Indian Wells | Staying on track
The conditions here are so perfect that it is not surprising that everyone seems to play their best tennis. The respective world No.1s are still on track to claim the men’s and women’s singles titles, but only Roger Federer looks like a champion-in-waiting.
Simona Halep keeps battling through, but far from convincingly, and all the other players in both draws have had moments of looking decidedly vulnerable. On the men’s side Hyeon Chung and Juan Martin Del Potro seem to be looking better and better as the tournament progresses, although the latter had to survive a tough three set battle against fellow countryman Leonardo Mayer on Wednesday.
Whilst the fans on site are seeing some fine matches, the absence of so many big name players will be a concern to some. The reasons for this are complex; injuries and illness we know about, for these have denuded other recent tournaments, but what has also been interesting here is the way veteran players like Feliciano Lopez, Philip Kohlschreiber and Marcos Baghdatis have been able to chalk up such good results. Add to that the success of doubles expert Pierre-Hugues Herbert in reaching the last sixteen of the singles and you have a decidedly odd-looking drawsheet as the men’s tournament enters its last four days.
Billie Jean King’s suggestion that men should start playing best of three set matches in the grand slams has received a muted response. Offered as a contribution to the equal-pay debate, her comments have gained little traction amongst the cognoscenti here. They do however focus attention on the fact that this is a rather strange time at the top of world tennis, with the leading stars being much older than is usual, and the younger generation neither fit enough nor consistent enough to replace them. If Grigor Dimitrov, Sascha Zverez or Dominic Thiem ever learn how to consistently win three sets out of five, Roger Federer and his fellow thirty-somethings had better watch out.