This year marks the beginning of a new decade of excitement at the BNP Paribas Open, as we return to Tennis Paradise to hold our tournament for the first time since March 2019. The last ten years in Indian Wells have seen some of the most defining moments in the event’s history – from blockbuster exhibitions to groundbreaking renovations to monumental on-court achievements. Before we take to the courts in 2021, let’s take a look back at some of these landmarks that helped build the BNP Paribas Open to become one of the most prestigious and exciting sporting events in the world.
2010 – HIT FOR HAITI
A 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti at the beginning of 2010 – and then-new owner of the BNP Paribas Open Larry Ellison stepped up to the plate to raise money for those impacted. In the process, he conceived of one of the most fan-friendly and star-studded events seen on a tennis court, as eight legends of the game converged on Stadium 1 to entertain the crowd and support the worthy cause. The “Hit for Haiti” featured two doubles matches – Martina Navratilova/Justine Henin vs. Lindsay Davenport/Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras/Roger Federer vs. Andre Agassi/Rafael Nadal. With the tennis stars mic’d up, the banter was on par with the spectacular tennis. Ultimately, the evening was able to raise more than $1 million for earthquake relief, due to the generous support of the amazing athletes and fans.
2011 – HAWK-EYE ON EVERY COURT
As the BNP Paribas Open looks to break boundaries and exceed expectations for what a world-class sporting event provides its players and fans, a key factor is innovating technologically. In 2011, the event became the first-ever tournament to feature electronic line calling on every main draw match court. A significant investment in the athletes, who are now able to play matches with the incredible line-calling resource, and in the fans, who benefit by witnessing the most accurately called matches on all courts, Hawk-Eye has changed the game for the better. In 2014, the technology was expanded to all qualifying matches, as well. To this day, the BNP Paribas Open remains the only tennis event in the world where every match features Hawk-Eye technology.
2012 – MILLION-DOLLAR PRIZE MONEY
The 2012 BNP Paribas Open saw a major investment in its world-class athletes, becoming the first ATP Tour combined event to offer the singles champions $1 million as a part of its total prize money increase. “The BNP Paribas Open has been raising the bar for the sport over the course of the past four decades, and today’s $1 million winners’ prize money announcement represents yet another historic milestone,” said Stacey Allaster, then-WTA Chairman and CEO. “The BNP Paribas Open is one of the cornerstone events in professional tennis exactly because of this attention to players and willingness to innovate and push the boundaries of success.” That year, Roger Federer and Victoria Azarenka were the recipients of this historic prize. Since then, the purse has grown even larger, with singles champions earning more than $1.3 million.
2013 – THE BRYAN BROTHERS WIN FIRST TITLE
Fans at the BNP Paribas Open are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate in the world, who appreciate the legends of the game and their immense talent. Therefore, doubles and its stars are a very popular draw for crowds in the desert. It seems fitting that the SoCal-native Bryan Brothers, the greatest team to have ever played the game, became one of the biggest attractions at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Strangely, however, the duo had competed for 14-straight years (1999-2012) without winning the title. Their breakthrough finally came in 2013, winning their first BNP Paribas Open title in front of a raucous crowd with a third-set tiebreak victory over Treat Huey and Jerzy Janowicz. They would continue their hot streak in the desert in 2014, winning the title yet again. The legendary duo retired just days ahead of the 2020 US Open, the scene of their major championship debut in 1995.
2014 – STADIUM 2 OPENS
A pivotal moment that set constant upgrades to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden into motion was the completion and opening of the 8,000-seat Stadium 2 in 2014. A grand yet intimate arena, Stadium 2 has been home to some of the most exciting matches of the past six years. It is known not just for its on-court action, however. Fans can now watch world-class tennis while eating world-class cuisine, with restaurants like Nobu featuring views of the court. Today, fine establishments like Piero’s PizzaVino, Fresh Agave Mexican Bar & Grill, Kabob, KoGui and Fuku are available in Stadium 2 for fans looking to refuel in between matches.
2015 – SERENA RETURNS
Chills. The moment was felt throughout a sold-out Stadium 1, in attendees watching on the big screen in Stadium Plaza and across fans all around the world as Serena Williams made her return to the BNP Paribas Open after a 14-year hiatus. Walking onto the court, the legend took off her signature headphones and soaked in the crowd support as cheers and chants reached uncharted volumes. Fans that evening were not only treated to witnessing one of the greatest to have ever played the game, but also to an incredibly hard-fought match between Williams and Romania’s Monica Niculescu, a 7-5, 7-5 victory for the American that lasted more than two hours. “Today was a wonderful day for me, for women’s tennis,” said Williams after the match. “… for tennis in general, and for everyone.”
