By J. Fred Sidhu
Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, David Nalbandian of Argentina and Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten, will lead a host of Latin American players who will compete for the men’s singles title at the 2007 Pacific Life Open tennis tournament.
The event, which is the fifth most-attended tennis tournament in the world, gets underway this Monday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the Coachella Valley Desert of Riverside County.
Gonzalez posted his best career result in a Grand Slam tournament earlier this year by reaching the finals of the Australian Open in January. The popular Chilean also captured a bronze medal in singles and a gold medal in doubles at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
With his success in tennis, the native of Santiago has become one of the most recognized people in Chile.
David Nalbandian, who hails from Cordoba, Argentina, is the highest ranked Argentine at the Pacific Life Open, coming into the tournament ranked number 10 in the world (as of 2/19/07). A Wimbledon finalist in 2002, Nalbandian has finished in the world’s Top 10 the last four years.
Kuerten, a former World No. 1 and three-time French Open Champion, has been awarded a wildcard into this year’s tournament.
The Brazilian, who has always been a fan favorite at Indian Wells, was nagged by injuries the past few years, but returned recently, as he played in ATP tournament last month in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil.
The Grand Slam champion has twenty titles in his career and was a finalist at the Pacific Life Open in 2003. That year he defeated World No. 1 and three-time defending champion Roger Federer, which was the last time Federer lost in Indian Wells.
“I am very excited about being able to play again at the Pacific Life Open,” said Kuerten. “It was 10 years ago in Indian Wells that I had my first victory over a top ten player, I reached the semifinals once and the final in 2003, having beaten Federer and other great players. I am practicing hard, feeling better each day and looking forward to playing in Indian Wells again.”
The other Latin American players who have entered the tournament are Agustin Calleri, Jose Acasuso, Juan Ignacio Chela, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Monaco, Juan Martin de Potro and Sergio Roitman, all from Argentina, as well as Nicolas Massu of Chile and Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador.
Federer, who some are already calling the greatest tennis player of all time, will make his only West Coast tournament appearance of 2007 at the Pacific Life Open. As the World No. 1 player, he is the top-seed in the men’s draw.
Other players who will also compete for this year’s men’s singles title include, Spaniard Rafael Nadal, the two-time French Open champion who holds a winning record against Federer and U.S. Davis Cup stars, Andy Roddick and James Blake.
Defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia, who is ranked number one in the world, and former tournament champion Martina Hingis of Switzerland, will highlight a strong women’s field.
The most noteworthy change at this year’s event will be the use of the new electronic line calling technology and a player challenge system.
With this system, a player can challenge line calls, after which an official replay will be projected onto soon-to-be installed in-stadium video boards and simultaneously fed to the television broadcast, allowing players, officials, on-site fans and television viewers the opportunity to see the live results of a player challenge.
“This cutting-edge technology will enhance our already world-class stadium,” said Charlie Pasarell, tournament chairman. “We are taking another step in our continued commitment to make the game of tennis and the Pacific
Life Open experience more interactive and enjoyable for the fans.”
Upon entering the Indian Well Tennis Garden, make sure to purchase a daily draw sheet, which lists all of the scheduled matches and planned activities for that particular day.
Individual tickets range in price from $17 for evening session grandstand tickets to $71 for loge seats on the final weekend. Many daily discounts are available to families, United States Tennis Association members, seniors, students and the military.