Indian Wells doesn´t deserve a big tournament


Not so long ago, let´s say 20 years, Indian Wells was just an ordinary stop in the WTA and ATP tours. Women and men played in consecutive weeks. All was well, but then they decided to go big. Build a big stadium, go combined and start to aspire being bigger than the well established Miami tournament later in the spring.
What happened? Just one year into building this second biggest tennis stadium in the world, there was a controversy. Venus Williams didn´t take court because of an injury before her semifinal with sister Serena. Thinking this was due to Williams family decision not wanting to play each other, the crowd was hostile during Serena´s final against Kim Clijsters. There were also racial insults, claimed Venus and father Richard who were watching the match from the stands.
That famous incident led to a long boycott of the tournament by Williams sisters. Serena came back last year and then Venus wanted to forgive too, coming back this year. And what was the price of thinking that Indian Wells might have become better in the meantime? Another controversy, this time not anything racial but an equality issue as well. The tournament director speaking out something any woman player would have hard time to understand. That a woman player should thank Roger and Rafa for carrying the sport and singling out some “physically attractive” players in a bad way. No wonder he was forced to resign after some very hard backlash.
Two years ago at the Australian Open I met a Finnish guy who used to visit Indian Wells tennis every year. “I stay with Teemu Selänne. It´s much better than this here”, he said. Just at the time it might have been true, since the Aussie Open suffered its worst ever heatwave during the first four days of the tournament. But somehow I was just not convinced.
I have never visited Indian Wells, but seeing some photos don´t make it very attractive in my mind. The location is referred often as a desert. From afar it looks like a huge tennis complex was build in the middle of nowhere. No green, no trees, just mountains not far away. I wonder where I would stay if I came to visit. When I search for information, I come across the words “luxury” and “resort” too many times. Not something for me then. It looks like Indian Wells tennis was tailor-made for white and rich men who rather sit by the poolside restaurant calling orders for “physically attractive” waitresses. If I was asked, a serious tennis tournament and Indian Wells don´t just match. I think the controversies prove this theory right. Amen.

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