Pasarell’s look back on Andre Agassi’s first trip to the BNP Paribas Open

By Leighton Ginn

Former BNP Paribas Open owner and tournament director Charlie Pasarell said his mentor Pancho Gonzalez request an unknown 15-year-old get a wildcard. Without question or seeing the kid, Pasarell gave the kid a wildcard.

That kid happened to be Andre Agassi.

Agassi did well in the first round, beating John Austin, setting up a matchup against then No. 1 Mats Wilander.

Prior to the match, Wilander came into Pasarell’s office to ask what he knew about Agassi.

Pasarell didn’t know much, but suggest Wilander avoid his forehand.

When Pasarell went to watch the match, Wilander hit every shot to Agassi’s forehand, and won in dominating fashion, which Pasarell jokes about.

“Well that’s how much I know about the game of tennis,” Pasarell said laughing.

Because Agassi was an amateur, he couldn’t accept prize money. But Pasarell said made sure Agassi was properly compensated.

Agassi had put in his expenses as $300, but the prize money for reaching the second round was $1,000.

But Pasarell said he looked at Agassi’s expenses and thought there were things that were off, and made his corrections.

The story was later told differently by Agassi in his autobiography, “Open.”

Below is the full video of Pasarell talking about Agassi at the BNP Paribas Open.

Tough road for Williams sisters as BNP Paribas Open women’s draw announced

Serena Williams, seeded 10th, could open her BNP Paribas Open campaign against Victoria Azarenka in a rematch of the 2016 finals, and possibly face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruzu in the third round.

By Leighton Ginn

Serena Williams will have a tough road in the BNP Paribas Open with possible matchups against former No. 1 players in the world in her first two matches.

Her sister Venus won’t have much of a cake walk either.

The BNP Paribas Open announced its women’s draw on Monday, and the road to the title.

Serena, who won the BNP Paribas Open title in 1999 and 2001, is the 10th seed and will have bye in the first round. In the 96- player draw, the top 32 players have a first-round bye.

To open her tournament, Serena could face Victoria Azarena in a rematch of the 2016 final, which Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4. It’s also a match up of two of the more high-profile working mothers on the tour.

Azarenka will face Vera Lapko in the first-round.

If Serena gets past Azarenka, she could face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruza, who is seeded 20th.

Serena has a 3-2 record against Muguruza.

Muguruza won their last matchup, beating Serena 7-5, 6-4 in the 2016 French Open final to claim her first major title. Muguruza also claimed the 2017 Wimbledon title when she beat Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0.

Venus Williams is unseeded and will play a first-round match against the dangerous Andrea Petkovic. They have split their four career matches, with Petkovic beating Venus in the Stanford tournament in 2014,

If Venus survives her opening match, she will then have to face third-seed Petra Kvitova, who is coming off a finals appearance at the Australian Open.

A two-time Wimbledon champion, Kvitova has a 4-2 record over Venus.

Leighton Ginn, who has covered the BNP Paribas Open for two decades, will be working with iHub Radio during the tournament. iHub will be live from 1-3 p.m. weekdays. You can go to http://www.ihubradio.com to listen or find it on the Tune In app.

Roger Federer claims fifth BNP Paribas Open title, gets called a name on court after beating Stan Wawrinka

 

By Leighton Ginn

At the BNP Paribas Open, Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka to tie for most titles at the Indian Wells event, never dropped a set and dominated like he did in his 20s in his 6-4, 7-5 victory Sunday.

But the thing people might remember most from Federer’s fifth title at the BNP Paribas Open is one word that Wawrinka uttered during his speech.

Wawrinka was overcome with emotions, trying to fight off tears, only to see Federer laughing. So during his speech, he jokingly called Federer an asshole, which drew a big laugh from the fans and Federer.

“There’s not always cameras around, so I get called that sometimes,” Federer joked. “Quite often, actually. On the court is the first time, but it felt good.”

Everything felt good for Federer. Coming into the 2017 season, Federer had low expectations. He had missed six months of 2016 with a knee injury, and he didn’t know what kind of level he would be able to produce on the court.

But things went better than expected when he won the Australian Open title for his record 18th Grand Slam title.

With his title at the BNP Paribas Open, he tied Novak Djokovic as the winningest player in the tournament’s history with five.

“I’m not as surprised as I was in Australia, but still this comes as a big, big surprise to me, nevertheless, to win here again and beating the players that I did and the way I did,” said Federer, who beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round and Jack Sock in the semifinals. “I mean, couldn’t be more happy.

“It’s an absolute, huge start to the year for me. Yeah, last year didn’t win any titles. I don’t think I was in any finals except maybe Brisbane last year.  The change is dramatic, and it feels great.”

