HomeAmericaUS Open stars fall at Indian Wells, which struggles to draw crowds

US Open stars fall at Indian Wells, which struggles to draw crowds

Indian Wells, Calif. – With no teenagers and no Daniil Medvedev left in a draw, this tournament certainly won’t be a repeat of the US Open.

Medvedev, in his earlier way so calm and pressure-proof grand slam title In New York last month, the BNP looked set to roll on Wednesday at the Paribas Open.

He led Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 16 with a set and two breaks of serve. But tennis remains an unpredictable sport, and top seed Medvedev loses his way in the desert sun as Dimitrov, playing patiently and courageously. At the right time, won eight straight games and then persevered to end the upsets 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

“Unless possible, I guess,” Dimitrov said in a television interview.

But if it’s not the US Open, it’s not really an Indian Wells tournament either. The event, which is usually held annually in March, has grown in its size and stature. free spend owner, Larry Ellison, became the most popular and coveted tour stop after four Grand Slam tournaments and the year-end Tour Finals.

In 2019, over the course of a nearly two-week event, 475,000 spectators flocked to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, filling the stadium courts and upscale restaurants that overlook them. In recent years, the tournament has generated an estimated annual economic impact of more than $400 million in the greater Palm Springs area.

But in March 2020, it became the first major international sporting event Cancelled Due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision, which was ultimately Ellison’s call, turned out to be the right one. Although there were doubts when the move was announced just before the qualifying tournament, other leagues and events soon followed as the scope and threat of the pandemic became clear.

“We thought they were crazy at first to call it off,” Crystal Meyer, a longtime Long Beach fan and tournament participant, said in an interview last week. “How could anyone know what was coming?”

This year, the BNP Paribas Open was moved from March to October, and although the prize money is roughly the same as in 2019, the star power and atmosphere are not.

According to tournament officials, attendance is on its way to almost half as of 2019. The change in date is definitely a factor. Many seasonal residents have yet to come to the area, and regulars who make March attendance a tradition were unwilling to embrace October.

The decision to require vaccination of all spectators may have limited the total number, reassuring some fans. “When we’ve seen everyone being vaccinated, we definitely feel better about coming,” Meyer said.

But there is still an underlying concern about attending mass events and traveling too far from home. More than 87 percent of visitors in 2019 were from outside the Palm Springs area.

Another reason for the less crowd is of course the changing of the guard in tennis. The tournament is missing the two biggest stars in the women’s game (Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka) and the three biggest stars in the men’s game (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic).

Federer, 40, and Nadal, 35, are recovering from injuries, and they announced the end of their 2020 season in August. Djokovic, 34, is resting and recovering after a straight-sets loss to Medvedev in last month’s US Open final, a defeat that prevented him from becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete a Grand Slam in singles. Gave.

Dominic Thiem, who won the men’s title here in 2019, has also been ruled out due to injury. He, like other high-profile absentees, is still present in Indian Wells. Apparently, tournament organizers have put up life-size photos of them all with the words “we miss you” on a wall behind Stadium 2. It has become a magnet during the event, with fans posing for pictures next to it.

Posing next to flesh-and-blood players has become a lot trickier due to pandemic restrictions, which have meant a ban on official autograph sessions. (Unofficial signings still took place.)

Women’s singles quarterfinals in New York with no surprise Open champions reaching the quarterfinals here Emma Radukanu In her opening match, she lost to 100th ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovi.

The more experienced Medvedev did the better with his wonderful mix of offense and defense, and he did extremely well against Dimitrov until he took a 4-1 lead in the second set.

But Bulgarian No. 23 Dimitrov was opportunistic enough to change the pace. At 30, he is yet to reach the heights that seemed his destiny given his stylish, on-court game. But he remains a dangerous opponent, and after showing glimpses of fine form at the San Diego Open a week before Indian Wells, he lifted his game as Medvedev’s drop on Wednesday.

“He definitely flipped the switch,” Medvedev said. “It’s not like I started missing everything and liked to play really bad. I still maintained some level, if we can call it that way. Enough to finish this match in so many matches. Will happen.”

Once at the rallies, Dimitrov cut his single-handed backhand almost exclusively down the stretch and waited — and waited — to take big risks with his forehand. Most of them paid off in the final set, and they took a 5–1 lead as Medvedev broke a racket between his first and second serves (he double faulted) and lost his serve for the sixth in rare fashion. I expressed displeasure. Time.

“This shows how slow this court is, and the conditions are like mud, which I don’t like,” said Medvedev.

Dimitrov soon lost his serve as he tried to end the upset at 5-1, but he didn’t fight 5-3, holding on to Love and tossing both hands into the air.

Although the sky above him was typical Indian Wells—clear and blue—what was happening back on Earth was anything but business as usual.

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