Home Depot Center - First Impressions
Got back from the Morgan Chase Qualies about an hour ago. As RHZ mentioned, today's tennis matches were drowned out by a soccer game going on in the main stadium. For those who don't know, the soccer stadium is right next to the tennis stadium. The tennis stadium was not used today, nor will it be used for the qualies tomorrow. This is how the qualies are run at Indian Wells too. I'm guessing that many extra employees are required to open a big stadium. The stadium court was always used for qualies in Manhattan Beach, but it wasn't really a stadium. It was their main court with a bunch of bleachers added (same at the Acura).
There was no charge to get into the matches today. Nice - but you get what you pay for. There was also absolutely no place to get any food! There was one cart set up to sell cold drinks which also sold popcorn. At least they had restroom facilities. Since the stadium wasn't open, they brought in one of those trailers with restrooms in them. They were very well air conditioned too! Thumbs up on that! Because in general there is no place to get shelter from the sun at the Home Depot Facility. If it's a hot day, you're gonna be miserable. It was hot in the morning today, but a nice breeze kicked up in the afternoon. This made me appreciate the setup down in San Diego at La Costa. They put up huge tents, like circus tents, where you buy and eat your food IN THE SHADE. ALL of their concessions were operating for the QUALIES. At the Morgan Chase, NONE of the concessions were open for today's matches. In San Diego all qualie matches have electronic scoreboards in operation. In Carson, the side courts are not equipped with scoreboards. This how it was in Manhattan Beach too. Players and fans of the qualies were told in lots of little ways that they are very unimportant people.
Matches took place on two outside courts: court 1 which had seating on the west side only, and court 4 which had seating on the east and west sides. Court 1 feels more like a stadium because it has high walls on the north and east sides. From these two courts you could easily hear the PA system from the soccer stadium. Every once in a while they set off some fireworks (maybe when a goal was scored?). Also, there was a drill team practicing for a halftime show of the soccer game in a field right next to the tennis courts. Their music was extremely loud. Tu and Widjaja both complained to the referee about it as they warmed up. It quieted down for a few minutes before their match was about to start. Then in the middle of the first serve of the match, the music came on again very loud. It was ludicrous. But it didn't last more than a half hour. Another distraction was the Goodyear Blimp! It was circling the soccer stadium during their game. Every once in a while it's shadow would come across one of the match courts, interupting play.
For picture taking, I still think the qualies are a great time to go - unless you want to get shots of big name players. You can shoot a qualie match from almost any angle because the seats are almost empty. One small complaint I have with the Home Depot Center outside courts is that they don't have the usual dark green or blue curtain behind the courts. Or, to be more exact, they only have those curtains on the upper parts of the walls. On the lower portions they have bare wall made out of concrete blocks. This makes for an ugly backdrop to pictures.
As RHZ said the practice courts are wide open to the public. At least the ones most often used are very open. They were adjacent to the outside courts used for matches, so it was easy to see other players practicing when you got bored of a qualie match. I saw Bovina, Dementieva, Tanasugarn, Cho, Sharapova, Sanchez-Lorenzo, and many others hitting today. Also saw Daniilidou watching a match.
I'll save my comments about the matches until I post my pictures, with two exceptions - Samantha Reeves was a no-show. She was supposed to play Snyder, but was replaced by Bradshaw. Also, I really didn't see any really good matches, where both players are playing up to their potential and having good points.
One last critique on the Home Depot Center tennis facility. Why in God's name did they put all those fences around the practice courts? It's like a maze getting from court A to court B! To get from court 4 to court 1 (used for today's matches), you had to walk in a big circle 3/4 of the way around court 1. These courts are end-to-end separted by a walkway only. If they had designed their fences properly a person would only have to walk 20 ft to get from 1 to 4. But the way it's setup now you have to walk about 100 yards. Silly!