Players say conditions in Indian Wells are faster this year

After criticism from players about the slow conditions in 2023, things have changed significantly

Iga Swiatek in Indian Wells 2024 Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

Fast through the air, slow off the court. Conditions in Indian Wells were always like that, the thin air of the desert and altitude making the ball fast off the strings but the grittiness of the courts slowing things down and taking spin more than most surfaces.

Twelve months ago, conditions were so slow that players were complaining about it. This year, things seem to have changed. Perhaps the organisers were listening.

“Conditions here this year are very different,” said Andy Murray, the former world No 1 who reached the final in Indian Wells in 2009 but who has largely found it tough in the desert over the years. “I’ve always struggled here, but the court’s definitely faster this year. The court’s very jumpy, the ball bounces very high and you need to use that to your advantage.”

Traditionally, it’s been a place where the likes of Rafael Nadal, who can create incredible spin on his forehand, has done well, while the likes of Ivan Ljubicic and John Isner, too, have had success getting their serves high above the returner’s shoulder. Novak Djokovic, of course, has won the title five times, as did Roger Federer, but aside from the all-time greats, the courts have traditionally offered a bit more to those players who sometimes find hard courts too quick for them.

Wozniacki: “You can have two different surfaces”

Former women’s world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki is a player who loves to use her opponent’s pace to create holes in their defence. The Dane, through to the last 16 on her return to Indian Wells for the first time since she began her comeback last summer, said she’s noticed some differences too.

“It’s interesting, because this court, if you play someone who is a heavy hitter and plays very flat, the court actually skids through quite a lot,” she told reporters. “But if you play someone who plays with a lot of spin, the ball stops and bounces really high. You can really have two kind of different surfaces, depending on who you’re playing.”

De Minaur: “It’s way quicker this year…and easier to slide”

Alex de Minaur is one of the fastest players on the Tour and the current world No 10. The Australian said the court is smoother than in the past, making for faster conditions.

“Over the years it’s traditionally been quite a gritty hard court where the ball kind of checks up a little bit and it was quite slow,” De Minaur said. “I think this year it’s way quicker than previous years, and you’re actually getting a lot of purchase out of your balls, especially if you hit a nice kind of flat, deeper shot. You feel like the ball is skidding and you’re getting some help from the court.

“For me at least personally, it’s the best this court has felt for my type of game since I’ve played over here. So it’s finally gotten a little bit quicker, and at least I’m one of the players who’s enjoying it.”

De Minaur said the change also made it easier for players to move.

“In previous years it was very gritty and it was a little bit harder to slide,” he said. “Traditionally…if the courts are a little bit slicker and quicker, then it makes it a lot easier to slide, right? The slower, the grittier the court, it makes it a little bit tougher on the body and tougher to slide. This year it feels very good and very easy on your body.”

Swiatek listening to Murray’s advice on courts

Jannik Sinner, the newly-crowned Australian Open champion and the in-form player on the men’s Tour, said it still helps players who can hit with spin, though, and pointed out that conditions vary significantly between day and night.

“It’s for sure more bouncy, and the balls, they are getting quite big after three, four games,” the Italian said. “So you have to adapt. It depends also if you play night or not. Yesterday we played doubles in the night. Was different.

“You try to adapt. The court works really well for the players who play with a little bit more of rotation.”

And it seems that players are even listening to each other talk about the conditions to improve their own experience on the surface. Women’s world No 1 Iga Swiatek said Murray’s words to Tennis Channel, in which he talked about being patient and getting the ball up high to his opponents, had helped her to prepare for the tournament (at 3.10 in the link below).

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