Friday IW.JPG
Friday IW.JPG

Joel Drucker: Back to the Garden

It was far from an elegant match, this one on Stadium Two between a pair of Americans, veteran Donald Young and teenager Stefan Kozlov. The tennis was patchy – sprayed forehands, missed easy volleys, double-faults. Credit Young for grubbing out a 7-5, 7-6 win. Credit Kozlov for showing a feisty brand of problem-solving.

But while timing of the swings rode in the backseat, the timing of match drove the car. It was late Friday afternoon, the sublime transition period between sunshine and darkness, weekday and weekend. Per usual here in the desert, each hour until 5 p.m. it had gotten hotter and hotter, flavored on this day by a traces of rare and intrusive humidity. Stadium Two, though, is a nice cocoon, holding 8,000 – tight enough to give anyone a good view, big enough to create a lively atmosphere. As the Young-Kozlov match got underway, the oppressive oven had given way to a polite simmer. The fans, hydrated, inebriated, sun-baked and hungry as dinner neared, were settled nicely. Regardless of who was playing, this moment was the see-saw, the tournament delicately and even deliciously on the edge.

Saturday morning, the tingle between relaxation and acceleration continued. At 9:30 a.m. on practice court one, Caroline Wozniacki stuck practice serves, her father watching. One wondered: Having done this for more than 15 years

, how attentive could he be? What might he notice or be thinking of? Some one hundred yards east, on practice court 20, former ATP World Tour pros Ross Case and Eddie Dibbs commences a clinic. They too had done this uncountable times; but for their students, it would likely be a first. As Angelique Kerber warmed up in the stadium, dealing with the morning sun (a problem for lefties), music echoed, albeit at a low volume, the sounds of Journey mildly proclaiming, “Any way you want it/that’s the way you need it.” Saturday’s lineup sparkled – Kerber, Venus, Murray, Kyrgios versus the Bryan brothers, an enticing matchup between Tsonga and Fognini. Sunday would also glisten – Federer, Djokovic, Nadal. Thousands more will be here. They will stream into each stadium, crisscross the practice courts, find shelter under the trees and on lounge chairs, swaddle themselves in sunscreen, don hats that reveal disparate affinities, bump into friends they haven’t seen in a while, inspect strokes, send photos and text messages across the world. Though in large part tennis is a solitary endeavor, events like this prove just how communal it can also be.

Read more articles by Joel Drucker

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