My "takes" from the Indian Wells Masters....
1. John Isner and Jack Sock. I had an opportunity to watch Isner practice with upcoming American, Jack Sock. I saw two different levels of play. Isner is definitely on the very final stages of his career. I don't know how he can ever break serve! His movement is so limited. Sock is the real deal. Every time I see him he gets better. I also think he is maturing emotionally. That may be the most important improvement of all!
2. Alex (Sasha) Zverev. Remember this name. He is the breakout star on the tennis tour. He is 19 years old. Born in Russia, and raised in Germany. He is so good already, but he still has a teenager's body. Once he gets into the gym, and commits to getting stronger, he will dominate.
3. US Open West. This is the closest event and facility short of the US Open. So much reminds me of the US Open. The stadium is huge! In fact, it is the second largest stadium in the country. The largest? Yep, Arthur Ashe stadium at the US Open. Also, just like the US Open, unless you have VIP seating, there is no reason to go the stadium court during early rounds. You can sit SO much closer watching on the outside courts. Stadium 2 at Indian Wells reminds me so much of the old grandstand at the Open, only better! They also have a huge viewing area where you watch matches on huge screens.
4. Indian Wells tournament is an interesting story. I had no idea that the Indian Wells venue is a huge stand-alone tennis facility. Prior to 2002, it was always held at one of the many resorts in the area. It started at La Quinta resort in Palm Springs, and moved to the Indian Wells Hyatt Regency Resort after that. An investment group, which included Southern California tennis legends Pete Sampras and Tracy Austin, bought a bunch of land on the outskirts of Indian Wells and built a tennis only facility. Fast forward to 2009. The tournament no longer can keep up with the player and fan demands for an event of this stature. (A master series event is a second tier event, just below the Grand Slams.) Enter Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle. Larry is a tennis nut! He buys the tournament and the venue. With his power and funding, the tournament expands its courts, parking, fan and player amenities, and has become a jaw dropping event.
5. The "Early Ball Toss" on the Serve. I have to have at least one stroke analysis take! For years I practiced and taught the "arms down together and up together" on the serve. No more! The majority of the pros now use what I call "The Early Toss" technique. In this technique the tossing arm goes upward while the hitting arm lags behind. The primary reason for this is the exaggerated upward hitting angle. This may be too technical for the casual tennis enthusiast. However, unless you are 6' 7" tall or taller, you must hit upward on the ball to both clear the net, and create spin to bring it back down into the box. The early tossing arm, along with the hitting arm in a down position, allow for an extreme angle to hit up on the ball.