mattered most to her, the 2000 French Open. In 2005, Pierce finished the year as the fifth ranked player (her career high was No. 3), but two injuries in 2006 were eventually responsible for her retirement from the tour. We caught up with Pierce at the BNP Paribas Open, where she is working for BBC Radio, which produces the livestream for tournament radio, to see what she’s been up to since we last saw her on tour.

BNP Paribas Open: You’re working for BBC and the tournament livestream radio here. How has that been?
Mary Pierce: Well, I did some work for them before at the French Open and Wimbledon last year and I really enjoyed it; I love it. It’s a lot of fun actually. The BBC has a really good team and the journalists are really great and they make it fun and easy for me. I’ll probably do a little bit at Wimbledon again this year.

MORE: 5 Minutes With… Series | Aga’s Awesome Tape | Previewing Sunday’s Final | Daily Wrap-Ups

BNPPO: How has it been to come back on the tour here at the BNP Paribas Open? You were a semifinalist here in 2000.
Pierce: It’s nice to come to tournaments because you can see people you haven’t seen in a while; I love this tournament. It’s so beautiful here.

BNPPO: Catch us up on your life since we last saw you play in 2006. Maybe that’s too broad of a question?
Pierce:
Oh, gosh! I got my injury in 2006 and I spent a good three years just trying to rehab my knee to come back and try to be able to play again; I wasn’t able to do that.

BNPPO: Why? Was the injury too severe?
Pierce: It was very strange. The doctors and everyone I saw said, “Your knee looks fine you shouldn’t be having any pain.” But I was still having pain. No one could tell me why. I did everything I could possibly do and I tried to come back and play again and that didn’t work.

I had been to Mauritius in 2005 to visit a church there and I just fell in love with the people and the church and the island so in 2008, when I couldn’t play anymore and I was tired of rehabbing, I decided I wanted to go there. So I moved there and took a few trips around Africa, which I had always wanted to do.

In 2010 I started coaching my friend Frederique’s two Mauritian kids [Emmanuel and Amaury de Beer], who were 11 and 14 at the time. That takes up a lot of my time: coaching them six days a week, planning their programs, traveling to tournaments with them.

BNPPO: How are they doing?
Pierce: Emmanuel just started playing ITF tournaments this year and he just got his first ITF points and he’s ranked around 1,400 and Amaury has been playing ITFs for a couple of years; she got up to around 420 when she was 15 and got an injury and was out for about seven months, she cracked her sternum and she’s back now and she’s around 400 or 350.

Read more in our interview with Mary Pierce AFTER THE JUMP. Continue reading

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BNP Paribas Open – What to Watch – Sunday, March 16

By Nicholas McCarvel

Photo by Michael Cummo

The BNP Paribas Open reaches its climax for 2014 on Sunday with the women’s and men’s singles finals inside Stadium 1. After two weeks of dramatics in the desert, the draws have been whittled down to four players chasing two titles. Below, a preview of the two battles.

[2] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs. [20] Flavia Pennetta (ITA), Stadium 1, noon
It’s a first time in the BNP Paribas Open final for both Radwanska and Pennetta, though their career paths before reaching this match have been vastly different. The second-seeded Pole has sliced and diced her way to the top of the women’s game and will look to counter Pennetta’s consistency and big backhand in what could be a enthralling women’s final. The No. 2 seed leads their head-to-head 4-2 though it was the Italian who won their most recent encounter in straight sets just a month ago. It’s their second meeting here in the Coachella Valley, Radwanska winning a third-round battle in 2012.

MORE: Singles Draw | 5 Minutes With… Pennetta | Watch: Djokovic’s Journey | Tournament Photos

[2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [7] Roger Federer (SUI), Stadium 1, not before 2 pm
The men’s event was full of surprising but it’s two familiar names and former champions in Djokovic and Federer that have advanced to the final. This is their 33rd meeting, four-time BNP Paribas Open winner Federer holding a 17-15 edge career-wise over Djokovic, who has won this tournament twice. It’s just their second match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Djokovic having emerged victorious in a semifinal bout in 2011. The 32-year-old Federer says his back, which gave him troubles last year, is 100% healthy and he’s been playing in top form, registering a win over Djokovic just last month before arriving in the desert. Look for the Swiss man to play first-strike tennis while Djokovic will try and make it a ground game battle full of baseline rallies.

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BNP Paribas Open – Daily Wrap-Up – Sat., March 15

By Erwin Ong

Photo of the Day: Second seed Novak Djokovic got some serious air in this backhand against 12th seed John Isner. The two played in the second of two BNP Paribas Open semifinals contested on Saturday.

Match of the Day: Isner did well to fight Djokovic as the two-time champion served for the match twice in the second set. The lanky American pushed the battle to a third set after winning the tie-break but could not keep up with Djokovic, ultimately falling 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-1. And this was sweet revenge for Djokovic: Isner had edged him in a third set tie-break two years ago at the BNP Paribas Open to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final.

More: Tournament News | BNP Paribas Open Social Media Zone | BNP Paribas Open Blog Archive

Tweet of the Day: World No. 31 Alexandr Dolgopolov assembled an impressive week in Indian Wells, bowing out to Roger Federer in first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semifinal. Along the way, as the 28th seed, he upset World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the third round before taking out 13th seed Fabio Fognini and 10th seed Milos Raonic in succession.

