Federer, Sharapova draw a crowd for Indian Wells practice
By Bill Scott Mar 10, 2011, 1:09 GMT
Indian Wells, California - Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova drew a standing room-only crowd Wednesday as two of the most recognisable faces in the sport practised on adjoining courts as seeds prepared for their starts at the Indian Wells Masters.
The pair were fresh from an exhibition the night before in Oregon sponsored by their clothing company that also featured world number one Rafael Nadal, and a surprise appearance by John McEnroe, who is never from from a tennis spotlight.
Sharapova was ushered off to the sanctity of the player's patio and compound by a security staff after stopping following her session to sign dozens of autographs from eager fans under a baking desert sun at this resort 200 kilometers east of Los Angeles.
Seeds at the first Masters of the season receive byes into the second round.
The women's top ranking could be up for the taking again just three weeks after it was swapped between Kim Clijsters and current holder Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
Clijsters fronted up in the Californian desert with a new shorter hairstyle, explaining that she had it done last month in Antwerp during Fed Cup.
'I've always wanted short hair,' said the mother of one and winner of the last two editions of the US Open since returning to tennis following the birth of her daughter. 'it's just a bit shorter. I went back to the shop every day for two or three days and got it a little shorter each time. I'm liking it. And I'll probably go even shorter.'
Women's first-round play got underway in torrid conditions, with Argentines, Americans, Swiss and Italians all clocking opening wins.
Argentina's Gisela Dulko defeated doubles rival Vania King of the US 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, while American Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat out Russian Vera Dushevina 6-4, 6-4.
Alize Cornet of France ousted Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder in straight sets, but Swiss Timea Bacsinszky took revenge with her win over Olga Govortsova of Belarus 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the second round.
Men began preparation with their first round beginning Thursday, with many of the Latin players - and Scot Andy Murray - using the soft grass carpet surrounding the training courts for impromptu games of football.
Novak Djokovic, the form player of the season along with Robin Soderling after winning both events he's played at the Australian Open and Dubai, put aside his golf clubs from earlier this week to get back to work on court.
'I want to take one tournament at a time,' he said in the run-up. 'I just want to be playing consistently well. I want to keep up the good form that I have, stay fit and take care of my health and physical condition.'
Federer may be learning that his era of domination is concluding, but that reality will not keep the Swiss from a fight for the top for as long as he plays the game.
'At the end of the day, we've (Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic) been able to share those a little bit to be honest. But I don't feel it's a three-horse race right now.
'Rafa (number one) is still the favourite. He's won three of the four slams. Novak has not lost a match yet this season, but the season is still really short.'
Nadal owns Indian Wells titles from 2007 and 2009, while Federer collected a hat-trick 2004-2006, Djokovic lifted the trophy in 2008 after losing the final to Nadal 12 months earlier.