SPORTS

Swirling, gusting winds greet players as Indian Wells tennis begins

03/07/2012 08:58 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Keep the ball in the court. It can seem simple enough.

But when the wind is swirling and gusting as it has been this week at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, there's nothing simple about it.

Caroline Wozniacki, who won last year's BNP Paribas Open, said when she practised Tuesday evening "it was like a hurricane, it was so windy and cold."

The weather hadn't changed much Wednesday, when the 12-day, $11 million event got started with 16 women's singles matches.

Wozniacki, who's No. 4 in the world, didn't have to play one of those matches. She was one of the 32 seeded players who got first-round byes. So she could sit and watch, and empathize with those who did play and battle both their opponent and winds that gusted to 32 kilometres per hour.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said in those conditions "it's not really about the tennis," and Wozniacki said the only viable strategy is to "move your feet and play in the middle of the court — depending on how much wind there is, naturally. If it's like this, it's just about trying to get it over the net and inside the lines more than the other person."

Wozniacki said experimenting with the tension of the racquet strings to alter the pace of the shots doesn't help, either, "because from one side you're hitting the ball hard and it doesn't go anywhere and from the other side you hit it a little bit and it goes into the fence" at the end of the court.

Later in women's action, qualifier Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., lost her first round match, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7) to American Sloane Stephens.

The hard-fought match lasted three hours 12 minutes 40 seconds, with Wozniak breaking Stephens twice late in the third set to force 5-5 and 6-6 ties before losing the tiebreaker.

In men's play, Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., qualified for the main draw with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Belgium's Maxime Authom. Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., failed to qualify, losing 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 to Bobby Reynolds of the United States.

American Jamie Hampton, who made her debut in the top 100 last week, had little trouble keeping her shots in the court and routed Polona Hercog of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1 in the opening match on stadium court.

American Coco Vandeweghe felt she dealt with the wind fairly well in the first set of her match, too. After that it got difficult, however, and Vandeweghe lost to Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

The oldest player in the women's field, 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, was a 6-1, 6-3 winner over 26-year-old Pauline Parmentier of France. But 37-year-old American Jill Craybas lost to 21-year-old Mona Barthel of Germany 6-1, 6-2. Barthel's reward for the victory is a second-round match with top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.

Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic got the first win of the tournament with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Laura Pous-Tio of Spain, and later in the day Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan, Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and Sorana Cirstea of Romania moved into the second round.

American Vania King rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the second set to eliminate Italy's Sara Errani 7-6 (3), 6-4. Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands, Elena Visnina of Russia, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic and Sania Mirza of India were the other opening-day winners.

First round activity will continue Thursday, with the men joining the women and the forecast calling for warm temperatures and winds under 16 km/h.

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