FOUR BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA

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Photo by Michael Weinstein

BNP Paribas Opening Day

Bill Simons

INDIAN WELLS, CA

Just four years ago, the Williams sisters were missing in action, Pariahs who hadn’t played in Indian Wells for 14 years.

But things do change. The desert is now brimming with huge marijuana farms, and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is more luxuriant than ever. The Williams sisters, who were for so long afterthoughts at Indian Wells, today were at the center of the opening-day buzz.

While the Oscars had just been talking about the provocative movie “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri,” BNP Paribas fans were talking about four billboards outside Indian Wells, California.

You see, Serena’s zillionaire husband had just purchased four billboards on freeway I-10 east of Indian Wells that feature photos of their daughter Olympia and the message “Greatest Momma of All Time: GMOAT,” and the front page of the local paper, The Desert Sun, featured a beaming Serena at a La Quinta Resort fundraiser, where she captivated both fans and her fellow celebrities.

And the prime celebrity of the annual press round tables at the tourney was sister Venus. After all, for assorted reasons, the game’s biggest names – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Sharapova and Serena – were for all absent.

Still, the wide-ranging press interviews with many players were often breezy, intimate and revealing. Here’s what was said:

VENUS WILLIAMS: The WTA’s great elder said that despite all Serena has gone through, more than ever, “She’s still a little girl. Just because you do adult things, you don’t have to grow up. That’s the best part of Serena.”

As for tennis, Venus observed, “You have a lot of freedom because of it, but there is no freedom at all because all you do is play tennis or go to the gym.” Today, she said, “The competition is deeper and the courts are much slower. Now you have to be ready for the ball to come back.”

As for her resurgence in the past couple of years, she shrugged and offered a minimalist Zen explanation: “I’ve won more points than the players I played. That’s it.” When asked if business has much in common with her sport, she said there are so many similarities that she’s written a book about it. She noted, “Sport mirrors life. [Like tennis] there is definitely a win and a loss in business. You find out faster in business than in tennis if you are losing. You know if the money is flying out the window.”

When IT asked her about her role in gaining equal pay for women, she said “That was a beautiful time and it’s a beautiful time now for women in the world. It’s a great time…I’m proud to be a woman, I love it.”

When asked what keeps her going, she succinctly replied, “It’s not time to stop. I hope I’ll know when to stop. Otherwise you tell me.”

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: The Argentine, who is said to be, after Federer, the most beloved ATP player, says he feels the love of fans in his heart and that they know what he has gone through. He said he still works out for three to four hours a day to strengthen his wrists, which have endured four surgeries. He said he never expected to win a medal in the Rio Olympics, to lead Argentina to its first Davis Cup Championships or to get back into the Top 10. He added that, of late, the prime change in tennis have been all the injuries: “it’s not normal to see Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic, me, Rafa to have [all these] injuries. It means something is happening. The youngest players are so strong, so fast and hit the ball even faster than me. It’s not easy to play with them. Our bodies are feeling the change.”

GRIGOR DIMITROV: When Inside Tennis showed him the cover of our Yearbook issue with him on the cover winning the ATP Championships last Fall, he said, “Wow, can’t you see can see [how happy I am]? Can I have a copy?” We joked, “It’s $7.50 an issue.” Grigor then told us that that moment, when he won the ATP Championship, “was everything to me and to everyone who helped me throughout the years. It was such a spectacular moment. My father, my mother and my coach who has been coaching from my early years were all there. I will definitely treasure that. Whatever else happens, this will remain as a very special moment.”

BTW: When asked how a player knows when it’s time to make a coaching change, the increasingly wise Bulgarian noted, “You feel it, just like any relationship.” And then he confided, that sometimes he feels better when he goes to the gym than when he wins a match. As for Federer, Dimitrov said he is riding a wave and “proving there is no limit. It’s Roger, what can you say?”

