By Jane Voigt
They’re too slow. They’re too fast. They’re just about right … medium speed. Sounds like the Three Bears tasting porridge.
But pros don’t eat tennis courts; they play on them. And the surface for the 34 courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was exclusively brewed for them by California Sports Surfaces of Andover, Mass.
“It’s called Plexipave IW,” Art Tucker, vice president of California Sports Surfaces, told Down The Tee in a telephone interview today.
Like a fine wine, the perfected coating in 1999 when the tournament was located at The Grand Hyatt, Indian Wells. That’s where the company began testing sand shapes and sizes. And, no, they didn’t send a crew to Laguna Beach with red plastic buckets.
“Sand shape and size are the critical elements that achieve what a tournament wants for its courts. We had to discover the right combination of sand sizes,” Tucker said. “The tournament wants all the courts to play the same. Court 16 should feel like Court 1. We have achieved what they wanted.”
The acrylic mixture took into consideration all the necessary elements in the players’ environment: hot dry desert air, day-time temperatures that can heat up to over 95 on court, plus cooler evening temperatures. It also considered the ball’s bounce, which had to be consistent. And, finally, the color — “Pro Purple” — had to remain uniform while it backed in the sun.
We are very happy with the Pro-Purple as it provides great contrast, which is critical for viewing the ball. The special colors showcase the ultimate in tennis entertainment to the fans.” Steve Simon, Tournament Director
This March marked the 16th consecutive year that California Sports Surfaces has provided its exclusive “Plexipave IW” to the event.
“The tournament has maintained the same surface, and surface speed, since we began,” Tucker said.
Tucker’s statement flies in the face of pundits that say the surface has changed, slowed down. Last year a group professed courts were so slow that Roland Garros’s red clay could be faster. And why so many lengthy 3-set matches this year? Is the surface speed making it harder to hit winners, and therefore extend points?
It’s not the court surface, just like it’s not the racquet that makes or breaks a performance at any tournament, Indian Wells included. That Tomas Berdych (No. 4 seed) bombed out yesterday could have had something to do with high temperatures, wind, the position of the sun, or his mood.
Art Tucker credits Charlie Pasarell, former co-owner, tournament director and recent inductee in The International Tennis Hall of Fame, for much of the improvements at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. “He listened to people.”
Take a look at this time-lapse view of construction. Remember the hard hats top players donned in this March, 2013, promotion? Video courtesy of California Sports Surfaces.
The rapid development of the current site was a remarkable achievement.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Tucker said, having just arrived on the grounds from a chilly Boston. “Congratulations to all. It’s incredible how quickly they worked. Having a combination of good contractors made a difference. They used an in-house crew instead of contracting it out.”
This video says it all about the expansion and Stadium Court 2. Video courtesy of California Sports Surfaces.
Stadium Two is a frontrunner in concept and design. Arthur Ashe Stadium may have a bigger seating capacity — 23,000 compared to 17,000 at Indian Wells’ Stadium One — but it doesn’t have a gourmet Japanese Restaurant called Nobu. In fact Ashe only has grab stands, expensive grab stands.
At Nobu, or either of the other two permanent restaurants, fans can cozy up to a window seat, order finely prepared dishes and watch Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka play doubles, if not a long list of other world-class players. What it costs is an additional consideration. That’s why big screen TVs, lots of water filling stations, and comfy chairs under cover are provided for those on a budget.