With the news that the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. is postponed – at best – for the second consecutive year comes the sobering reality of what a year 2020 was.
About 10 months ago, the site was getting ready to host the best tennis players in the world.
We couldn’t know it at the time, but those days in the desert were the last time we’d see a lot of players (and coach-player combos) on the court.
For some, the last time ever. For others, the last time in 2020.
Here are some stories.
Final moments with Suárez Navarro
On the grounds practicing was the fabulous Carla Suárez Navarro.
Suárez Navarro had already announced that 2020 would be her final season. But it turns out her final tournament was Dubai in February, as Indian Wells was not held.
By the time the WTA Tour returned in August, the 32-year-old Spaniard was facing another battle altogether. On Sept. 1, she announced she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and would undergo six months of chemotherapy.
(It seems there are rumblings out there that she plans to come back in 2021 and play a few events. Let’s hope so!
Vandeweghe came – and went
The last few years of Coco Vandeweghe’s tennis life have been off the charts frustrating.
First, she rolled her ankle at Wimbledon. Then, within weeks, it turned into a situation called “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome”. And it was so debilitating she had to learn how to walk again.
She returned on short notice in San Jose in 2019, and raised her ranking from No. 636 to return to the top 200.
But since her participation in the Oracle Challenger at Indian Wells in early March, she hasn’t played an official match since, after a freak injury suffered in just a few days after leading her World Team Tennis team to the title at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
According to a podcast she did, Vandeweghe was warming something up in a non-microwave-safe bowl. Which then exploded in her hand. She said she cut the pinky finger on her left hand, and severed two ligaments and a nerve.
She had surgery a few days later. And doesn’t expect to be back before March – nearly a full year after her last official match.
To say she’s snakebitten would be to understate the case. Three years ago this week, Vandeweghe was in the top 10 and at the top of her game.
Remember the Aussies?
Around the grounds in the desert, you could find world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty hitting the courts.
As well, Samantha Stosur was on hand, playing the Challenger ahead of the main event.
And even Nick Kyrgios was giving it a shot. He was having a left wrist issue that had all but taken him out of the previous tournaments in the U.S. But he was at least trying to practice.
That was the last time any of the three were spotted at a tournament, for various reasons.
All are expected back in Australia.
Unexpected finale for Vania King
American Vania King, now 31, had planned to finish her career at the Charleston tournament in April.
After surgery on her ankle in April 2017, following a first-round retirement in singles at the Indian Wells event that year, King was never able to regain the mobility she needed to get back to the top level.
And so, in February 2020, she announced the end was near. And that she would finish her career with the player she teamed up with to win Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova.
It was not to be. Her final match was a quarterfinal loss at the Oracle Challenger, with Vera Zvonareva, against Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad.
King kept busy the rest of the year. And she did some good deeds.
Short-lived return for Shvedova
Shvedova had twins Stanislav and Miraslava in Oct. 2018. The aftermath on her Instagram account was a wealth of adorable cute twin pics, and some getting back in shape.
Her last match came at the 2017 French Open – until she returned on a protected ranking in Qatar and lost in the first round to Laura Siegemund.
Indian Wells was going to be the second.
Until it was called off.
Shvedova did not return with the rest of the WTA Tour in August. But she is entered in the Australian Open with her protected singles ranking of No. 47. She also is entered in doubles (PR No. 19) with fellow Kazakh Elena Rybakina.
The end of Pouille and Mauresmo
Lucas Pouille is another player whose recent career has been sidelined by injury.
Exactly two years before he took the court with coach Amélie Mauresmo at Indian Wells in March, the 26-year-old Frenchman had squeezed into the top 10, despite an opening-match lost to Yuki Bhambri in the desert. A very strong start to 2018 put him in that position.
Back and leg injuries slowed his momentum in 2018. And then, later in 2019, a right elbow problem ended his season in Shanghai (and forced him to miss the Davis Cup finals).
Pouille also missed the Australian summer. But he came to Indian Wells early, and gave it a try in the Oracle Challenger the week before. He lost to Noah Rubin in his opener.
He was practicing for the main event with coach Amélie Mauresmo when it was cancelled.
By July, during the shutdown, Pouille decided to have surgery on the elbow. He wasn’t able to come back for Roland Garros, or any of the subsequent fall tournaments.
And then, in October, he tested positive for COVID-19. And then, he announced that his collaboration with Mauresmo was done.
Now Lu see him, now you don’t
Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu has struggled to return from shoulder surgery, and was out nearly two years until he played at the Australian Open in January.
He entered a ton of tournaments, only to withdraw, as he stretched a protected ranking of No. 71.
At 37, and in his 20th year as a pro, he’s trying to keep it going long enough to have his finale at the Tokyo Olympics.
Lu lost in straight sets to Gaël Monfils in Melbourne. Then he took Yasutaka Uchiyama to three sets in Dubai.
He was set to try again at Indian Wells, but the coronavirus intervened.
And he didn’t play the rest of the year, once play resumed.
Another go for Venus, at 41?
Venus Williams turns 41 next June. And so, if Indian Wells does go ahead later in the year, that’s how young she’ll be.
Here she was in March, preparing for the 2020 edition.