JACK SOCK: The No. 1 American, who hung out with Bill Gates in the Bay Area, said the Microsoft genius is “by far the smartest guy I’ve come across. Everything out of his mouth is something new. There were a lot of statistics and comments on where the world is going to be in ten years. I had to research some stuff on line after he was finished talking.”

GARBINE MUGURUZA: The two-time Slam champ said she was thrilled that American Kayla Day named her dog after her. She’s now spending a lot of time in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Santa Monica in LA, and likes to practice on public courts near the beach and work out in the sand. But she’s cautious about the always-lively Venice Beach: “I liked it for a couple of days, but there are weird people there. I’m not going out there at night.”

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: The former No. 1 said the key to the great Czech tennis tradition is its history and legends like Lendl, Navratilova and Sukova and, of course, the “golden Czech hands” her country is known for. BTW she said Californian CiCi Bellis, who she lost to earlier this year, is athletic, talented and very young. She doesn’t have a big weapon, but her serve [for her size] isn’t that bad. She said the future is open for her and she could reach the top 30. Pliskova added that, unlike Serena, she doesn’t see herself being a mother on the tour.

ALEXANDER ZVEREV: The German phenom, who just parted ways with his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, said the Spaniard’s claim that he was late to practice was not true. “I won’t go into this fight,” he said. Then, very much sounding like an appreciative son, he added (much to the chagrin of Williams fans) that he still feels his Dad is possibly the greatest coach the game has ever seen.

Zverev also said he didn’t expect Roger Federer to come across the locker room in Melbourne after he suffered a tough five-set loss to Hyeon Chung, but “most people know that Roger is one of the nicest guys on tour and wants to pass on his knowledge. He wants the game to be in good hands. He knows he won’t go on forever.” Zverev added that Roger sometimes gives him tips in practice.

KEVIN ANDERSON: The tallest Slam finalist ever says tall players have advantages in terms of the physics of the serve, but have issues in terms of balance and movement. It used to be that most champions were about six-feet tall, but now, he said, things are trending upward and it’s just a matter of time before there are a lot of really tall champions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE INDIAN WELLS CALIFORNIA

Just four years ago the Williams sister were missing in action, piriahs who hadn’t played in Indian Wells for 14 years.

But things do change. The desert is now brimming with huge marijuana farms and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is more luxuriant than ever. The Williams sisters, who were for so long afterthoughts at Indian Wells, now were at the center of the opening day buzz.

While the Oscars had just been talking about the provocative movie Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri, BNP Paribas fans were talking about four billboards outside Indian Wells California.

You see, Serena’s zillionaire husband had just purchased four billboards on freeway I-10 east of Indian Wells which featured photos of their daughter Olympia and the message of “Greatest Momma of all time: GMOAT” and the front page of the local paper, The Desert Sun, featured a beaming Serena at a La Quinta Resort fundraiser where she captivated both fans and her fellow celebrities.

And the prime celebrity of the annual press round tables at the tourney was sister Venus. After all, for assorted reasons, the game’s biggest names – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Sharapova and Serena – were for all absent.

Still, the wide-ranging pressers with many a player, were often breezy, intimate and revealing. Here’s what was said.

VENUS WILLIAMS: The WTA’s great elder said that despite all Serena has gone through that more than ever, “she’s still a little girl. Just because you do adult things, you don’t have to grow up. That’s the best part of Serena.”

As for tennis, Venus observed, “You have a lot of freedom because of it, but there is no freedom at all because all you do is play tennis or go to the gym.” Today, she said, “the competition is deeper and the courts are much slower. Now you have to be ready for the ball to come back.”

As for her resurgence in the past couple of years, she shrugged and offered a minimalist Zen explanation: “I’ve won more points than the players I played. That’s it.” When asked if business has much in common with her sport, she said there are so many similarities that she’s written a book about it. She noted, “Sport mirrors life. [Like tennis] there is definitely a win and a loss in business. You find out faster in business than in tennis if you are losing. You know if the money is flying out the window.”

