Tennis for Christmas 2020 @ Indian Wells, CA ?

Indian Wells - Desert Tennis Oasis

After flying half-way around the world to watch the Aussie Open in January...

I have decided to go check out the Indian Wells BNP Paribas tournament again for the 3rd and 4th time in 2019 and 2020. It will be the most times for me at any Masters 1000 event.

Update: Unfortunately, it was cut short this Spring, but I was still able to watch the Oracle Challenger Event on opening weekend and visit Joshua Tree and the Palm Aerial Tram again.

Rumor is that it will be postponed or rescheduled until at least the end of the year, or perhaps even host an exhibition event somewhere with Roger before the Aussie Open and tennis season starts in 2021.

Here is a quick preview of the multiple times I've attended and reasons for our fans to see what has improved and any changes you should expect before heading here!

Brad Gilbert offers a few jokes and
predictions at "Beer with Brad"
All Top Players show up at this Tournament
Mayleen Reamy
from Tennis Channel
The Top 49 out of 50 showed up in 2013! You get to walk right up to the players practicing.

At matches, you get to watch from close seats that you would otherwise pay over a thousand dollars to see at the US Open*

Tennis Pros make it their Annual Reunion Location

I'm glad I got to do some photographs and videos of the tournament (more below)

All while meeting some terrific fans and tennis stars up close and personal.

Tennis Warehouse & Freebie Swag

  • TennisWarehouse offered some play-tests with this year's new racket lines on their demo court.

  • Emirates Airlines had red seat cushions at the giveaway.

  • The Thai Tourism Tent offered some free 15 min back rubs - *so nice after a long day of tennis*

West Coast Road Trip

I had unused frequent flyer miles I needed to burn before they expired...so I flew to San Diego and drove 2 hours over the very scenic, snow-feathered Rt. 74 (Pines to Palms Hwy) to get there. The Big Horn winding road area looks like something straight out of a racing video game.



I landed a great AirBnB place that included 2 private tennis courts, pool plus hot tub. More recently I stay at a private home 5 mins walk to the Tennis Stadium to avoid parking hassles. Lots of hiking trails near Joshua Tree too. Coachella is just around the corner for music lovers.


The local hosts are awesome with a lot of Indian Wells knowledge and there were a couple other tennis fans staying in the other room too, so it was definitely a great place to stay (much better value and cozier than a hotel room). Make sure you pack a jacket though because mornings can get a little chilly.


Indian Wells Media: PicturesHighlight Videos


Indian Wells Tennis Garden
Known as the "5th Slam" so I wanted to make sure our "Grand Fan Slam" was truly complete and coverage now includes (2 7 out of 9) Masters Series ATP 1000 Events

It contains the 2nd largest tennis-specific stadium in the world - only behind the mammoth Arthur Ashe Stadium. It's a great view of the NYC skyline but where you could actually get a nose-bleed if you climbed all the way up to row ZZ!

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden has some of the best practice court viewing for tennis players up close. I would say it is probably the closest you will ever be able to get down a near court level view of the players just 10-15 feet away.

General Parking was one thing that could definitely be improved with the 2000+ spots at the new grass lot as the way it was this year.

If you got there 1-2 hours after opening, it felt like Rush Hour traffic. So arrive early or Uber!

Networking and Playing Tennis in the Desert -
Monterey Country Club

Dan Nabedrick (Twin Cities Tennis)
runs an annual Tennis Tournament during the Indian Wells pro tournament in early-mid March every year.

Dan's friend Jo from Michigan actually was nice enough to invite me to play as a sub on his team.

It was a beautiful location, and Dan does an awesome job throwing the party's dinner party (at his private pad with his family).

He manages the Herculean task of running all the logistics on the 15 court facility. Great event, highly recommended! Super grateful as he's a great guy, tennis connector, with a wonderful family.

Recently in 2017, they have moved to the tournament championship to the Palm Desert tennis club.

I assisted as a "guest pro" and hitting partner with some of the guests. I even hit with the owner of the tournament's tennis windscreen manufacturer on the stadium court.  Lots of doubles, but occasionally you see a few singles specialists too. Fun networking event and evening parties. Lots of good sushi in IW.

Ian Westermann and the Essential Tennis have also been there several years giving his private VIP clinics. Kirby and Ira were great fun in 2017. Met Kevin and his wife in 2018. Nice ET family.


The Who's Who of Indian Wells - BNP Paribas Open


Nike / Wilson Alumni

Love these annual reunions. This is a super special treat for fans.
Some familiar names here at these tennis conference meetings out on the grass.