One of the tournaments Federer had to miss last year was the BNP Paribas Open. Before that, he had been in the finals the previous two years, losing to Djokovic both times.

With the victory, Federer will move up four spots in the rankings to No. 6. He is well ahead of where he thought he would be during the offseason.

“The goal was to be top-eight by after Wimbledon. Because if I would have lost early in Australia, I would have dropped to 35 in the world,” Federer said. ” It was a good approach, I thought, because it gave me time to get there. … It’s great, but you definitely have to reassess your goals maybe now and see, ‘Where do you go from here?’ Because this was not part of the plan, to win Australia and Indian Wells, I can tell you that.

“Like I said before, I will make the plan for the remainder of the season after — especially for the clay after Miami, and then see also what the goals are, because the goals are clearly changing after this dream start.”

 

 

 

 

The year Roger Federer is having, his preseason goals seem ridiculously low as a return to No. 1 seems possible

3-18-17 Roger

By Leighton Ginn

When Roger Federer returned to the court to start the year, he didn’t know where his level would be following knee surgery and six months off the tour.

So the man many think is the greatest tennis player ever said he wanted to keep things simple — play well and enjoy himself.

After winning the Australian Open and reaching the finals of the BNP Paribas Open for the seventh time after beating American Jack Sock 6-1, 7-6 in Saturday’s semifinals. If Federer beats fellow Swiss star Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final, he will become the tournament’s winningest player with his fifth title, breaking a tie with Novak Djokovic.

Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

Djokovic, the No. 2 player in the world, has  won the previous three titles before being upset in the fourth round.

But if you look around the men’s tour, no one is playing better than Federer, who won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open to start the year. He had a hiccup in Dubai, when he lost to No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in the second round. But in the two biggest tournaments of the year so far, he’s reached the finals.

Doppelganger 1: tennis player Jack Sock, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

And looking around the tour, Djokovic and No. 1 Andy Murray both failed to reach the quarterfinals of both the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open. Earlier on Saturday, Murray announced he will miss the Miami Open, another huge event, with an elbow injury. There is also speculation that Djokovic will also miss Miami with his own elbow injury.

No. 1 Andy Murray faces lots of questions, has few answers after another early loss at BNP Paribas Open

But Federer said he set a goal of seeing where he is at following Miami, and was judging on how well he’s playing and how he’s enjoying himself on the tour.

“(It’s about) how can I remain healthy and how can I keep the fire and the motivation for the tournaments that I will be playing,” Federer said. “What I don’t want to do is overplay and just get tired of traveling and tired of just playing tournaments and just entering and, I don’t know, just doing people a favor just to be there with no aspirations. That’s not why I’m playing.

“I want to play, if people see me, that they see the real me and a guy who is so excited that he’s there. So that’s a promise I made to myself that if I play tournaments that’s how my mindset has to be and will be.”

Nick Kyrgios doesn’t think he’s a bad guy, if you put it in perspective

But with the winning comes possibilities, such as Federer returning to the No. 1 ranking. Because Federer doesn’t anticipate playing a heavy schedule, so he knows there will be an even higher premium on wins and titles.

“Sure, I’d love to be world No. 1 again. But anything else other than world No. 1 for me is not interesting,” Federer said. “You would think I would need to win probably another Grand Slam for that to happen. Because I have one in the bag, I guess there is a possibility.”

 

 

Doppelganger 1: tennis player Jack Sock, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

3-15-17 Jack Sock

 

By Leighton Ginn

This blog is done as sort of a public service announcement for people attending the BNP Paribas Open. If you are out and about and think you see American tennis star Jack Sock, don’t assume it’s him.

He has a resemblance to Queens of the Stone Age lead guitarist and singer Josh Homme, who was also grew up in nearby Palm Desert.

I had covered Sock a little more closely the last few years, and only hit me at this year’s tournament his resemblance. So I was wondering if he ever got that.

“I don’t know who that is, and I hope that’s a compliment,” Sock joked.

Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

So for the tennis fans who follow this blog, here’s a little background on Josh Homme:

He was originally in the band Kyuss before starting Queens of the Stone Age in 1997.

Their third album, 2002’s “Songs for the Deaf,” featured Foo Fighters front man and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. The album produced the hits “No One Knows” and “Go With The Flow.”

Their hit song “Little Sister,” from their fourth album, “Lullabies to Paralyze,” features a driving cow bell. It helped inspire a classic moment on Saturday Night Live in 2005 with Will Ferrell.

 

Six of their albums have been nominated for Grammys.

