1. Serena's Return: A New High Point In Her Legendary Career?
It was about forgiveness. It was about courage. It was about reconciling a difficult past and marching forth into the future with a new lease on life. Cascaded by boos in 2001 when she departed as a wrongly scorned and grossly misunderstood champion, Serena Williams returned to the California desert to be showered by thunderous applause. For Williams, and for those who witnessed and reveled in her inspiring return, it was a long time coming. And, there was so much more than tennis at stake. Though Williams' triumphant return to Indian Wells after a 14-year absence ended in an unfortunate injury withdrawal, that fact does nothing whatsoever to diminish the significance of what the 19-time major champion achieved in her return to the desert.
"I feel like I've already won this tournament," Williams said after her first round victory over Monica Niculescu. "I feel like I'm already holding up a trophy. I have never felt that way before. I feel like just being here is a huge win. Not only for me, but for so many people. It's a wonderful feeling."
Sometimes we talk about padding a legacy with titles and trophies, but in Williams' case, we can talk about paving the way with forgiveness and soul. She did that at Indian Wells, and walks away a champion, leaving Indian Wells and tennis better off as a result.
2. Expect The Unexpected In The Desert
From Sabine Lisicki, who entered with a 1-5 record and zero career wins at Indian Wells before reaching the semifinals, to Flavia Pennetta, who fought back overwhelming emotions en route to a massive round of 16 victory over Maria Sharapova, we've learned that when it comes to high-stakes events like the BNP Paribas Open, it's best to crumple up the script, throw it in the trash, and get ready for chaos. Would we want it any other way?
Other notable surprises? Jelena Jankovic's surprising run to the final after entering the tournament with a 2-4 record on the season. Lesia Tsurenko's run from qualifying to the quarterfinals, which featured her first two Top 10 wins. Heather Watson's straight set takedown of Agneiszka Radwanska for her first career Top 10 win and best Indian Wells performance to date.
3. Simona Halep Is A Human Highlight Reel
Simona Halep was lighting up the desert sky with her electric play all week, producing web gems while at the same time coming up with gritty, three set victories. While the Romanian is an offensive threat at all times, she also proved that she can play defense as well ? if not better ? than anyone on the WTA. Halep created several defensive web gems for the highlight reel with her world class tracking abilities, and we've got proof for you.
During her time at Indian Wells this year, Halep also proved that she's much more than a reliable source of hot shot footage, she's also a champion. The 23-year-old won her first Premier Mandatory title, and 11th overall, by taking out Jelena Jankovic in a dramatic final to improve her three set record in 2015 to 7-0. The victory also pushes Simona to the top of the Road To Singapore leaderboard.
4. Madison Keys Is A Bona Fide Bombardier
Twenty-year-old Madison Keys has power to burn. And even though the rising American hasn't found the perfect balance between power and precision at this stage of her budding career, her colleagues are taking notice. Despite slipping by Keys in three sets in the third round, Jelena Jankovic was raving about the pace coming off of Madison's racquet: "I mean, it was like bombs or bullets constantly coming at me for about two and a half hours," she said, giving the American her ringing endorsement. "It's such a heavy ball. I think she's probably, I mean, maybe with Serena, probably the hardest hitting player out there in this moment... She hits the ball at such a high pace. It's unbelievable."
5. The Players Love Indian Wells, Perhaps More Than Anywhere Else
Maybe it's the gorgeous desert scenery?jagged peaks, wildflowers blooming, clear blue skies, perfectly dry air ? or maybe it's the constantly improving tennis facilities, which keep expanding every year. Or, maybe it's the fans? Whatever the case, there's no doubt that the women of the WTA enter a state of perpetual bliss when visiting Indian Wells. Want proof? Check out this video of Eugenie Bouchard answering questions about the "Big Bang Theory."
6. Jelena Jankovic Is A California Girl
Her WTA bio says she's born in Belgrade, but don't let that fool you, because these days Jelena Jankovic is a California Girl at heart. "I love playing in Indian Wells," Jankovic, now a San Diego resident, told reporters this week. "I really love it here. I'm a California girl now." What else makes Jankovic a California girl? That's easy: "I have a Californian tan," she added.
7. Lindsay's Got Wisdom
Speaking of California girls, Palos Verdes native and Laguna Beach resident Lindsay Davenport got a round of applause from her hometown fans when she headed out to give Madison Keys some on-court coaching during Keys' second round encounter with Klara Koukalova. We know Davenport can wear a lot of hats ? mother, Tennis Channel commentator, Hall of Famer ? but when it comes to coaching, Lindsay seems to have found another calling. Check out the video of Davenport's first on-court session with Keys and we think you'll agree.
8. Belinda Bencic Breaks Through Again
Eighteen-year-old WTA Rising Star Belinda Bencic came to Indian Wells in struggle mode, having gone just 2-5 in her first five tour-level matches of 2015. But the Swiss burst forth with another breakout performance in the desert, reaching the round of 16 after notching her first career Top 5 win over Caroline Wozniacki in the third round. Bencic is proving to be a fast learner on the WTA. She was unceremoniously drubbed, 6-0, 6-0, by Wozniacki last July in Istanbul. This time, she got the better of the Great Dane in one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. When asked what the difference was after her 6-4, 6-4 upset, Bencic replied with a grin: "Difference was that I won a game."
9. Sania Mirza And Martina Hingis Prove To Be A Formidable Duo
It didn't take long for Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis to achieve a comfort zone on the doubles court at Indian Wells. The first-time pairing raced through the draw without the loss of a set, inspiring many to think they can make an impact at the majors and on the Road To Singapore. Mirza and Hingis knocked off the No.2-seeded duo of Ekaterina Makaraova and Elina Vesnina in the final, 6-3, 6-4.
Mirza, a three-time mixed doubles champion at the majors, says that Hingis complements her game perfectly. "She's one of the best people who can complement the way I play," she said. "She's got probably some of the best hands in the world at the net. For me, I need that. I need someone who can finish the balls off where I set them up."
10. Is It Timea's Time?
What time is it? Well, for much of last week at Indian Wells it was Timea Time. The 25-year-old Swiss continued to mount her surge up the rankings by reaching the quarterfinals at a Premier Mandatory event for the first time and running her career-best winning streak to 15. Despite falling to Williams in the quarterfinals, Bacsinzky improved her record to 21-3, which includes two Top 10 wins (Kvitova and Makarova) and two titles (Acapulco and Monterrey). For her efforts, Bacsinszky finds herself in the Top 8 in the Road To Singapore leaderboard as the tour heads to Miami.