By: J. Fred Sidhu
Indian Wells, Ca. It did not look good.
First Pete Sampras pulled out of the Pacific Life Open and then Andre Agassi withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury.
Two of America’s biggest tennis stars were absent from the draw.
But a funny thing happened. Five American men reached the quarterfinals last week at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
James Blake, Robby Ginepri, Andy Roddick, Vince Spadea and Brian Vahaly pulled off impressive wins to advance to the final eight. It was the first time since 1989 that five Americans got to the quarterfinals in Indian Wells.
“I’ve said this for a while, that we’ve got a lot of talent coming up. And I think these guys are getting better and better,” Blake said. “Hopefully I’m getting better and better. And we even have two of our top players not even here with Taylor Dent and Mardy Fish.”
Blake, ranked 24 in the world, eliminated fifth-seeded Carlos Moya of Spain in a third- round encounter before losing a three-set match to Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten.
Roddick, who was seeded sixth, defeated Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist, Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Sebastien Grosjean of France before falling to Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the quarterfinals.
Ginepri, Spadea and Vahaly all entered the main draw of the event as qualifiers.
Ginepri routed seventh seed, Marat Safin of Russia, 6-0, 6-1 in the third round. In his quarterfinal match, Ginepri fell to top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-4, 6-2.
Meanwhile, Vahaly scored a major upset when he took out third-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the second round.
Spadea, who is considered a veteran at 28 years old, got all the way to the semifinals after winning two qualifying matches and four main draw matches. It was his first career semifinal appearance in a Tennis Masters Series event.
With the success of the American men in Indian Wells, the future of men’s tennis in the United States is beginning to look a whole lot brighter.
“It’s a great sign for us. It’s going to be fun,” Blake said. “We’re all good friends and we’re all doing this together.”