In 2009, Homme was part of the super band Them Crooked Vultures, that also featured John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Grohl. Their hit “New Fang” won a Grammy for best hard rock performance.

Homme also founded Eagles of Death Metal with high school friend Jesse Hughes. In 2015, Eagles of Death Metal were playing the Bataclan in Paris, France when terrorist came in and killed 89 people. Colin Hanks directed an HBO documentary “Eagles of Death Metal, Nos Amis (Our Friends)” that premiered in February.

The year Roger Federer is having, his preseason goals seem ridiculously low as a return to No. 1 seems possible

For more on Jack Sock, read my blog on his quarterfinal victory over Kei Nishikori at the BNP Paribas Open.

Jack Sock continues his good vibes at BNP Paribas Open, this time in singles

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Kyrgios doesn’t think he’s a bad guy, if you put it in perspective

3-15-17 Kyrgios

 

By Leighton Ginn

Tennis fans who know about Nick Kyrgios are not ambivalent about him: They either love him and the sublime talent he posses, or they get annoyed by his antics.

There were the comments to Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend and another player, or the accusations of tanking matches. Commentator John McEnroe has harshly criticized Kyrgios for his lack of dedication to the sport, once suggesting he retire.

“I don’t think I’m a bad guy at all. Honestly, like, I have had a couple of mix-ups in the court, but that’s in the heat of the battle, but that’s when you’re competing or you’re angry,” Kyrgios said. “Off the court, I haven’t done anything against the law. I haven’t drink-drive, haven’t shot someone, I haven’t stolen. I’m not a bad person. In the scheme of things, you put it in perspective, I’m really not a bad person.”

If he’s not bad, he does have his moments.

But the talent is there.

Kyrgios recorded his second consecutive victory against No. 2 Novak Djokovic in two tournaments. He’s also picked up wins against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Of the three, they have a combined 44 Grand Slam singles titles.

“I’m very impressed him taking out Novak, back-to-back weeks, on Novak’s best surface,” said Federer, who will face Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. “I hope it’s going to lead to something great for Nick that he realizes if he puts his head down and focuses (so) that he can bring it day in and day out, week in and week out.

“That’s maybe going to take a bit more time … because when it matters the most against the best and in finals, he’s there. Eventually he will need that, but that’s a great quality to have already now.”

For fans who overlook the behavior, Kyrgios also has a go-for-broke style that will endear people. On Wednesday, Kyrgios remained aggressive with his second serves to keep Djokovic at bay.

“I have lost some matches from it. I have won some matches from it. I’m okay if I go for it,” Kyrgios said. “It’s a high percentage for me to go big under pressure. That’s my game style. If I miss, I miss, but I know I went down playing my game.”

 

Roger Federer cruises past Rafael Nadal in 68 minutes to advance to quarters

3-15-17 Roger

 

By Leighton Ginn

INDIAN WELLS — After having some difficult moments the day before against Steve Johnson, Roger Federer just anticipated he would have his hands full against long-time rival Rafael Nadal.

As it turned out, it was one of his most dominant.

Federer needed just 68 minutes to beat Nadal in a surprisingly easy 6-2, 6-3 victory Wednesday in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.

The ease was surprising, considering the two played a five-set classic at the Australian Open. Federer needed to rally in the fifth set to pick up his record 18th Grand Slam singles title.

“It was all about coming out and trying to play the way I did in Australia,” Federer said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that possible, to be quite honest, because the court is more jumpy here or more rough, so it’s hard to put the ball away.

“I said yesterday it was more a sprint than a marathon. So getting in the lead was crucial, and then staying on the offense and pressing was the goal for me.”

Federer will advance to the quarterfinals where he will face rising young star Nick Kyrgios, who upset No.2 Novak Djokovic for the second consecutive tournament and snapped his 19-match winning streak at Indian Wells, which included three consecutive titles.

While the Australian Open will go down as a classic match in a legendary rivalry, Wednesday’s match wasn’t as intriguing as Federer won so convincingly.

But over the last 24 hours, Federer didn’t think he could have such a commanding performance against Nadal, particularly after his struggles in a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Steve Johnson the day before.

“I don’t think we had quite the rhythm that we had in Australia, but we knew that going in. And I think he, especially from the baseline, he didn’t control the ball as well as he did in Australia,” Federer said. ” I actually surprised myself by the control I had on the baseline because, against Steve Johnson, I really struggled to control the ball. So I thought it was going to be even more crazy against Rafa with his spin and his lefty hook and everything. It was going to be much tougher.

“In practice this morning I hardly made any returns. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was going to be rough.  But then I came into the match and I warmed up with Rafa. In those five minutes, I was like, ‘whew, I’m feeling pretty good and the spin is not bothering me so much.’ So I wondered why that is. And that stayed like this during the match, as well.”

