© Ella Ling

Indian Wells

Indian Wells or Miami - which is the fifth grand slam?


The two combined ATP Masters 1000 / WTA Premier mandatory tournaments sit back to back in the tennis calendar, but each is very different from the other. Here are five reasons why…

The sites
What is perhaps the biggest difference between these two mini-goliaths of the tennis tour is the way they actually look. Indian Wells is all sandy and dusty and very desert-like, which is fitting because, stating the obvious, it’s in the desert. There are palm trees to add the odd splash of green, and the courts, of course, which are sort of dark blue and dark green. But on the whole it’s very calming. Miami on the other hand is inspired by Barney the dinosaur. In that it is very, very purple, very bright, and very ‘wow.’

There’s also a difference in what is where. Indian Wells has a gloriously spacious practice area round the back of the second stadium court, featuring three rows of practice courts, and a green field used variously for stretching, jogging, and, of course, football. The centre court seats 15,000 people. Miami, is much more condensed, but far more vibrant as a result. The practice courts are grouped in twos, forcing you to wander from pocket to pocket frequently, and their centre court seats 13,300.

And then of course, there’s the weather. While Indian Wells is balmily hot, often tempered by a swirling breeze that becomes decidedly chilly at night, Miami is as hot and humid as New York or Melbourne.

The owners
While the world’s fourth-richest man, Larry Ellison, is the keeper of the keys to the Indian Wells tennis garden, Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, is owned by the local government, meaning the two tournaments are chalk and cheese in the way they look and are managed.

Indian Wells is a site that sits there all year round, with the luxury to nip, tuck and tweak when they feel like it, store hundreds of chairs and other furniture and generally do what they want when. They built a brand new tented structure this year, simply because they recognised that fans needed more shade.

Crandon Park, by contrast, is very strictly regulated, and far less wealthy. The organisers are given the briefest of periods to both put it up, and take it down, but, bizarrely, because everything’s in tents and not buildings, it ends up looking more like the rest of the world’s tennis tournaments. Add to that that everything bears the name of a very big American brand, as opposed to something Californian you may not have heard of, and so it feels much more professional, almost like the older brother. And yet a much shabbier older brother to Indian Wells’s constant developments.

The players
Every player has tournaments they like, and tournaments they don’t. And because Indian Wells and Miami are so close together, it’s rare that a player does well at both. Ergo, players preferring one or the other.

Andy Murray, for example, because he has a home in Miami, feels more comfortable there, even though he also professes to liking the desert too, despite back to back first-match losses last year and this year. Sabine Lisicki, who trained at Bollettieri’s, is another one. Petra Kvitova and Li Na, also seem to have anti Indian Wells-itis. Roger Federer, too, confessed to not liking it that much early in his career. And we don’t even need to mention the Williams sisters.

But there are also those that love Indian Wells and are less au fait with Miami. Marion Bartoli for example, and Ana Ivanovic. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal too, although both did well at both last year, so perhaps that doesn’t tally.

The fans
Again, chalk and cheese, united by a love of tennis. In Indian Wells, the fans are relaxed, laid back, accepting – Californian, if you will. They ask questions and are interested, but don’t go mad or crazy. In Miami, they’re like hounds. Players in Indian Wells wander around unescorted. They certainly don’t do so in Miami. That may be a bad thing, as is being pushed and shoved all day long, but the good side is the atmosphere. Miami looks and feels like some sort of chaotic party, all of the time, which makes for a real buzz compared to the much sleepier, yet interested, vibe of the desert. Pick which one you will.

The nightlife
Governed more by the places they’re in than the tournaments, in Miami you can dance all night long, in Indian Wells you’ll be lucky to find food after 9pm, unless you try the infamous Beerhunter or Renaissance Hotel. Indian Wells is home to the populations who have left Los Angeles for a quieter life, so you can imagine it has a very different amount to offer than Miami, the ultimate late-night hang out. But what Indian Wells lacks in dive bars and dance joints, it makes up for in swimming pools and golf courses. Again, the choice is yours.

So there you have it. Two very different, but brilliant, tennis tournaments, both battling to be dubbed ‘the fifth grand slam.’ What do you think?

  • Mykbibby

    Indian Wells is the 5th grand slam… Miami might have a more energetic environment, but in terms of prestige, winning Indian Wells is a bigger deal.