I had the unique opportunity to visit Indian Wells, CA USA (BNP Paribas Open) for three days this past week, and see some of the game's top players first-hand. It was a fantastic and fan-friendly experience at one of the top professional tournaments - often called the "Fifth Grand Slam."
Indian Wells, and it's new owner Larry Ellison, have tried to blaze a new trail for tennis pre-eminence this year. Among other things, the tournament boasted the ground-breaking "Shot Spot" technology on all courts, not just at the stadium courts for the big matches - thus enabling player challenges at every match and on every round.
All match courts are now lit - and lighting has been improved at several courts. There are now more practice courts with more fan seating, thus allowing for even more close-ups with players. And the big stadium court holds 16,100 fans - more people than any tennis stadium in the world after the U.S. Open's Ashe Stadium.
I enjoyed Roger Federer playing USA teen star Ryan Harrison, saw Maria Sharapova practicing and even caught Rafa Nadal relaxing by playing soccer in the practice field.
There were daily player autograph sessions, countless sponsor booths and tables, and food, prizes and fun throughout the Indian Wells Tennis Garden facility. A real treat for any tennis fan and follower!
This year's BNP Paribas Open, the 36th edition, broke all attendance records, with over 350,000 fans visiting over 2 weeks.
And yes. Congratulations to the winners of the Men's and Women's Singles Championships - Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniaki.
See you next year!