 

 

Novak Djokovic’s 19-match winning streak at Indian Wells comes to an end

Processed with VSCO

 

By Leighton Ginn

Novak Djokovic’s record run at the BNP Paribas Open came to an end Wednesday as he fell to Nick Kyrgios 6-4, 7-6 (3). It was Djokovic’s first loss since 2013, ending a run of 19-straight wins.

“The run was amazing. I am very proud of it, obviously,” Djokovic said. “It had to end at some stage. Unfortunately, it was today. Nick, again, as he did in Acapulco earlier a few weeks ago, he served so well. Just wasn’t managing to get a lot of balls back on his serve, first and second, as well.”

Djokovic lost to Kyrgios 7-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals at Acapulco. With the loss, Djokovic will remained tied with Roger Federer with most titles at the BNP Paribas Open with four. Like Djokovic, Federer won three BNP Paribas Open titles in a row, but lost his opening match in 2007 to snap his winning streak at 18 matches.

Kyrgios will face Federer in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The schedule for Djokovic was difficult as he survived a grueling three-set match over Juan Martin del Potro, which he won 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, and had less than 24 hours to play Kyrgios. Asked by it on Tuesday night, and again Wednesday after losing to Kyrgios, Djokovic again said he didn’t want to comment on the scheduling.

As for the match, Djokovic said it was all about the serve with Kyrgios. Djokovic didn’t make anything easy for himself by getting broken in the first game of the match, which Kyrgios protected to win the first set.

“He obviously comes out playing his style, very aggressive, and just going for every serve, whether its first or second. It’s obviously very hard to play like that,” Djokovic said. “in this kind of conditions, it’s quite suitable for the server. Puts a lot of pressure on your service games. You know, you need to deliver and you can’t fold, which I did in the opening game of the match. Obviously, the dynamic of the match already went his way in the first and second game.”

 

 

 

Venus Williams gets first win at BNP Paribas Open in 16 years, talks moving forward and being understanding

 

3-11-17 Venus 2

By Leighton Ginn

INDIAN WELLS — The victory was a long-time coming for Venus Williams and came with a lot of drama.

Williams rallied from a 1-6, 1-4 deficit and fought off three match points in the second set to beat former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic for her first victory at the BNP Paribas Open since 2001.

Madison Keys has successful return at BNP Paribas Open following surgery

In 2001, Williams withdrew from her semifinal match against Serena Williams minutes before the prime-time showdown. During the finals, Serena was booed throughout, and much of it was also directed at Venus and her father Richard, who were in their court-side box.

It wasn’t until 2015 when Serena returned to Indian Wells, and Venus followed suit last year.

French Open champ Garbine Muguruza said she’s still hungry for the sweet success of another Grand Slam title

However, Venus lost her opening match, which made Saturday’s victory her first in Indian Wells in 16 years.

“It was nice to get a win here after so very long. It’s very rewarding,”  Williams said. “The past is the past, but I’m happy that I was able to move forward and everyone was able to move forward. I had so much support today.”

Early on, it didn’t look like Williams would get her victory at Indian Wells as she was down 4-1 in the second and had to fight off three match points in the set.

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One match point haunted Jankovic. Williams was up at the net, creating an opportunity to end the match.

“I was supposed to play that cross forehand and the match would be over,” Jankovic said. “But I played down the line right to her and she made the volley winner. It was a big mistake on that match point, but this is sports. What can I do? I made bad choices, bad mistakes when it was most important. That is all.

“Overall, I had my chances, I had everything under control and I let it slip away. I got a little nervous and I made bad errors.”

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During the post-match press conference, Williams was asked about a variety of topics, including her thoughts on the controversial ending at last year’s tournament.

Tournament director Raymond Moore had made unfortunate comments about women’s players owing the men and they should get on their knees. Days later, Moore resigned his position amid the firestorm it created. Moore still works at the tournament.

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Venus Williams said she didn’t want to dwell on the event and was willing to move on.

“If I wasn’t willing to move on, I wouldn’t be back in Indian Wells. It’s no good to hang on to things,” Williams said. “The tournament really is a huge supporter of women’s tennis and a huge supporter of men’s tennis and just tennis in general. The women love playing here.

“I was happy that the tournament did stand for equality and low tolerance of inequality. I think sometimes people make mistakes. He probably didn’t intend — you don’t wake up in the morning and say that this is going to happen. I don’t think that’s how he was planning his morning. Sometimes things happen, and we all should understand that everyone can have a bad day, and we all can just get better.”