Indian Wells Shines In Challenger Debut
The beginning of the 2018 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 season is just a few days away, as players begin to descend on Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open.
But the Coachella Valley has already been buzzing with world-class tennis over the past week. With seven seeds inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings, the inaugural Oracle Challenger Series Indian Wells has given prime exposure for players on the ATP Challenger Tour. The opportunity to compete at a Masters 1000 venue does not come often for many in the draw, and the competitors relished the opportunity to play in one of the biggest tennis settings in the world.
With #NextGenATP stars Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Stefan Kozlov and Sebastian Korda joined by established veterans Vasek Pospisil, Martin Klizan and Marius Copil, the field offered plenty of star power in the California desert.
"Overall I think it went great," said BNP Paribas Open tournament director and former World No. 2 Tommy Haas. "First, it's great for the fans who live locally and love the sport of tennis. The game has gotten so tough, especially at the Challenger level. A $150,000 event can help the players in so many ways. You gain [ATP Rankings] points and make some prize money and if you're in the [Masters 1000] swing of Indian Wells and Miami, you might as well get here early and get used to the facility and the courts.
"Guys like Taylor Fritz are here early, played on the main courts and are now used to the conditions. Many other players can say the same thing. There are players who have heard about this facility in the past, but now have a reason to play here at an amazing Challenger."
Klizan claimed the title on Sunday, defeating Darian King 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and nine minutes. The resurgent former World No. 24 capped an impressive week in his comeback from a calf injury. What does the Slovakian credit for his success in Southern California?
"This week was great. It's perfect preparation for the Masters 1000 event. Sometimes I lose my concentration but I was very focused here in Indian Wells. Maybe it was the mountains," Klizan joked, pointing to the adjacent peaks that surround the region.
"It's awesome to have a Challenger here," added Fritz, a Southern California native. "My family has come out to see all my matches. And there are lots of opportunities to play on the courts and get experience. It's also great for the American players of course, to have an extra tournament at home."
The tournament was particularly special for third seed and semi-finalist Vasek Pospisil, who extended his dominant start to the season. The Canadian bumped his 2018 ATP Challenger Tour record to 13-1, rising to No. 75 in the ATP Rankings. One year removed from registering a stunning win over top-ranked Andy Murray in the BNP Paribas Open, Pospisil has fond memories of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
"I've had some good results here in the past and every time I come back I reminisce on those," said Pospisil. "There are tons of Canadian fans that come out as well and I have great support. Always a good feeling to be back here in Indian Wells."
The 2018 BNP Paribas Open begins on Tuesday with qualifying, with main draw action getting underway on Thursday.