I have loved tennis for years. While I can't keep a ball in the court or serve to save my life, I find the sport fascinating. It's not just the physical effort or stamina required. Tennis is a mental challenge. For singles players, it requires the fortitude to go out on a large court in front of thousands of people without a teammate for comfort or cover. It requires problem solving on a grand scale and at a fast pace. Points and sets may go by quickly. Or a match may hinge on a few points in a tug-of-wills that last for hours or days. Even if a player is on the brink of defeat, the tide can turn.
While I've watched hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of tennis on television, I never saw a professional play in person until Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and Bob and Mike Bryan brought that experience to the Twin Cities with the Minnesota Tennis Challenge. Even then it was an exhibition. It didn't have the explosive nature of the game at full speed.
So this year I took a bite out of the bucket list and bought a plane ticket to California. The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells provides a rare option outside of the majors to see the sport's top players in the world, both men and women, play. It's an opportunity to see a who's who of tennis talent. All beneath blue skies and hot sunshine. Today I watched Andy Roddick from courtside seats as he turned a match around and won after struggling early. And then I had the opportunity to sit in on his post-match interview. Now I'm seated in the media work room watching matches and listening to reporters in the room speaking in English, French, Spanish and Japanese. No doubt they'll cover the venue with much more expertise but perhaps no more passion than a Midwesterner making the trek west to see it all in person for the first time.