Indian Wells returns to calendar in October

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
Getty Images
1 Comment

METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.

Samsonova beats Zheng to win 3rd WTA title in 2 months

Toray Pan Pacific Open - Day Seven
Getty Images

TOKYO – Liudmila Samsonova extended a remarkable summer run by clinching her third title in two months after beating rising Chinese player Zheng Qinwen 7-5, 7-5 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

No. 30-ranked Samsonova won in Washington and Cleveland in August and also reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old has now won 18 of her last 19 matches and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo.

“It’s amazing. I think I need a little bit of time to realize it, but it’s unbelievable,” Samsonova said. “It was like a nervous match today. I was really prepared physically but I was tired mentally because I was playing singles and doubles every day. I’m very happy with the way I managed the pressure.”

Samsonova added that the exclusion of Russian players from Wimbledon had helped her game though she stopped short of supporting the move.

“Wimbledon for me is the best tournament. I love it. The news really impacted me. I had one month without a tournament so I thought let’s work,” she said, adding: “I don’t agree that politics should be involved in sports because it’s unfair.”

The match between two power hitters with big serves was close throughout but Samsonova was striking the ball cleaner and stronger.

Zheng, who ousted top-seeded Paula Badosa and No. 4-seeded Veronika Kudermetova, was broken in the first set after giving up her first double fault on deuce in the 11th game.

Samsonova, who defeated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the first round and former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, then sent a perfect forehand that landed in the right-hand corner of the court to break the 19-year-old and go 6-5 up. She took the first set with another strong service game that included her third ace.

Zheng was the first to crack in the second set when she handed Samsonova free points with two double-faults in the fifth game. A double-fault by the Russian saw her drop to 0-40 in the next game and the No. 36-ranked Chinese broke back to level at 3-3.

As in the first set, Zheng was broken in the 11th game. A long forehand at deuce gave Samsonova a breakpoint and she converted it with a crosscourt forehand that sent her opponent the wrong way. Samsonova then won her next game to love after three errors by Zheng, clinching the match 7-5, 7-5.

Samsonova has now won all of the finals she has appeared in.

In reaching the final, Zheng became the youngest Chinese finalist at a tour-level event, beating the mark set by Peng Shuai.