Uniqlo Global Ambassadors- Team Federer and Team Nishikori




Tommy Haas - the new TD has his family up in Sacramento. He does his best as the new tournament director to coordinate this event every year. Worthy Charities including the Eisenhower Health fund, where Rafa and Friends raise money. In the past, it was Hit for Haiti and other aid relief for natural disasters with Agassi and Sampras.


Tom Fey (the guy waving) is the local court organizer and puts folks in the wild card tournament and sets up the ATP Challenger event that occurs just prior to Indian Wells. He's always running around, super busy on the grounds with draw sheets and schedules.


He has offered to set me up to be a hitting partner and once to put me into the #13 spot for the men's 256 draw to sub in - but for one reason or another, I have never taken him up on it.

Michael Chang - my personal hero and the legend of Asian American tennis!
Finally caught up with him and his brother in 2018 - travels with Nishikori at the big events.


Larry Ellison and his Oracle Team
Perennials at the tournament as the new owner. We're so used to seeing him and his daughter sitting center stage on TV. He loves watching the matches.

New bigger stadiums, hawkeye on every court, and lots of money invested into the Oracle Challenger Series. Qualifier weekend is perfect to see the warmups and pros before the huge crowds.

The Oracle World parties in SF at awesome - they bring some of that tech energy into SoCal.

In some nostalgic ways, I still miss the classic Charlie Pasarell days of the Pacific Life Open too :)

Tickets Giveaway to Fans

We were able to giveaway to a couple lucky fans of Tennis-Bargains.com some freebies too!

Just like at the Aussie Open and US Open, we offer our loyal supporters a way to enjoy great tennis seats, even when the box office is officially sold out =)


Hint: We use TennisNow (TicketMaster Verified) Tickets for Tickets re-sell from other fans. They have tickets for most tennis events.

Canadian Fans - watching Nadal practice
USTA and WTT Leagues
Another great way to play at the Tennis Garden is to compete in the USTA Nationals Tri-Level competition or the WTT (World Team Tennis) Rec League which gets to actually play on the same (practice) courts that the pros used during the tournament.

The newest stadium features a 19,000 sq ft structure with 8,000 seats (roughly half the number of the main stadium). Right now the best general admissions seats are probably on Stadium 2 and 3 for the marquee matches.

However, with record-breaking attendance this year - it was especially hard to navigate around the large crowds on the middle weekend when both Saturday and Sunday morning sessions were completely sold out.

There are still some tickets left for the 1st and 2nd week:
Indian Wells tennis tickets online

Memories from Montreal: Tennis Tour Guide Canada


Sunset at Old Port of Montreal
The Old Port of Montreal

Traveling for Tennis is how I discover Joy, Adventure, and Cultural Diversity.
Fans and players alike can enjoy the city and culture of all the international destinations, especially one so close to the USA.

Visiting Montreal for the Candian Masters had been on my bucket list for many years. I remember a very frosty Toronto during Christmas as a teenager through Buffalo, and then most recently had the pleasure of touring Vancouver the year prior byway of Seattle by train.

Montreal in the peak of summer seemed is the perfect escape from a hot, humid East Coast for relief. I visiting anytime between July and October. A vibrant, historic city to explore even outside of tennis.



US Open layover
On the way to Montreal, I had a short layover at LGA (US Open). This was the same flight path I took in 2010 on a Monday after work to catch the US Open Final.

After an epic rain delay, I and several hardcore tennis fans stayed overnight in the airport in order to witness the epic conclusion of Nadal capturing his career slam.

That year's finale between Nadal and Djokovic was not fully shown in its entirety, as its conclusion clashed with the NFL's Monday Night Football opener in America. Some of my untelevised memories of a lifetime.

Flying next to a Pilot


On this most recent trip, I had the fortune of sitting next to and chatting up a young pilot on my small plane up from DCA to YUL via LGA.

She told me about a "positive space" policy or flying deadhead for work, where fellow airline pilots can sit in the highest class, unoccupied seats available! We chatted a bit about favorite international destinations, best/worst airports, and our ways of flying friends for free.

I arrived at the US/Canada terminal - my 2nd time in just a few months. The previous long layover was when returning from Europe. At that time, I had not had the pleasure to go out to see the city of Montreal (plus it was still cold in May).

  • On media assignment, I had spent a week at the Barcelona 500
  • My 2nd leg was a few days in Mallorca, Spain with Rafa and Uncle Toni at their Academy
  • The final leg was a short hop to Switzerland for a 1-day visit to Basel (an hommage to Federer).
When faced with at least 4 hours of time, I typically make an attempt to make a "layover sprint" to collect a few memories, photos, and enjoy a warm local meal outside of the airport.

