The Pacific Life Open held in beautiful Indian Wells, California took place from March 12-21, 04 with Roger Federer(world’s #1) finishing off Tim Henman(from England) in the Finals. The Woman’s # 1 player, Justine Henin-Hardenne, from Belgium took out American Lindsey Davenport in the woman’s final. This tournament is one of the 2 biggest outside the Grand Slam Tournaments(Miami being the other). Most all top seeds in the Women’s and Men’s draw play in this fabulous tennis garden. The heat in the desert hinders some of the players and knocks others out. There was some thrilling matches all tournament long. I talked with Tournament Director, “Charlie Pasarell”, and he told me he is in search for some sort of overhang to protect the fans and players as much as possible from the heat. He has some proposals out but it has to be in the appropriate budget to construct in the near future.
This Stadium is the biggest around outside the US Open Stadium for Tennis. Fan favorites Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick advanced to the semi finals and quarterfinals respectively before bowing out to Federer and Henman. Henman put a lot of pressure on Roddick with his aggressive attack the net style.
Federer finished second to Roddick in the end of the year rankings in 2003 but he is off to a great start winning the Australian Open and now the Pacific Life Open to take a commanding lead in this year’s rankings. Federer said the heat doesn’t bother him when I interviewed him before the Agassi match and he loves coming to this tournament. He is gaining more and more confidence now and when he is on his game, is almost impossible to beat at this time. He has even been playing without a coach and it has not seemed to matter. Roger can play on all surfaces and his game is at the top right now. Other players to play well in this tournament were Tommy Haas of Germany, who is on the comeback trail after missing a lot of action due to injuries and terrible family matters. He made it to the round of 16 before losing to Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina. Chela has been playing well this season on Clay and even though he got trounced by Federer in the quarters, he is one to look out for at the French Open. Another one to look out for and one of the favorites in the upcoming French Open is Guillermo Coria of Argentina. He was ranked 4th and lost a close match to Agassi in the quarters. Two others that made it far were American, James Blake, who was not playing well coming into the tourney but found his game a bit before losing to Irakli Labadze of Georgia, in the Eastern Europe. His on court antics & humor made his matches very entertaining as he was very unpredictable. He was the big surprise of the tourney and this Big, Hard Hitting Lefty, made it all the way to the Semis before Henman beat him in a close 3 set match. He made about $106,000 for this tourney which was by far his biggest payday ever. He mentioned at the press conference he was very excited about getting a new car now. As the Tour continues on the hard courts and the upcoming French Open, injuries and certain players are making strides and some others falling in the rankings. Some of the players to watch in the near future and going into the French Open in my opinion are of course Federer; Coria(my pick to win the French after watching and covering him in Argentina on Clay); Carlos Moya, who is having a great year; Marat Safin(another comeback story who made it to the Finals of the Australian Open); Lleyton Hewitt(trying to regain his form of a few years back; and David Nalbandian, who has been slowed by injuries but seems like he is getting back in really good shape to make another run at the Top 10.
Click Here for more pictures from the tournament by staff/freelance photographer Harvey Rubin.
For more information on the tournament, please visit the Tournament website at www.pacificlifeopen.com or call (760)200-8120 for tickets to next year’s tourney.