Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2020 BNP Paribas Open.
Welcome to Indian Wells for the second Grand Slam of the season.
Well okay okay, this isn’t entirely right—at all. Not only is the BNP Paribas Open not the actual second Grand Slam of the season but in 2020, it will not be anything whatsoever. On Sunday, a mere few days before the launch of this season’s edition, the tournament organizers announced that it wouldn’t be held.
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 9, 2020
After diagnosing a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) locally, authorities declared a state of emergency in Riverside County, so this isn’t exactly surprising. (In fact, considering how this virus has spread around the world it’s actually refreshing to see someone in America err on the side of caution. No thanks to the US President.)
Which is to say: the BNP Paribas Open is undeniably one of the foremost events on the tennis calendar and, as such, its cancellation is very much a big deal. Every year the arrival of the BNP Paribas Open also signals the true launch of the tennis season spring—because if a season starts in January with the Australian Open, the first slam of the year is always followed by the relatively calm month of February. Then spring comes around and all eyes are on the California desert, after which we go to Miami for yet another #bigdeal event, and then we don’t really stop until, like, the beginning of September after the US Open?
But in 2020, the entire thing is all thrown up in the air and in flux. The first indication after the Indian Wells’ tournament director’s decision was that the Miami Open would proceed on schedule, but that quickly changed once, like, the NBA officially suspended its season. We’ve now at the point that, as things stand as of this writing, there will likely not be any tennis played before May. And again, this is good: we would much rather be overly cautious than the opposite.
Every year the tennis season asks its players to run a marathon at their sprinting speed; but this week—this year, really—the marathon is on hold. In lieu of running through a main draw preview like we would have done had this event been held, let’s identify some of the biggest and best Indian Wells matches of the past decade.
2015 Women’s Second Round: Serena Williams over Monica Niculescu, 7-5 7-5
We’re starting with one match that was unforgettable for reasons that had entirely nothing to do with the actual tennis played. Because after a 14-year absence, Serena Williams finally stepped on the Indian Wells centre court and just, like, played tennis for once.
Sometimes sports aren’t really about sports.
2016 Men’s Fourth Round: Rafael Nadal over Alexander Zverev, 6-7(8) 6-0 7-5
Oh, what could have been. After having won a tense and terse opening set, then completely falling apart in the second, 18-year-old Alexander Zverev managed to bounce back and had the game, set and match on his racket in the third but missed an easy forehand volley on match point.
Zverev remains winless against Rafael Nadal.
2019 Women’s Final: Bianca Andreescu over Angelique Kerber, 6-4 3-6 6-4
In hindsight and in light of what came in the weeks and months after, this result makes much more sense now than it did then. But at the time, Bianca Andreescu was just the latest Canadian prodigy who seemed ready to take the WTA by storm—whether she would crash and burn following her ascent was still up in the air, although we now know Andreescu is here to stay. (As long as she can finally get healthy.)
2017 Women’s Final: Elena Vesnina over Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-7(6) 7-5 6-4
Has there truly been a more bonkers match in recent years than this all-Russian final? Elena Vesnina had failed in the first round of qualifying in 2016 but rode incredible moxie and gutsy play all the way to the 2017 title. She spoiled Svetlana Kuznetsova’s party not once but twice, erasing deficits of 4-1 and 4-2 in the second and third sets.
It remains by far the biggest title of her career.
2014 Men’s Final: Novak Djokovic over Roger Federer, 3-6 6-3 7-6(3)
Just…. *chef’s kiss*
Novak Djokovic grabbed the first of three straight BNP Paribas Open titles by defeating the people’s champ Roger Federer. It wasn’t the first time he did, and it wouldn’t be the last time either as you might have heard.
🙂 🙂 🙂
2017 Men’s Second Round: Vasek Pospisil over Andy Murray, 6-4 7-5
We’re ending things on a patriotic note and highlighting what is still probably the most recent masterclass from Canadian Vasek Pospisil. Then ranked a lowly No. 129, the young man got the biggest win of his career—a thorough dismantling of then-No. 1-ranked player Andy Murray.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG