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Old 03-16-2006, 05:04 PM   #2
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Default Re: Indain Wells (Master Series) California

Gotta love the Pacific Life Open





Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
March 16, 2006


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I love this place, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, home of the Pacific Life Open.

No surprise, everybody's here this fortnight.

Well, nearly. Still no Serena and Venus, but that ship's long since sailed.

But there's Davenport and Sharapova and Hingis; Federer, Agassi and Roddick and the other household names known by a single name out here.

There they were when I saw them a few days back, Carlos Moya volleying before a throng of fans.

Lindsay Davenport getting her footing on familiar ground, first on the practice courts, so close that we in the crowd were almost playing doubles; then just Lindsay and her coach taking over a cavernous stadium court. The sprawling grounds, the mountain views and, oh yeah, the tennis.

It's easy to be a fan here, but don't take it from me.

The Thibeaults, Ed and Linda, of Indian Wells, have been fans for years, following the two-week event from its days at the Hyatt Grand Champions to the Tennis Masters Series to the Pacific Life Open.

I ran into them on the tournament's first Tuesday and they adopted me for a while, taking me on an impromptu tour of the Tennis Garden.


The couple, box seat holders for 16 years, have been fans for so long that at least one player they first saw here in the desert has now retired to the desert.

"We saw (Pete) Sampras' first time in the desert," Ed remembered.

Their son even got a chance to practice with German star Boris Becker, he said.

The kid talked about it for weeks. The folks still talk about it today.

Retired now, it made sense that these tennis fanatics would do as much as they could to stay as close as they could to the action on the courts.

Two years ago, they became volunteers, joining the 1,000 or so unpaid helpers staffing the Garden's grounds.

"We love it here," Linda said. "We literally take two weeks and come out here."

The tourney and the desert have been a perfect fit for the Thibeaults, who began visiting the desert as a couple from San Francisco in the late 1980s.

Like many who relocate to the desert, a vacation spot soon became home.

"We ended up spending all our our time here," Ed said.

Linda, though, had a head start on her husband.

Raised in the Los Angeles area, the desert has been her second home since she was a child.

Now, the Tennis Garden is her home away from home.

And she has plenty of company.

"There are people here from all parts of the country," Linda said. "The environment here - you can chat (with the players). People come from all over the world for just these two weeks."

Yeah, it's easy to be a fan out here. But don't take my word for it.
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