Don’t let those corporate-heavy tournament names fool you, the two Premier events that dominate the calendar in March do much to reveal American tennis’ beating heart and passion for the sport amidst waning enthusiasm for the Davis Cup and the showy and sometimes hollow U.S Open.
The ‘Fifth Slam’ as it has so often been called in Indian Wells is the first and marginally more prestigious of the two. As we near the halfway stage it is time to look at the stories so far – and there have been plenty of surprises worthy of a major fortnight already.
After the disappointing early exit of the semi-returning Hingis in the doubles competition (this time teaming with Sabine Lisicki) was compensated with the ongoing march of another eye-catching pairing.
The Swiss ‘dream team’ of Federer and newly crowned national no.1 Wawrinka have escaped the close attentions of many a doubles specialist this last week and despite ongoing singles commitments look like a strong shout to take the title. And all via a refreshingly laid back and smiley swagger – great to see.
The Bryans will be there or thereabouts of course and the surprise French crowd pleasers of Tsonga and Mahut are very easy on the eye too.
Things haven’t been faultless in Florida however, as for every sparkling doubles encounter there have been some real duds and mouthwatering match-ups that simply failed to deliver any sort of quality.
Step forward Murray def Vesely, Fognini def Monfils and Giorgi def Sharapova, the latter errorfest proving to be one of many shocks on a day of upsets at the start of the second week.
In the men’s draw we have already lost Nadal (to Dolgopolov), Kohlschreiber (to Lu) Berdych (to Oz Open hero Bautista Agut) and the aforementioned Tsonga to compatriot Benneteau. Juan Martin Del Potro pulled out before his first match to injury once more, worrying times for the Argentine.
The women headliners haven’t faired much better, we don’t have either Williams sister of course and have said goodbye to Sharapova, Azarenka (to Davis), Kerber (to Torro-Flor) Ivanovic, Lisicki and Bouchard – the last three all bowing out to fellow seeds. It was adios too to two former champions both on the road from recovery in Zvonareva and the clearly rusty Hantuchova.
Amidst the star exits we can celebrate the return to form of others – Isner, Wozniack, Kvitova and Cillic who continues his fine 2014 form.
The business end of things in Kissimmee only further justify that ‘Fifth Slam’ label, such is the quality in every fixture, it’s going to be essential viewing.