When IT asked her about her role in gaining equal pay for women, she said “That was a beautiful time and it’s beautiful time now for women in the world. It’s a great time…I’m proud to be a woman, I love it.”

When asked, what keeps her going, she succinctly replied, “It’s not time to stop. I hope I’ll know when to stop. Otherwise you tell me.”

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: The Argentine, who is said to be, after Federer, the most beloved ATP player, says he feels the love of fans in his heart and that they know what he has gone through. He said he still works out for three to four hours a day to strengthen his wrists, which have endured four surgeries. He added that and that he never expected to win a medal in the Rio Olympics, to lead Argentina to its first Davis Cup Championships or to get back into the Top 10. He added that, of late, the prime change in tennis have been all the injuries: “it’s not normal to see Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic, me, Rafa to have [all these] injuries. It means something is happening. The youngest players are so strong, so fast and hit the ball even faster than me. It’s not easy to play with them. Our bodies are feeling the change.”

GRIGOR DIMITROV: When Inside Tennis showed him the cover of our Yearbook issue with him on the cover winning the ATP Championships last Fall, he said, “Wow can’t you see can see [how happy I am.] Can I have a copy? We joked, “it’s $7.50 an issue.” Grigor then said that moment, when he won the ATP Championships “was everything to me and to everyone who helped me throughout the years. It was such a spectacular moment. My father, my mother and my coach who has been coaching from my early years were all there. I will definitely treasure that. Whatever else happens, this will remain as a very special moment.”

BTW: When asked how a player knows when it’s time to make a coaching change, the increasingly wise Bulgarian noted, “You feel it, just like any relationship.” And then he confided, that sometimes he feels better when he goes to the gym than when he wins a match. As for Federer, Dimitrov said, he is riding a wave and “proving there is no limit. It’s Roger, what can you say?”

JACK SOCK: TJACK SOCKhe No. 1 American, who hung out with Bill Gates in the Bay Area, said the Microsoft genius was, “by far the smartest guy I’ve come across. Everything out of his mouth is something new. There were a lot of statistics and comments on where the world is going to be in ten years. I had to research some stuff on line after he was finished talking.”

GARBINE MUGURUZA: The two-time Slam champ said she was thrilled that American Kayla Day named her dog after her. She’s now spending a lot of time in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Santa Monica in LA and likes to practice on public courts near the beach and to work out in the sand. But she’s cautious about the always lively Venice Beach: “I like it for a couple of days, but there’s weird people there. I’m not going out there at night.”

KAROLINA PLISKOVA: The former No. 1 said the key to the great Czech tennis tradition is its history and legends like Lendl, Navratilova and Sukova and, of course, the “golden Czech hands” her country is know for. BTW she said Californian Cici Bellis, who she lost to earlier this year, is athletic, talented and very young. She doesn’t have a big weapon, but her serve [for her size] isn’t that bad. She said the future is open for her and she could reach the top 30. Pliskova added that, unlike Serena, she doesn’t see herself being a mother on the tour.

ALEXANDER ZVEREV: The German phenom, who just parted ways with his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, said the Spaniard’s claim that he was late to practice was not true. “I won’t go into this fight,” he said. Then, very much sounding like an appreciative son, he added (much to the chagrin of Williams fans) that he still feels his Dad is possibly the greatest coach the game has ever seen.

Zverev also said he didn’t expect Roger Federer to come across the locker room in Melbourne after he suffered a tough five set loss to Hyeon Chung, but “most people know that Roger is one of the nicest guys on tour and wants to pass on his knowledge. He wants the game to be in good hands. He knows he won’t go on forever.” Zverev added that Roger sometimes gives him tips in practice.

KEVIN ANDERSON: The tallest Slam finalist ever says tall players have advantages in terms of the physics of the serve, but have issues in terms of balance and movement. It used to be that most champions were about six-feet, but now things are trending upward and it is just a matter of time before there are a lot of really tall champions.

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