Canadian Masters - The Premier Visit

August 2019: I was thrilled to be accepted again as a Media Journalist and Photographer for coverage at the Canadian Masters 1000. Always excited to make plans to see international tennis and new destinations.

The press staff was very nice, courteous, and professional to me as a first-timer - an exemplary example of friendly and inviting Canadian culture.

This was also a very historic year - the tournament's 40th anniversary with the original tournament director plus a special ceremony featuring Rafa Nadal and Amelie Mauresmo in attendance.

For Tennis Canada, this is their US Open pinnacle moment. Stars such as Shapovalov, Raonic, Pospisil, and Bouchard are heroes to their fans like the NHL stars.

Now with Grand Slam winners Andreescu (US Open Champ) and bright talents like Felix (FAA) in the top 20, it's a very bright and exciting time for young Canadian tennis fans.

HD Tennis Photos from the Montreal Masters


Culture and colors of the IGA tennis stadium

A beautiful Canadian city. I found young people picnicking on the grass, soaking in the sun's summer rays for a few brief weeks in the summer.

Completely immersed in French culture from the bi-lingual signage to strangers asking if you speak English or French before addressing you.

Little Italy

The "Little Italy" neighborhood a very quaint little village rectangle just a short walk from the tournament site. Cute boutique shops with public markets like Jean-Talon plus old churches and murals dot the way to the tournament.

Airbnb accommodations

"When in Rome..."

I wanted to experience traditional Montreal for a few days.

I always prefer to be within walking distance of the tournament site and go car-less. Just take Uber when I must and take some public transportation like the locals. A very walkable city indeed!

Complete with a full kitchen, patio, and a full vinyl collection of record in the living room. The apartment was a duplex on the middle floor.

The wooden floors creak a bit of their age from many cold and hot periods, but it was a very traditional Montreal home.

The Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of Quebec

If attending the Montreal Masters, I recommend going out to site-see during the morning. Then for the tennis tourists, enjoying a bit of tennis during the afternoon. Finally, one can alternate an evening stroll by Old Montreal with catching an evening tennis match or authentic meal (players like me on a diet must try hard to avoid the tempting cheezy but savory Poutine snack).

With so much to do, it is advisable to spend at least 2-3 days to soak it all in.

Mont-Royal is a must-see when you first arrive, but be sure to start at the TOP (via Uber) and walk down from the summit. Many made the arduous mistake of climbing up in the other direction during mid-day sun which is quite a hike.

If it gets too warm, Pointe-à-Callière, the History Underground Museum is a perfect place to cool off or just beyond the tennis grounds, one can enjoy the rare summer picnics out at the grassy parks nearby.

On a nice weekend, check out the Jean-Talon Market or take a longer trek through Chinatown. Within walking distance is the prestigious McGill University. It is nearby the waterfront and great for enjoying culinary delights (more photos below). A small Japanese friendship botanical garden is also not far away.

My Ranking of Top Montreal Sights for Tennis Fans to Explore

  1. Mont-Royal
  2. Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) and Waterfront
  3. Notre-Dame Basilica
  4. Historic Underground - Pointe-à-Callière
  5. Jean-Talon Public Marketplace
  6. Chinatown

Mont-Royal Overlook

Mont-Royal offers an impressive view of the entire skyline and city. The giant cross at the summit is a very historic monument symbolizing that it survived a great flood that almost destroyed the city.

Dating back to its founding roots, the city represents a peaceful unification of the French with the various surrounding Native American tribes.

 

The 1976 Olympic stadium site still stands large in the distance. Fans are very big supporters of their Montreal Canadians or Habs fans - "Les Habitants". The original settlers from the 17th century.

Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) and Waterfront

A beautiful sunset destination. The spacious boardwalk, the yacht club, and European Architecture abound. It's all wrapped together with a summer carnival-like atmosphere at night near the water.






Notre-Dame Basilica

A city of grand churches, this one is the centerpiece for Montreal.

A quick tip: I recommend visitors have Canadian dollars ready before entering. There's a steeper 50% exchange rate if you provide them US greenbacks. Take a respectful walk around inside and appreciate the beautiful stained glass art. If you're really lucky to come at the right time in the morning, you can be present for one of their majestic services.



Pointe-à-Callière (History Museum)

This historic underground museum was another hidden gem I would definitely recommend checking out.

Every 15-30 minutes, the virtual stage tour gives the audience a very memorable multimedia experience showing off the rich eclectic history of this city.

