Laver Cup Says Hi To San Francisco, Venus Says ‘Bye To Indian Wells

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Vinay Venkatesh

Indian Wells 

GREAT NEWS – LAVER CUP IS COMING TO SAN FRANCISCO: “Be here now” is a great old piece of advice. They say it’s best to stay in the moment and all that stuff. 

And I’m in beautiful, sunny Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open, so what other better place is there to “be here now?” 

But there’s a problem. I can’t help but get excited about the news that the Laver Cup will be coming to San Francisco September 19-21, 2025.

In decades past, the greats of tennis would come to Northern California: Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Arthur Ashe and then modern players like McEnroe, Connors, Agassi, Sampras and Roddick, not to mention Billie Jean, Chrissie, Martina, Monica and Steffi.

The Virginia Slims circuit played one of its first tourneys in San Francisco. The WTA itself had its headquarters in the city and Venus Williams starred in the most famous debut in tennis history in Oakland in 1994. 

From 1974 to 1993, San Francisco hosted the ATP’s Transamerica Open, which became the Volvo Open. But then it went to San Jose and eventually left town in 2014. But no problem, the Bay Area still staged the Mubadala Silicon Valley Open, which drew the likes of Serena, Coco, Naomi and Aryna Sabalenka.

But, then last year the San Jose tournament fled to Washington DC. A new spirited tournament in Palo Alto, the Golden Gate Open, lasted only one year. 

Sadly, pro tennis in the Bay Area has been mired in a major funk. Our top rated woman, Katie Volynets, is only ranked No. 131. A bright prospect from Carmichael, Jenson Brooksky, reached No. 33, but then was suspended due to drug testing violations. 

Tennis’ problems have just been part of a general sports malaise that has hit the Bay Area. No, we’re not talking about the 49ers’ devastating Super Bowl loss. Rather it was Oakland’s loss of the Raiders to Vegas and its probable loss of the A’s to Sin City. 

On top of all this dreary sports news, of late, San Francisco’s image has been taking it on the chin. So, it’s wonderful that tennis’ most upbeat nomadic event will be coming to the Chase Center in about 18 months. 

Why is it coming our way?

For starters, the Laver Cup often likes to go to great cities that are a bit off the tennis grid: think Prague, Chicago, Geneva and Vancouver. Federer himself had a vastly successful 2018 San Jose exhibition to raise money for his African foundation. 

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Nicolas Godsick, the son of Tony Godsick, Federer’s agent and the prime leader of the Laver Cup, is a Stanford freshman and a mainstay on  the Cardinal tennis team.  

Already the Laver Cup news is creating a buzz. Pam Sloan, the president of the USTA NorCal, told Inside Tennis, “This is such an exciting opportunity for our kids and our community to be part of such a great event. Aspiration is such a big part of tennis and surely a lot of Bay Area kids will be inspired by seeing all these top pros who’ll be in town.”

And let’s connect some more dots. Roger Federer, the founder of the Laver Cup, is bringing his marquee event to Chase Center, the house that Steph Curry built. 

Federer, who loved basketball as a teen and visited the Warriors’ locker room when he was in Shanghai a few years ago, has long been compared to Curry. They both play with beauty and athletic grace while exuding supreme confidence. Fans are amazed by their sublime footwork and quick, gorgeous points of release. They make it look so easy. They seem to float, yet they’re both street-fighting men who can turn it on at any moment. In full flight, they simply astound.

It’s astounding and gratifying that the Laver Cup is coming to the Bay. 

FAREWELL VENUS: Today Venus Ebony Starr Williams may well have played her last pro match in the Golden State. It didn’t have a Hollywood ending. 

The icon was reared in Compton, California, just 125 miles due west of Indian Wells. Her first pro tournament was in Oakland. Her most controversial moment came at Indian Wells in 2001. And Hollywood made “King Richard,” the biopic about her and her dad, the most ballyhooed tennis movie ever, on LA’s back lots.

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After her match against Japan’s Nao Hibino was suspended due to rain last night, today the 43-year-old seemed to be turning back the clock. Her mantra of late, “This old cat still has some tricks up her sleeve,” seemed to be on full display. She was taking it to the little known and seemingly overmatched Hibino, a 29-year-old qualifier who’s No. 80 in the world. 

Hitting with ease and seemingly in cruise control, Venus was up 6-2, 3-3 40-0. Never mind that Williams hadn’t won since Cincinnati, 206 days ago. Now she seemed destined to prevail, despite her No. 437 ranking. But then the 43-year-old’s energy dipped, her focus wavered, her will flattened. The wheels came off. 

Her legs seemed sluggish – her explosive shots were diminished. Time and again she double faulted. The great Venus struck out as she lost nine games in a row.

At 2:02 PM, sirens wailed loud in the distance. Venus was down three set points. One could not help but flash back on this singular champion’s great moments. Her fearless adventures as a proud teen with defiant beads in her hair and, a bit later, her colliding with an angry Romanian foe (and with all of tennis, for that matter). Her gleefully leaping in triumph above Wimbledon’s fabled Centre Court lawn or facing her younger sister in prime time under New York’s bright lights.

Venus gamely saved two match points. But then, the woman who said she would revolutionize tennis (and went on with her younger sister to do just that) double-faulted, to lose the match 2-6, 6-3, 6-0. She promptly packed her gear into her red Wilson bag, waved to the crowd and, after 32 steps, was gone. No on-court speech, no post-match press conference, just moments and memories. 

I thought of her 1994 debut match in Oakland. I was there when Bud Collins, CNN and much of the tennis media descended to see what the spindly, wide-eyed prodigy was all about.

Now, 30 years, 49 titles and three Olympic Gold medals later, we know. And we knew that Indian Wells’ announcer was onto something when he claimed that when you look up the word inspiration in the dictionary it comes up as “Venus.” 

FAREWELL IVO: After 24 years on the circuit, Ivo Karlovic, the towering Croatian with the fierce serve, has finally retired. The 6’ 11” 45-year-old blasted 13,728 aces and was a pioneer for athletes who had speech impediments. Plus Karlovic was funny. The gigantic man said that neither of his parents were tall, and then announced, “It was the postman.” 

JUST WONDERING: After all is said and done, was it inevitable that we took the sheer physicality and intensity of Rafa Nadal’s game for granted?

SLOW IS GOOD: British commentator Mark Petchey tweeted, “The courts at IW may be quicker, the ball may be quicker (but my hairline lasted longer than these balls). What’s not in doubt is that we have been conditioned to accept exceptionally slow conditions as the best way to showcase tennis.” 

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH? A woman fan getting off the Stadium 1 elevator mumbled, “I adore Indian Wells, but I sure wish Roger Federer was still around.”

SAY IT ISN’T SO: Umbrellas aren’t allowed into the BNP Paribas Open.

NOT YOUR TYPICAL STANIMAL: Switzerland’s greatest tennis legend not named Roger lost today – but not before Brett Haber noted, “Stan Wawrinka isn’t built like others. He is a barrel-chested bloke.”

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