The Ukrainian was in good spirits after the match – his 15-4 record this season is nothing to frown about – and sent out this message to his fans and Roger: “Thanks to all you guys for the support and great week! Unfortunately I was not sharp enough today and Roger was playing good! Congrats to him and good luck in the final”

Stats of the Day: The 2014 women’s doubles champions, Su-Wei Hsieh and Peng Shuai, are the first Chinese and Taiwanese players to win titles at the BNP Paribas Open and are 11-0 in team finals. On the men’s side, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan contested their 144th final and have now been on the winning side in 95 of those encounters.

Quote of the Day:  Four-time champion Federer talked to the press about bouncing back from a back injury – sustained here at the BNP Paribas Open one year ago – that derailed his career for most of last season. He has started 2014 with a bang, winning Dubai, reaching the Brisbane final, and finishing a semifinalist at the Australian Open. “So it feels good winning again here so many matches. I think it’s nice winning anyway (smiling). It just solves a lot of problems and makes you feel better, you know, happier.”

Video of the Day: It’s been a long road to Championship Weekend at the BNP Paribas Open. Who will be the last players in a strong field filled with former champions, resurgent veterans, and breakthrough stars?

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BNP Paribas Open – Photo Gallery – Semifinal Saturday

Photo by Michael Cummo

Last Men Standing: Roger Federer defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov in the first semifinal on Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open. Novak Djokovic followed this with a three-set thriller over John Isner.

Djokovic and Federer will meet in the final tomorrow, their 33rd battle on the ATP World Tour.

All photos by Billie Weiss and Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open.

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BNP Paribas Open – Photo – Aga’s Argyle

By Erwin Ong

Photo by Billie Weiss

BNP Paribas Open No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska advanced to the final after neutralizing the powerful game of Simona Halep, the Romanian who took seven titles in within the last 10 months and will make the Top 5 in the rankings once they’re released next week.

Radwanska came out during that semifinal with Kinesio tape in argyle print on that left knee (available here, per our Googling). Now that the tape’s here to stay – we notice more and more players applying these before matches – they might as well have some fun with it, right?

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll see bedazzled versions of these puppies sometime in the near future. (Cynthia Rowley – we’re looking at you!)

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BNP Paribas Open – Shot of the Day – Roger Federer Defends

We were very much anticipating amazing points to come out of that BNP Paribas Open final four between four-time champion Roger Federer and first-time semifinalist Alexandr Dolgopolov, and this gem that came out of their 6-3, 6-1 encounter did not disappoint. A lines official had to get out of Federer’s way as he hustled to defend some Dolgo overheads! | Watch: Federer’s Shot of the Day

Both players were asked about this shot, and whether it’s surprising to see shots like this during a match.

Federer:

“I do [get surprised], as well, because in a match, you know, you just stretch that little bit extra. In practice, there is no reason in the practice. You can’t quite get certain points going the way like you can the match.

“I don’t know if the court is bigger or the opponent pushes you further or you don’t care if you have to slide on the hard courts. I don’t know. In practice I save myself a little bit, because that’s not when I want to get injured.

“I do surprise myself as well. I think most of the players do that to themselves, as well. Certain shots you can’t learn, you can’t teach. It’s just instinct. You adjust and you just try. Sometimes you get lucky and it looks amazing.

“Because we are professional tennis players it feels like really we controlled everything, but also sometimes we get lucky in the process. All you have to do is try get to the balls, and for that you have to be fast and anticipate Then you try to come up with something. It depends how much risk you’re willing to take. The more risks you take, the more spectacular it can be.”

More: BNP Paribas Open Player Interview Transcripts | Tournament Results | BNP Paribas Open on YouTube

Dolgopolov:

“Well, I mean, over the years we have seen a lot of him playing points like that, defending unbelievable.

“He’s good at it. I knew that, and he made me play a lot of shots seeing I’m not comfortable with the wind. When you’re not comfortable, you don’t go for the full power overhead.

“So I gave him a chance, which he is really good at reading where you hit. He played that point.

“I mean, I didn’t see anything surprising. Playing in the semis with a great player, so that happens. If you are not finishing the point, not taking your points, that happens with players like that.”

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BNP Paribas Open – Around The Grounds – Oracle Tennis Challenge

By Erwin Ong

Baylor’s Tony Lupieri takes on Mads Engsted of Cal. Photo by Baylor Men’s Tennis

College tennis gets a bit of airtime at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden when the site hosts the inaugural Oracle Tennis Challenge on Championship Weekend.

“We are committed to providing support for both professional and collegiate tennis,” said Larry Ellison, owner of the BNP Paribas Open. “There is no venue in the world better equipped to host this first-time collegiate event than the newly expanded Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California.”

Four men’s collegiate programs – Cal, Illinois, Tulsa, and Baylor – are entered in the event. The matches will count toward the official collegiate team records for the 2014 season.

Cal doubles player Chase Melton cheered on his teammates playing singles against Baylor on Saturday afternoon.

“The venue is amazing,” said Melton. “They’ve been treating us well. Certainly more fan. Nice weather. It’s amazing. Couldn’t be happier.”

One of this year’s men’s semifinalists in the BNP Paribas Open main draw, John Isner, played for the University of Georgia before turning pro. He spoke with The Desert Sun about the college experience and the Oracle Tennis Challenge:

“I think that’s cool,” Isner said “Getting them a little bit immersed in a situation like this is only good for them. Maybe have those guys see what it’s like at this level. It’s a lot of fun. We’re at the top of the tennis level here. You’re playing in a big stadium here. It doesn’t get any better in the tennis world, really. It’s good for college and future pro players to see, in my opinion.”

Baylor and Cal face off on Saturday, while Illinois takes on Tulsa. On Sunday, Baylor plays Illinois at 9:00 a.m. and Cal vs. Tulsa starts off at 12:00 p.m.

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