Sue had a great post about her experience at Indian Wells this year. Instead of just recounting my experience at Indian Wells this year which was not too different from Sue’s, I thought I would talk about my experiences over the last few years.
I first went to Indian Wells in 2010. It was a dream of mine to finally see Federer in person. For years I watched a lot of tennis especially Federer on TV and talked about seeing it live. My husband suggested I buy tickets but I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go. He wasn’t interested and I didn’t want to go by myself. He suggested I take my son. I thought it was a great idea, so I bought tickets and took him. Thomas was just 6 at the time. I bought it months in advance and we were both so excited to go!
When the day finally arrived it was so amazing walking around the grounds and watching players I had only seen on TV like Marin Cilic, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Robin Soderling. We also got to see Nadal play a match. Federer did not practice or play that day which was disappointing.
In 2011, I hoped it would be our year to see Federer play. I had started watching him in 2005 in the Australian Open semifinals against Marat Safin and I was hooked. Even though he lost, I so enjoyed his style of tennis. It was such a pleasure to watch tennis again after losing interest in tennis after Edberg retired. I followed tennis and Federer very closely after that.
My husband found 2 stadium box seat tickets being sold on Craig’s List (an online network with classified ads). We took a chance and hoped the seller was legitimate. It turned out to be fantastic seats. Unfortunately for us, he wasn’t playing the day we went. Both my son and I were disappointed, but we were determined to see him even if it was just a practice. We were very lucky he was practicing that day and were able to get seats near his practice court. It was fun watching him serve and hit some balls in a more relaxed atmosphere. We got to see Verdasco, Ljubicic, and Nadal play matches that day as well.
We had such a great time. I couldn’t stop talking about it. So the next year, I bought day session tickets. I was also armed with a better camera (an SLR camera instead of the point-and-shoot from the previous year).
The first day we went, Federer was playing the night match and I didn’t have tickets. Imagine my disappointment when I realized I might not get to see Federer play for the third year in a row! I didn’t know if he would be playing the next day so I decided to take a chance and try to buy night session tickets at the box office when we arrived that day. I managed to get some seats way up high in the stadium. We were treated to an amazing night match with the up-and-coming Milos Raonic. Even though we were far away, it was a great 3 set match. Federer lost the first set in a tiebreaker but came back to win the match. My son and I laughed at the fans that sat next to us, all we heard was Go MILOS! the entire match.
The next day, it turned out Federer was playing during the day. We were so excited! We knew we would be seeing him up close! We sat not far from the area where the players entrance was. Thomas decided at the end of the match that he wanted to try to get Federer’s autograph. He got near the wall and hung over it with his tennis ball and waited. People were shoving and pushing their way to the wall. I was trying to find a spot to take a picture but it was so crowded. In the end, Federer signed a few items near him but Thomas just missed Federer. He was so sad when he didn’t get it. He was struggling to hold back the tears. I tried to cheer him up by getting him some pizza (his favorite) but he was so sad. While we were eating, a couple approached us and gave us their tickets for the evening session to the Nadal doubles match on stadium 2. I was happy we didn’t have to leave yet after the disappointing end to the Federer match. Thomas wasn’t too interested. When we got to the stadium we were amazed that the seats were in the front row right behind the players! We watched the end of a match where Gilles Simon defeated Ryan Harrison. Afterwards, Thomas was able to get Simon’s autograph with a little help from a fellow fan. He was so happy. After that we watched Nadal & Marc Lopez defeat Paes/Stepanek in a fun doubles match. Nadal even tossed a towel to him as he walked off the court. Although Thomas didn’t get Federer’s autograph he was happy to get a one autograph. Federer went on to win the tournament and it was a very satisfying Indian Wells experience that year.
We went again in 2013 and saw Federer up close at a practice session. We sat for over an hour in the blazing sun to see him (he was late of course). When he finally came and practiced, the waiting and heat didn’t seem to matter anymore. Everyone was just in awe of the effortless way he hit the ball and how relaxed his practice session was. I had my brother’s big telephoto lens and I had fun taking lots of pictures. Then we watched him play against Ivan Dodig in the stadium. He was rolling through that match until we neared the end of the match. That was when he hurt his back. At the time it didn’t seem that bad but when he played the next day against Stan Wawrinka you could tell his back was affecting his play. He won the match against Wawrinka, but Wawrinka should have won.
Last year I bought tickets for 4 days. My husband and daughter went with us for the first Sunday. I bought less expensive seats and we were treated to fun matches with Berdych and Isner. It was fun sharing the experience with the whole family. We saw him easily defeat Dimitry Tursunov. I went the next day with just my daughter for the first time. She waited in line and got an autograph from Andrea Petkovic. We also got to see Nadal and Federer again! I took my son on Wednesday and we were lucky enough to see Federer play. Federer won in straight sets against Tommy Haas. It was a pleasure to watch them exchange one-handed backhands. We also saw some entertaining matches with Gulbis and Fognini.
I bought tickets for the Quarterfinals on Thursday but Federer was not playing. Instead we watched him practice on the new Stadium 2. We got there early enough to sit in the front row and watch him practice. We were behind the baseline on the same side of the court as him. It was a blast to see him so close. I got some great close up shots of him. Unfortunately, his back was to us most of the time.
In 2015, we were treated to a very competitive match with Dimitrov vs. Kyrios. It was unfortunate he twisted his ankle late in the match. We were lucky again to see Federer twice during the 3 days we went. He played his opening match on the first Sunday against Diego Schwartzman. The match was a blow out but it was still so enjoyable to watch his fluid movements, his great serves and his beautiful backhands. I knew we would see Federer at least once during the 3 days but I didn’t think it was likely we would see him twice.
Our last day we were treated to a good Nishikori match (unfortunately he lost), followed by Nadal and then Federer. Federer played against American Jack Sock. It was another entertaining match that we knew Federer would win. Near the end of the match Thomas decided to try to get Federer’s autograph again. We watched where and how the fans lined up for Nadal in the previous match so we made a plan on how to get to the wall and what to do. Unfortunately he was barred from getting into the area so he never had a chance to get his autograph. Once again, Thomas was in tears and I felt so bad for him. I decided to distract him a little by taking him to the gated area near the practice courts and see if we could get another player’s autograph. Djokovic was practicing and I knew he would be walking past the gate on his way out from practice so we waited there for 45 minutes in the hopes we could get his autograph. He walked out and Thomas was bold enough to call out to him and ask for his autograph. Djokovic came over and signed his ball! He was ecstatic! It wasn’t Roger’s autograph but it was the next best thing. We will definitely try again next year. It was a great way to end another year at Indian Wells. I will definitely be back next year!