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Hope and Fame Dwell at Indian Wells

By Frances Allen   

Arguably for more than the past decade, but certainly since the opening of the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens earlier, the hope and fame surrounding professional tennis has been forged in the Coachella Valley.

This year, there are at least five different scenarios to watch as play unfolds on March 9, culminating in a March 22 battle for the championship of the BNP Paribas Open.

The first scenario to unfold is the fate of Roger Federer. Until just over two years ago, when he came down with a case of mononucleosis, Federer, with 13 Grand Slams wins, was everyone’s choice as the undisputed top tennis player in the world; he was unstoppable. There was even talk – albeit less unanimous—that he might be the greatest tennis player of all times.

For most of Federer’s glory days, everyone knew that the Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, was generally ranked as a very distant second in the world; you could drive a Hummer through the gap between their ranking points.

But, what a difference a couple of years make. Federer struggled to regain his health, and his game, while the determined Nadal kept plodding along, winning tournament after tournament and more importantly, winning matches against Federer.

Today, after wining an epic five-set final at the recently concluded Australian Open, a five-set victory at last summer’s Wimbledon, both against Federer, Nadal is now the world’s top ranked men’s tennis player. In fact, with five straight losses to Nadal, the skeptics are questioning whether Federer can ever win another match against Nadal.

This year, more than at any time before, Federer needs to find the form that won him three consecutive titles at Indian Wells. Nadel, of course, has other plans, and the fans are hoping that the luck of the draw and skill of play will lead to another Nadel/Federer match.

The second interesting scenario that will unfold at the BNP Paribas Open concerns the Serbian players. Just has England (until recently) has not been known for gourmet cuisine, Serbia was not considered a tennis powerhouse. But the three young stars have changed that perception: Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.

Last year, Djokovic and Ivanovic captured the men’s and women’s titles, respectively, of what is now the BNP Paribas Open. In addition, Djokovic won the Australian Open last year and a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Ivanovic captured the French Open, while Jankovic claimed the World No. 1 female ranking after winning three consecutive tournaments. In addition Jankovic reached the finals of the US Open and was a semifinalist at the BNP Paribas Open.

For these three rising Serbian stars, the quest to capture big titles continues, like the one next up for grabs in Indian Wells.

It seems that everyone with a television set recognizes tennis’ blond bombshell, the former World No. 1: Maria Sharapova, who is also a three-time Grand Slam and 2006 BNP Paribas champion.

Sharapova pulled out of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour last summer because of a shoulder injury. She had hoped to defend her Australian Open title earlier this year, but her shoulder caused her to withdraw once again.

Sharapova has entered the BNP Paribas Open and tennis fans are anxious to see if she, and her shoulder, have finally recovered and can prevail in this, the third of five scenarios at Indian Wells this year.

It has been eight years since an American captured the men’s title in Indian Wells, but it hasn’t been from a lack of trying.

Marty Fish persevered through to the finals last year, and this year he will face competition from Americans Andy Roddick, James Blake and a rising newcomer, Sam Querrey. A win from anyone of them in this fourth BNP Paribas Open scenario would bring them into the distinguished company of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Jimmy Connors.

Last, but by far not the least, is the story of American twins, Mike and Bob Bryan, who captured their third Australian Open crown (doubles) and their seventh Grand Slam doubles title. However, they have never won the BNP Paribas Open.

After winning at Sydney earlier this year, the brothers singled out the upcoming tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as the one they most want to win next. Whether or not they succeed offers a fitting fifth scenario to this year’s BNP Paribas Open.

Tickets are available at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden at 78-200 Miles Avenue, Indian Wells, by calling 800-999-1585, or online at www.bnpparibasopen.org.

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