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Educating stuff: where on earth is Indian Wells?

Indian Wells stadium.
by Ngaire Hewitt
Tuesday 19 March 2013

The sixth instalment of 'Educating stuff,' the latest news from Wimbledon's Education Department, ponders on the geography of tennis...

It was thrilling to watch Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro return to form so spectacularly at the weekend, defying the odds to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Nadal might have taken the title but, to resort to cliché, there’s no doubt tennis was the winner and the resurgence of these two players throws the men’s game wide open once again. There’s no doubt we are living in a golden era.

As the dust settled, though, my thoughts started to wander away to more mundane matters. In fact, what I was thinking was, ‘where on earth is Indian Wells?’ ‘Florida’, I thought, ‘surely it’s in Florida.’ Unfortunately I made the mistake of vocalising this, provoking a lofty response from my husband, who takes great pride in his knowledge of US geography. ‘No’, he replied breezily, ‘definitely in the south-west. Arizona, perhaps, or New Mexico.’

Both of us leapt to Google, anxious to bring matters to a close, only to discover, of course, that we were both wrong, very wrong as it happens, given that Indian Wells is in California! Potential domestic dispute averted thanks to the magic of the internet. But this set me to thinking. If it’s hard for the television viewer, living vicariously through each tournament from the comfort of our own living rooms, to establish where in the world some of the Tour’s events take place, how difficult must it be for the players, waking up in yet another anonymous hotel room after a long flight to goodness-knows-where, before striding purposefully into another identical set of courts, dressing rooms, and gyms. Do any of them, perhaps, sometimes wake up wondering ‘where on earth is Indian Wells?’ Or Doha, or Chennai, or Viña del Mar, or Estoril? (Editor's note: Don't forget the famous tale of poor Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia, who, entered into the tournament in Carlsbad, California, instead flew to the wrong Carlsbad, in New Mexico, a good 900 miles away!)

Of course, there are four tournaments which I would guarantee every tennis fan, and player, can place geographically after just a few seconds of thought: the Grand Slams. And of these, I would venture, our own Championships is the easiest to place. All around the world, I am absolutely sure, the only UK postcode known to men and women from Europe, Australasia, the Americas and Asia, is SW19! Consider also those elements that make Wimbledon unique such as grass courts, players in white clothing and the absence of advertising hoardings around the playing area and you have arguably the most recognisable tennis tournament in the world, even amongst people who for some crazy reason would not consider themselves tennis fans!

We discuss Wimbledon’s unique image and instant recognisability in our Business of Wimbledon and Marketing packages.

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