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Tue, Jan. 21

Column: Tennis In Wonderland at the BNP

A long, long time ago - 36 years to be exact - a small tennis tournament was brought from Tucson to the land of enchantment - an oasis created in the desert of California known as the Coachella Valley.

Prince Charlie (Pasarell) and Prince Raymond (Moore) former tour players decided they would groom this tournament to the best of their ability.

So with much imagination, the right contacts, a great group of volunteers, and years of expansion, hard work and foresight, they now humbly boast the BNP Paribas Open as the fifth largest tennis tournament in the world.

King Larry (Ellison) made an offer to the two Princes a couple years ago to buy their tennis kingdom... .which they accepted, but part of the deal was for them to continue running it for him.

King Larry loves the game of tennis and has an enormous amount of money of which he is willing to part with in exchange for putting on the best tennis event that can be rendered.

As the tournament unfolds this year, it looks and seems the best is taking place for the players, sponsors and fans once again.

This 63-acre plus area known as the Indian Wells Tennis Garden built in 2000 boasts the second largest stadium court in existence with 16,100 seats, an additional 23 world class courts, and state-of-the-art everything else... .broadcast and media facilities, food commissary, exposition space, parking, and now the first tournament in the world to have Hawk-Eye replay technology on every one of their eight match courts.

With almost every news outlet in the world covering this tennis crusade, including the likes of national broadcast partners - ABC, ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel, a small army of more than 1,000 volunteers, super weather and accommodations, not to mention years and years of great word of mouth from satisfied fans, and last but not least the large pool of talent and great matches the men and women pro players have provided... .there's really no secret why this tournament has come out of the Dark Ages to become the premier event it is.

As a media person covering this event, you are given the best accommodations to get your job done.

You have easy access to each area of the facility and the players, a desk with proper outlets, monitors placed above to watch live matches as you work, special seating within each stadium, interviews after matches, transcripts, food/drink-private restrooms-showers/towels and lockers as well as discounted hotel rooms.

If you were to compare what Wimbledon provides for their media to what Indians Wells does... .it shouldn't be long before Wimbledon will have to make needed improvements.

If the media, tournament officials, volunteers and ball kids are kept as happy as they are just imagine how the players must feel with what they're provided.

The Knights of the Round Table are vying for prize money that totals over $9 million and ranking points that mean much to how easy or hard it is to qualify for the main draws of up-coming events.

With that said their accommodations are excellent.

Once they're on the grounds, they have luxury locker rooms, private access to an exercise room, massage therapy, a large grassy area, game rooms, a multitude of practice courts, nutritious food and eating facilities, transportation and fun off-grounds distractions.

The life of tennis professionals outside the top 60 in rankings is pretty dog-eat-dog, so doing well in this tournament is a real treat for the top 96 in singles and 32 teams of doubles for both men and women because they're treated like royalty, and that's exactly what Prince Charlie and Raymond want.

They've been there and know what it's like.

Now, if you're a paying fan you won't go away disappointed in any manner.

Hotel accommodations range from very expensive to less than $100 a night, you might have to drive a little farther for the lesser rates, but not more than 20 minutes in most cases and parking ($10) is within walking distance to the Tennis Garden.

Ticket prices are fair and you get what you pay for.

How can you beat getting to roam from eight stadium courts, watching the players practice, getting autographs, obtaining great food and drink in the Garden Club Courtyard, watching Bud Collins interview famous tennis people on the Village Stage, entertainment like the Bryan Bros. Band, walking through the spacious plaza of exhibitors...or to kick back in the grass and just people watch while catching a tan or viewing the big screen?

There are three days left to attend and I haven't even mentioned the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova and Anna Ivanovic all of whom are still in the draw as I write this.

Make a quick trip, or at the least watch what you're missing on TV... .the BNP - it's our Tennis Camelot of the West.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at choward4541@q.com or 928-642-6775.

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