It feels like five years, but was really only nine months, since tennis was normal.
And with the news that the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells is – at best – postponed for the second consecutive year, let’s look back at what tennis looked like, the last time it was in the desert.
Relative normalcy at Indian Wells – until … not
Open Court site was on site early in the desert for the Oracle Challenger, which is held the week before the main event.
And as that tournament, which had a solid field, was going on, the site was building up.
Only in the last few days, when it was decided to test out some of the health security measures that were to be in use for both Indian Wells and the Miami Open, did reality intrude.
Only in the last few days, when it was decided to test out some of the health security measures that were to be in use for both Indian Wells and the Miami Open, did reality begin to intrude.
Before that, there was action everywhere.
Here’s a look back.
FAA and Rafa in the house
Nine months later, the two are preparing for 2021 together at the Nadal Academy in Mallorca.
But back in March, they were going through their paces on the stadium court at Indian Wells.
Around the grounds at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden
Oracle Challenger action
Practice time around the grounds
Doubles action for the Zverev brothers
With big brother Mischa arriving early to play the Challenger, Alexander Zverev came along, practicing and playing doubles with his brother in a Challenger for the first time since 2015.
All seemed golden back in March. Who knew all the drama that would ensue in the months after that.
A couple of Indian Wells debutant(e)s
A pair of teens prepared for their Indian Wells debuts back in March.
Iga Swiatek had lost in the second round of qualifying the previous year. Jannik Sinner had never played there.
Sinner came early, playing the Challenger in both singles and doubles (with Frances Tiafoe).
Whatever happened to those two kids?
The Americans represent
Clijsters hits the Indian Wells courts
Kim Clijsters hadn’t taken a trip to the California desert since 2011, when she last played the BNP Paribas Open.
After her third comeback was delayed a few times, she finally returned to the court in Dubai in February, against Garbiñe Muguruza. Then she played Johanna Konta in Monterrey, Mexico.
At 36, Clijsters was preparing to give it another go at Indian Wells when the pandemic hit.
She played some World Team Tennis. But an ab injury cut that short – and contributed to a first-round loss at the US Open to Ekaterina Alexandrova.
We didn’t see her after that. Hopefully she returns to the desert, when tennis does.
There were two generations of Spaniards on site at Indian Wells in March.
The older gen – classics Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco – even practiced together.
And then there was 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who represents the next generation. Alcaraz had received a wild card into the Indian Wells main draw.
But he wasn’t able to take advantage after the cancellation.
Some of the veteran Frenchmen – Gilles Simon, Nicolas Mahut and Richard Gasquet – were on hand in the desert.
The Italians at Indian Wells
Top Italian Matteo Berrettini, sporting a topknot, took the court at Indian Wells with countryman Thomas Fabbiano.
He had missed the entire planned South American swing on the clay, with a hernia/groin injury. But he looked to return in the desert.
It was not to be.
Russians, Kazakhs, Latvians, Belarussians
Players from that part of the world were all over the courts at Indian Wells in March.
Aryna Sabalenka, the queen of the practice courts, was joined by on-again, off-again coach Dmitry Tursunov.
By the time tennis resumed at the US Open, they were off again.
The Pliskovas hit Court 2
Twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova hit Stadium Court 2 for a practice.
It memory serves, they also were scheduled to play doubles together.