By Randy Walker
Jim Courier’ fifth-set tiebreaker final-round victory over Guy Forget in the final of the modern-day BNP Paribas Open in 1991 came up as one of the anniversaries from March 10 on my “This Day In Tennis History” book, ebook, audio book and mobile app.
I started to think that perhaps Courier’s 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) win is probably one of the greatest matches ever played in annual California desert tournament.
I went through the mobile app, choosing the search terms “Indian Wells” and “LaQuinta” and choose some of the greatest matches in the history of the modern-day BNP Paribas Open.
Here they are listed. We encourage readers to chime in on social media to comment on these matches and suggest others. Go to www.TennisHistoryApp.com and www.NewChapterMedia.com for more information on “This Day In Tennis History.”
March 16, 2014: Novak Djokovic beats Roger Federer in tensely-fought final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., decided by a final-set tie-breaker. After failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set, Djokovic rallies to win five of the first six points of the decisive tie-breaker and holds on for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) win in their 33rd career meeting. “As I said before the match today, very few points will decide a winner, and that’s what happened,” says Djokovic, trailing in the career head-to-head against Federer 17-16. “Roger is playing in a very high level…. He just played better than he did in the last 13, 14 months. I needed to really be in the top of my game and very concentrated the last moment in order to win. That’s what I’ve done. Very proud of my achievements during this tournament.” Says Federer of the loss, “It was an interesting end to the match, no doubt, but I think he played well. At the end he made sure he kept the ball in play and I might have made a few too many errors when it really mattered. But I think he made a crucial sort of 20 minutes, half an hour midway through the second set and third set where things could have gone either way. But credit to him for toughening it out and winning that second set and getting the breaker in the third.”
March 19, 2008: Rafael Nadal wins 21 of the last 27 points and comes back from a 2-5 third set deficit to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 7-5 in the round of 16 of the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and avenge his semifinal thrashing by the hands of the Frenchman at the Australian Open earlier in the year. Says Tsonga, “Yeah, it was a very important match for me, because I would like to show everybody… my run in the Australian Open is not lucky. I want to prove [to] everybody I can play at this level, so yeah, I’m disappointed about this.” Says Nadal, “The ball and the court is a little different here, no? The ball is getting a lot of topspin, so much more than in Australia, so that helps me a little bit. For the rest…well, I play better today than in Australia but the conditions are better here for me…The victory is important for me, but the victory like this is always special and gives me confidence.”
March 21, 2008: Playing the final-set tie-break with a hole in his shoe – and his sock – Mardy Fish outlasts No. 7 ranked David Nalbandian 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals of the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Calif. Fish, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist ranked No. 98 in the world, holds two match points in the 10th game of the final set – but squanders them – then has his serve immediately broken, giving Nalbandian the opportunity to serve out the match. Fish then breaks Nalbandian before gutting out the final-set tie break
March 19, 2005: Kim Clijsters defeats world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to win the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells. Calif. The tournament marks only the second tournament since she makes a return to the WTA Tour following surgery on her right wrist that sidelines her for most of 2004.
March 17, 2001: Booed as she enters the court for her final round match against Kim Clijsters at the Tennis Masters Series –Indian Wells, Serena Williams withstands the harsh fan and media allegations of match-fixing, by defeating Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Fans react severely to the Williams family after Venus Williams abruptly withdraws from her semifinal match with Serena Williams the day before. “In the beginning, I was a little shocked,” Serena says. “Then I was like, ‘Wow, this is getting old. Move on to something new…I prayed to God just to help me be strong, not even to win, but to be strong, not listen to the crowd.” The withdrawal and aftermath came on the heels of tabloid story in the National Enquirer stating that Williams father Richard fixed the 2000 Wimbledon semifinal between the two sisters.
March 13, 1999: Serena Williams wins the Evert Cup in Indian Wells, Calif., with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win over Steffi Graf. The 17-year-old Williams comes back from a 2-4 deficit in the third set to win her second title and 11th straight match in the last month. Says Williams, ranked No. 21, following the match, “I definitely think in the next couple of months I’ll be in the top 10. The only thing that can keep me away from the top 10 is if I quit playing tournaments for the rest of the year. Other than that, I definitely see myself there soon and farther.” Williams would go much farther than the top 10 as she goes on to win her first major singles title at the U.S. Open in September, defeating world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the final.
March 14, 1999: One day after defeating Gustavo Kuerten to clinch the world’s No. 1 ranking, Carlos Moya is defeated by Mark Philippoussis 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the final of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. “To be No. 1 and then win the title on top of that would have been the perfect beginning, but today he’s better than me so that’s it,” says Moya after the match.