As you climb down through the lower levels of the catacombs, it reveals the rich preserved layers of Montreal's past.

It's a very interactive experience and great for the whole family. Allow at least 2 hours to go through all the areas and try to sit on the left side of the stage to exit quickly to the main exhibits.

The Mont-Royal Cross we saw earlier is the centerpiece in a video near the last exit.

Tam Tam Drummers - performances every Sunday at Mont-Royal. One of them rode the metro back home and I noticed his signature beads and well-aged instrument. It is a great community of musicians and fans in the public space.

On Sunday, the African Tam Tam drummers
performed their music in the parks

McGill Univerity -
One of the best colleges in Canada


Jean-Talon Public Market

Walking distance to the Tennis Stadium, this public market is a charming area to go for a nice breakfast before the first match.

Be sure to try a few locally grown farmers' goods to buy as snacks or to cook later.
Plenty of flowers and wide open stalls of anything one could want to check out in a public square market. Lovely to walk through and see the children on their way with parents to school.

Chinatown - Food Tour and Art Murals

Delicious. A good place to go when you're hungry. I booked a food tour and was pleasantly surprised even though I've been to many Chinatowns in the world before.



The Rafael Nadal Orchestra


Rafael Nadal at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

St. George's Day 2019.

The day I finally got to step on the same clay as his Majesty - King Rafa!

On this cloudy Catalonia morning, I spotted Carlos Moya on the opposite bench with Diego Schwartzman.

I had no doubt that Nadal would not be too far behind.

I raced up from the media center to get a confirmation from the guards that he had indeed entered the premises.

Although morning drizzle had delayed the start of the practice, he would not be denied a chance to stir the clay on his day off.



We file into the narrow passage, less than a dozen journalists with the special passes were allowed entry to squeeze into the narrow one-meter-wide alleyway.

In those short moments of his practice today, I felt one of the most profound and proud moments in my whole tennis life.

I am not sure if any other player in history was able to contort each high-speed incoming ball like him and bends it to his will.

Rafa even seems to enjoy the joy of sweeping his own clay court while smiling.

His ability to then transform the trajectory, speed, shape, and form so perfectly is humbling.

All the years you train to hit a tennis ball is to be able to do *this* right there in front of you.
Some of us watching just smiled knowingly at each other - grateful to be present then and there for this standing-room-only magic show we were all about to witness.

THUMP!!

He strikes the ball on his forehand with such a recoiling force and sound that is felt echoing inside your chest before it is heard with your ears.

I have seen him many times on TV, but witnessing the volume of his shots in real life is the difference between playing a song on the radio and going to a live rock concert.

His unmistakable ball-punching strikes will rattle around inside your inner core. The sensation is otherworldly and sometimes scary being in such close quarters with fast projectiles popping across the air.
The experience is enhanced and amplified 3 times over on this small ungated side court that is bookended by one very high concrete wall.

Even the Sun itself is forced out to peek through the last grey cloud to catch a glimpse of this surreal force of humanity at work. What started out as a dreary overcast morning,

Nadal's soul or energy seems to will the Heavens to part on this St. George's Day in Barcelona.

Crowds begin to stir on the other side as his signature grunt bellows out from this side court increasing in volume with each warm-up groundstroke.

In full beast mode, El Toro sets out to free every grain of clay from each fuzzy ball.

He purposefully cleans with every brush stroke of the Babolat racket.


Effortless in his delivery, the frame and ball become fused onto his strings for a split second - then it is gone.

Puffs of micro orange clouds bloom and evaporate on contact.

This crushing pressure exposes every seam, tests each stitch of the ball.



You see it. You feel it. Then you hear it.
WHOOP-Ahhhh! WHOOP-Ahhhh! WHOOOP-Ahhhhh!

With each heavy forehand he fires, we hear a full percussion band:
The strumming chords of main strings cutting through green felt, the sphere
compressing and decompressing air as it is turned into an egg-shaped pancake, and the sprinkled splash of tiny sand granules watering the silky dirt lawn.
All music is accompanied by his world-famous overtones from that deep Rafa grunt.
You just have to close your eyes.
Tune into this tennis stereo station.
Remember the years of his matches and victories.

Then for a few moments, you are literally there by yourself with the greatest clay master who ever lived. It has been a lucid dream that I still cannot believe I witnessed if not for the selfies and kernels of red clay still lodged in the soles of my shoe.

His jazz music is written in the red sand,
Played by this one-man band,
Serenading us all with his favorite tunes.

Bravo!! Encore!! Vamos Rafa!!