|Cameron Klinger plays Austin Rapp on Court 4 Monday morning|
©Colette Lewis 2014--
Indian Wells, California--
Only weeks after the Indian Wells Tennis Garden hosted the best players in the world at the BNP Paribas Open, the spacious venue welcomed participants in the ITF Grade B1 Asics Easter Bowl for the first time in the tournament's 10-year history.
The juniors who played on the 16 stadium courts and practice courts used for this week's event were suitably impressed.
Cameron Klinger, who was assigned to the tournament's Stadium Court--Court 4--because he was playing local entrant Austin Rapp, was impressed.
"This is an amazing site, I wouldn't want to have it anywhere else," said Klinger, who attended the BNP Paribas Open in 2013, and played a few matches at Indian Wells when it was used as an auxiliary site for younger age divisions in years past. "Just a few more umbrellas and it would be great," said the 16-year-old from Sacramento, who defeated Rapp 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. "But yeah, I love it here. It got a little hot at the end there, but I like heat, so no complaints from me."
Tournament director Lorne Kuhle, who took over the tournament in 2013, is responsible for the move to Indian Wells and he credits CEO Ray Moore and BNP Paribas tournament director Steve Simon for making it happen.
"I've had long relationships with them, and it was my dream that we could come here," Kuhle said. "I took it over at such short notice last year and we crammed it in at Sunrise (Country Club) and we got the job done, but it isn't even close to the opportunities and the potential the Tennis Garden offers."
Kuhle believes playing a major junior event at a professional venue is important for their growth as tennis players.
"These kids are preparing to go into the big leagues now, so let's give them a taste of what it's really like," Kuhle said. "We made sure we had the badges and the scoreboards. It's like a high school baseball team playing at Yankee Stadium. This is a big deal, I think, for the kids. We've got a radar gun going. You feel like you're at a pro tournament when you're here, I think. I'm not playing, but I would think you do."
No. 5 seed Olivia Hauger, who had a breakout tournament at another world class tennis venue, reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open Junior Championships in Melbourne back in January, had nothing but praise for her experience Monday.
"It's great, it's very impressive," said the 16-year-old Hauger, who defeated Ndindi Mwaruka 6-1, 1-6, 6-1 in her first round match in the 92 degree afternoon heat. "I like the courts a lot and there's a great vibe to it. You can see tennis courts in both directions going so far, it's really cool."
Cool as in great, not cool as in the temperatures Brienne Minor left behind in Chicago as she played in her first tournament since February.
"It's definitely tough," said Minor, a junior who has verbally committed to the University of Michigan for 2015. "Not only did I come from the cold and playing indoors for so long, but I haven't played a tournament in a while, so I haven't gotten a lot of match play."
Minor managed to stay on the court against Sophie Chang for three and a half hours in the searing heat, but she lost 6-3,5-7, 6-4. That result didn't dampen her enthusiasm for her first visit to Indian Wells.
"I thought, wow, a bunch of pro players played here," said Minor. "Wow, there's like a million stadium courts. It's really overwhelming, but it's nice playing here."
Minor's coach Mark Bey believes the opportunity to play on courts designed for professionals is important for juniors' development.
"I think developmentally it's wonderful to have the kids play on the big courts with all the space in the back, so they can learn how to retrieve and play a court from a different visual perspective," said Bey, who said court conditions and weather conditions also provide learning experiences for juniors. His only regret? That the Chop House and Nobu restaurants, popular new additions this year at the BNP Paribas Open, weren't open.
Thirty-six of the 64 first round matches were completed on Monday, with the boys draws featuring the only losses by seeded players. Jean Thirouin defeated No. 16 seed Oscar Janglin 6-2, 6-2; Rafael Lenhard downed No. 9 seed Ulises Blanch 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and Christian Garay beat No. 10 seed Julian Zlobinsky 6-3, 5-7, 6-0. Top seeds Francis Tiafoe and Henrik Wiersholm play their opening matches on Tuesday, as do girls top seed Sofia Kenin, No. 2 seed Usue Arconada and Carson International Spring Champion CiCi Bellis, the No. 4 seed.
For complete results and Tuesday's order of play, see the TennisLink site.
The 12s, 14s, and 16s do not begin play until Thursday under the new USTA junior competition revisions.