March 15, 1998: Tempermental Marcelo Rios of Chile loses a second-set tie-break in 32 points – the only set he would lose all week – and wins the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif., defeating Britain’s Greg Rusedski 6-3, 6-7 (15-17), 7-6 (4), 6-4. Says Rios of his reputation as one of the meanest players in tennis, “I’m nice sometimes. In Chile, there’s even a lot of kids who want to be like me.”
March 14, 1996: Steffi Graf needs 2 hours, 44 minutes to fight off a bad back and defeat Lindsay Davenport 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the semifinals of the State Farm Evert Classic in Indian Wells, Calif. “Every match she plays, there is something wrong with her,” says Davenport, “but even when she is so hurt, she always plays real well.”
March 16, 1996: Steffi Graf wins her 96th career singles title in her first tournament appearance in 1996, defeating Conchita Martinez 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in the final of the State Farm Evert Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.
March 13, 1995: In their 14th career match-up and re-match of the Australian Open men’s singles final six weeks earlier, Pete Sampras defeats Andre Agassi 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 in a sun-down final of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif., avenging his loss in Australia. “If we battle for the next 10 years, it will be great for the game,” says Sampras. “It’s different when I play Andre. It’s like two heavyweights going at it.”
March 5, 1994: After barely winning points against the surging serve of Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras scrapes out a service break in the final game of the match to overcome the Swede 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 and advance to the final of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. Writes Jim Murray of Sampras in the Los Angeles Times, “Playing Sampras in a three-set match is like fighting a bobcat in a closet. You don’t have too much time to figure out strategy. It’s tough playing a guy when your best hope is that he will miss. It’s like hoping the alligator doesn’t see you.” In the other semifinal, Petr Korda dispatches of Aaron Krickstein 6-4, 6-4. The following day, Sampras wins the Newsweek title, edging Korda 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
February 28, 1993: Mary Joe Fernandez saves two match points and wins the singles title at the Evert Cup in Indian Wells, Calif., defeating Amanda Coetzer 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 (6) in a two-hour and 47-minute singles final. Fernandez fights off two match points serving a 4-5 in the final set, before prevailing 8-6 in the final-set tie-break.
March 5, 1991: Playing in a dust storm with 30 mile per hour winds, John McEnroe edges Wally Masur 7-6, 2-6, 7-5 in 2 hours, 35 minutes in the first round of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. Says McEnroe following the match in the challenging conditions, “It was just what I wouldn’t have wanted, high winds, and it seemed extra bright to me, but it was a heck of a match, anyway.” Says Masur of the third set of the match that features the worst of the conditions, “There was a bit of dust on the court. We both slipped a few times. I made the mistake of not serving and volleying enough in the third, and he continued to serve-and-volley.”
March 7, 1991: Jim Courier defeats good friend Andre Agassi 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 16 at the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. Following the match, the No. 26 ranked Courier explains that the win over Agassi could have implications for his career, “Last year, I didn’t have one win that stuck out, that meant anything. This match may not be the one that gets me over the hump, this could just be a blemish, but today I wanted to close the deal and I did.”
March 10, 1991: Twenty-year-old Jim Courier, ranked No. 26 in the world, wins his second career singles title, defeating No. 5 ranked Guy Forget 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) to win the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. “To win it – and it sounds like a cliché – but it’s a big honor for me,” says Courier.
March 11, 1990: Stefan Edberg defeats Andre Agassi 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6) in nearly three-and-a-half hours in the final of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.
March 19, 1989: Miloslav Mecir becomes the last player to win an ATP tour event with a wooden racquet when he defeats Yannick Noah 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in the men’s singles final at the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.
February 29, 1988: Pete Sampras, a 16-year-old high school junior from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., wins his first ATP singles match, defeating No. 37-ranked Ramesh Krishnan of India 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 in the first round of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. Sampras, an amateur who advances into the tournament via the qualifying rounds, saves five match points in the third set. Sampras goes on to win 761 more ATP tour-level matches in his career, including 14 major singles titles.
March 6, 1988: Boris Becker needs three hours, 4 minutes in 104-degree on-court temperatures to defeat Emilio Sanchez 7-5, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the final of the Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.
February 20, 1982: Yannick Noah defeats Ivan Lendl 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the final of the ATP event in LaQuinta, Calif., ending Lendl’s 44-match, eight-tournament winning streak. Noah becomes the first player to defeat Lendl in a five-month span. Noah calls the win “one of the biggest of my life.” Lendl’s last loss was a round of 16 defeat to Vitas Gerulaitis at the 1981 US Open. Says Lendl, “It’s just another match and I’m sure I’m going to lose many more in my career.” Lendl’s streak was the longest in men’s tennis since Guillermo Vilas won 50 straight matches in 1977.