2016 – AZARENKA SOLIDIFIES COMEBACK, NOVAK GETS TO FIVE
The BNP Paribas Open has seen legends solidified, new faces break through and fan-favorites shine and 2016 was no different. After injuries derailed her previous two seasons, former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka found her vintage form to defeat Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4 to capture her second BNP Paribas Open title. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic made history by becoming the first player to win five titles in the desert, with an emphatic 6-2, 6-0 victory over Canadian Milos Raonic. The Serb dropped his opening set of the tournament, but did not stumble from that point on, nabbing 12 consecutive sets to achieve the historic feat.
2017 – ROGER REACHES FIVE, RENOVATIONS GALORE
Not to be outdone, Roger Federer came back to Indian Wells in 2017 with a title on his mind. The Swiss Maestro did not drop a set en route to his fifth title at the BNP Paribas Open, defeating Rafael Nadal in the Round of 16 and compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the final. This year also marked another milestone of renovations to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, as an additional 100,000 sq. ft. were added to the already 200,000 sq. ft. Stadium 1. The enhancements were centered around enhancing the fan experience including more dining options and amenities to ensure fans wouldn’t miss any of the on-court action. Additionally, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago was opened in the Stadium, for a fine dining option befitting of the greatest fans in the world.
2018 – DEL POTRO OVERCOMES INJURIES AND BREAKS THROUGH
Del-Po! Del-Po! Del-Po! The chanting could be heard across the grounds and throughout the desert as fan-favorite Juan Martin Del Potro overcame years of injuries to capture the BNP Paribas Open title with a thrilling 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2) victory over Roger Federer in the final. Between 2010 and 2014, the “Tower of Tandil” had no fewer than four wrist surgeries and was fearful he would never be able to play the game he loved again. This was his first ATP Masters 1000 title in his 51st attempt, and one that meant the world to him and his vociferous Argentinean supporters. “It’s difficult to describe in words,” said Del Potro after the match. “It’s like a dream. I’ve been working hard to get this, and I did it after all my problems, all my surgeries. I can’t believe I’m here and winning a Masters 1000, beating Roger. It’s amazing.”
2019 – ANDREESCU SOLIDIFIES RISING STAR SUCCESS
Granting the wishes of the thousands of Canadian fans who come to Indian Wells each year, Ontario-born Bianca Andreescu became the first-ever female wild card to win the BNP Paribas Open. At just 18 years old, she was also the youngest player to win the title since Serena Williams beat Steffi Graf in 1999. This was Andreescu’s first-ever WTA title, following in the footsteps of defending champion Naomi Osaka, whose 2018 victory in the desert marked her first WTA Premier title, as well. Both young champions found their footing at the BNP Paribas Open and went on to capture titles at the US Open in the same year as their Indian Wells success. A new era of tennis is on the horizon, as marked by the breakthroughs in the desert of these budding champions.
2020 / 2021 – COVID-19 PANDEMIC DISRUPTS TOURNAMENT PLANS; REINSTATED FOR FIRST EVER FALL-EDITION IN OCTOBER
Due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open was not held. The health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the tournament is of the utmost importance, and the decision to not hold the event followed the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the state of California.
Little did we know at the time, 2020 would go on to become one of the most unpredictable years in recent memory (both in tennis and otherwise) and test our collective spirit through immensely difficult circumstances. Here in Indian Wells, it’s been a day-by-day process to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and plan to put on an event that is not only safe and secure for everyone involved, but also one that lives up to the Tennis Paradise moniker. From the moment we made our difficult decision in March 2020, we have been working diligently to facilitate the successful return of professional tennis to Indian Wells.
To that end, our team has been in continuous consultation with a committee of expert advisors, including medical professionals, government officials and tennis industry stakeholders in order to find the best pathway forward for our tournament. Each and every day throughout the 2020 calendar year, our singular goal remained the same: find a way to safely bring professional tennis back to the desert in order to provide a meaningful opportunity for the players and the signature Tennis Paradise experience for our fans. While we were forced to postpone our tournament from March 2021 due to continuing health and safety concerns, we had little desire to wait until 2022, and continued to forge ahead on our mission.
Through incredible collaborative efforts between the ATP and WTA Tours, players, sponsors, employees, vendors and volunteers, as well as our expert medical advisors and everyone else involved throughout the local Coachella Valley community, we were eventually able to finalize a plan for the first ever fall-edition of the BNP Paribas Open in October. And now after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, the 2021 BNP Paribas Open is celebrating everything tennis fans know and love about the return of the sport’s iconic event in the desert.
We’re thrilled to welcome you back to Tennis Paradise!