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    Tennis Paradise

    By John Chen–

    What is paradise? Does it really exist? If yes, where? For the sport of tennis, paradise is located in our great state of California, about 15 miles southeast of Palm Springs, at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. This desert oasis earned the name Tennis Paradise because it has a 360-degree view of majestic surrounding mountain ranges, 29 immaculate tennis courts, two stadiums, and a host of entertainment venues ranging from the national pickleball championships, music festivals, collegiate competitions, and the penultimate BNP Paribas Open, the world’s largest professional tennis tournament outside the four Grand Slams.

    In a published study by the BNP Paribas Open, the tournament’s “total gross economic impact” on Coachella Valley was a staggering $466 million in 2014 and attracted an all-time high 475,000+ attendees in 2019. Enthusiastic sports fans come from all over the world, making this truly an international event and destination.

    As a tennis player, a fan, and a former coach, I’ve taken many friends and kids to watch the most decorated players of all time compete. Players such as Roger Federer, Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Andrei Agassi, Jimmy Connors, and Chris Evert electrified, dazzled, delighted, and thrilled even the most casual fans throughout the years. This is pretty much the who’s who not just in tennis, but in all of professional sports!

    In March of 2020, excited to see Roger and Serena, my buddy Jared and I had barely settled into our hotel room when we heard the news no one wanted to hear. The tournament was cancelled due to COVID, the beginning of a pandemic. There was a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety due to the unknown. We had to drive home to the Bay Area overnight due to the impending lockdown.

    Fast forward to March 2022 and COVID is transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic (cross fingers, toes, and all appendages). This time, BNP Paribas Open allowed only fully vaccinated players and staff, and only fully vaccinated fans to attend with little restrictions. Just a few weeks ago, my buddy Jared and I returned to Tennis Paradise because we had unfinished business from 2019.

    Although neither Roger or Serena played due to injuries, we were able to watch up close and personal some of today’s biggest and brightest young tennis stars such as Naomi Osaka and Daniil Medvedev. We also got a glimpse of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, two of the all-time greats. We saw (kind of) a booming 144 mph serve! We were also entertained by two of the best tennis showmen in Nick Kyrgios and Gael Monfils.

    We took in the amazing reflexes and speed of doubles as the sun went down behind a snowy mountain peak. And we cheered on the American twin towers of John Isner (6’10”) and Reilly Opelka (6’11”). We did all of this in 80 degrees not a cloud in the sky conditions.

    If this isn’t Tennis Paradise, then I don’t know what is.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Published on March 24, 2022