I just spent 17 days in Palm Springs volunteering at the amazing Indian Wells tennis tournament for the fourth year. As always it was an incredible experience filled with great tennis, sunshine, palm trees, and fun times as a volunteer.
Let's get the frustrating part out of the way first. Probably 98% of the people who read this blog are Federer fans. That means that the way the final ended between Federer and Del Potro was painful. Sure, we can be happy for Delpo winning his first Masters 1000 after all his wrist surgeries, and we can say Roger never truly found his best game at IW. However, after fighting back in the second set (which involved anger on both sides and intense conversations with the chair umpire) in an extremely tight tiebreak to stay in the match, it seemed like maybe he had the momentum to be able to get it done. When he finally went up a break in the third and attempted to serve it out he ended up at 40-15. How often have we seen him serve an ace to take the match? In this case, though, that was only a dream as we saw eventually three championship points go by the wayside. When he got broken I had the terrible feeling that was it. And, in fact, my premonition was true as he managed to get it to another tiebreak, but played one of the worst possible, to finally see Juan Martin Del Potro raising his arms in victory. As one who watched the match live, all prepared to jump to my feet as he won the tournament, it was extremely deflating to see it slip away. Ok, phew, that's over. It will always be painful, but there are more tournaments to play and win to add to his incredible achievements.
Now on to my experiences. For those who aren't aware, I have been volunteering in transportation for four years, meaning I work eight 6 hour shifts over the course of the tournament driving anyone from players to coaches to ATP/WTF officials to commentators to line judges to special guests. It's the luck of the draw as to who I drive, and some are boring and others are very fun/special. This year some of my notable ones were Borna Coric, Monica Puig, Cameron Norrie, Sam Gore (ESPN commentator who was working the world feed) along with Nick Lester, Felix AA's coach, a high up ATP rep, one of the well known female line judges, members of Gladys Knight's team (she rode in my friends car, but she smiled at me 😊) plus many others. I had some great conversations with many of them. It's always special to get to talk to people who work in the tennis world, which to me seems like a dream job.
A special part of the tournament this year was that, as defending champion, a portrait of Roger was unveiled with him being part of the ceremony. Being the Fed fan that I am, I knew to get there early, meaning I had a front row view (albeit, still blocked by the media people inside the fence). Here are a few pictures from that event.
As a volunteer I am able to go into the lower bowl of the stadium for free until the final weekend in a particular section. If the actual ticket holder of that seat comes, we move to another free seat. For a time during one match I had a seat in the very front, diagonal from the back of the court. It was awesome because when Roger was on that side I could actually lean over and yell encouragement, knowing he could actually hear me!
I went to several practices. Unfortunately I was always in the wrong place for getting an autograph or selfie, which I would have loved, but we can't have everything I suppose! 😄 One hilarious thing that happened during one of the practices was when Roger walked over toward the fence to get a ball while he was still practicing and everyone in the crowd stood up and moved towards the fence thinking he was coming over to sign autographs. He got a look on his face like "What's wrong with you guys?" Then he was smiling for a while after that.
My most special experience of the tournament was the interaction I got to have with Roger's dad, Robbie Federer. He already knows me from having driven him and Lynette from the airport last year, talking to him in London in November during Roger's practice, and emailing him several times with some information he asked me for. I saw him on the grounds early in the tournament and went over to talk to him and we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes while watching some matches on the big screens. He gave me a kiss on the cheek at the end, which was so sweet. I talked to him several times and also got this special picture with him and Lynette.
So another wonderful 2 1/2 weeks has come to a close once again and the tour moves on, but I have some incredible memories to add to my existing ones. We'll see where the tennis world brings me next!