Indian Wells returns to calendar in October

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The BNP Paribas Open is returning to the Southern California desert this fall after the tennis tournament was knocked out of its usual March dates this year and last because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two-week tournament featuring the men’s and women’s pro tours will be held in October at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Tournament director Tommy Haas said Thursday that dates will be announced after the ATP and WTA tours confirm their fall schedules, expected sometime in June.

“Everyone in our sport has missed the BNP Paribas Open over the past two years and its return this October is great for tennis,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

Haas said, “As a German-American citizen, I’m going to call it my own little Oktoberfest.”

It will go back to its usual spot in March in 2022.

Haas said organizers are not looking at having each tour play back-to-back instead of concurrently.

“It’s a combined event and we’ll always push for that to be the case,” he said on a Zoom call.

The event never began last year after a case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Coachella Valley, where many players were already in the desert practicing.

The tournament typically draws upwards of 450,000 fans to Indian Wells, located 110 miles east of Los Angeles. It is referred to as the “fifth slam” because of its popularity among the players and its stature, ranking points and over $17 million in prize money that place it one rung below tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments.

Dominic Thiem won the men’s title and Bianca Andreescu was the women’s champion when the event was last played in March 2019. The singles champions each receive $1,354,010 from a prize money pool of $17 million, which will remain the same, Haas said.

“It’s very important to keep the same prize money to give the players what they deserve,” he said.

Haas, who retired from a top-10 playing career in 2017, hopes to keep the singles draws at 96 players.

Organizers had said in 2020 that they were prepared to play the event on different dates, but it never happened. The pro tennis calendar is tightly scheduled and summer months in the desert are notoriously hot. October is not much cooler. The average temperature in Indian Wells that month is 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius).

“The players are used to some crazy heat from Australia,” Haas said. At the same time, he likes the idea of having more late-day matches to avoid the searing sun.

Tournament officials said health and safety protocols established by the pro tours, as well as the city of Indian Wells and the Riverside County Health Department, will be enforced. The state of California is expected to fully open on June 15 after over a year of pandemic restrictions. However, individual counties may choose to keep certain restrictions beyond that point.

“We’re an outdoor event, so we’re pretty hopeful we can have a regular event,” Haas said.

He said organizers will decide on attendance limits, social distancing, separate seating sections for vaccinated fans and face coverings based on whatever guidelines are in place this fall.

“Safety is the highest concern and we want to make sure that everyone is very comfortable,” Haas said.

Tickets are expected to go on sale June 21.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden will be busy in November, too. The courts will be the site of World TeamTennis’ season from Nov. 13-28. Five teams – defending champion New York Empire, Springfield Lasers, Orange County Breakers, San Diego Aviators and Chicago Smash – will participate in 31 matches.

WTT is moving its season from July to November to be able to have as many fans in person as possible. Last year’s season was played entirely at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

The ATP Tour on Thursday announced a date change for another event this fall. The Stockholm Open, originally set for late October, will be played Nov. 7-13, the same week as the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

The ATP says it is still assessing the fall schedule, including a three-week Asian swing that includes stops in Beijing, Tokyo and Shanghai in early October.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.