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BNP Paribas Open – Around The Grounds – Oracle Tennis Challenge

By Erwin Ong

Baylor’s Tony Lupieri takes on Mads Engsted of Cal. Photo by Baylor Men’s Tennis

College tennis gets a bit of airtime at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden when the site hosts the inaugural Oracle Tennis Challenge on Championship Weekend.

“We are committed to providing support for both professional and collegiate tennis,” said Larry Ellison, owner of the BNP Paribas Open. “There is no venue in the world better equipped to host this first-time collegiate event than the newly expanded Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California.”

Four men’s collegiate programs – Cal, Illinois, Tulsa, and Baylor – are entered in the event. The matches will count toward the official collegiate team records for the 2014 season.

Cal doubles player Chase Melton cheered on his teammates playing singles against Baylor on Saturday afternoon.

“The venue is amazing,” said Melton. “They’ve been treating us well. Certainly more fan. Nice weather. It’s amazing. Couldn’t be happier.”

One of this year’s men’s semifinalists in the BNP Paribas Open main draw, John Isner, played for the University of Georgia before turning pro. He spoke with The Desert Sun about the college experience and the Oracle Tennis Challenge:

“I think that’s cool,” Isner said “Getting them a little bit immersed in a situation like this is only good for them. Maybe have those guys see what it’s like at this level. It’s a lot of fun. We’re at the top of the tennis level here. You’re playing in a big stadium here. It doesn’t get any better in the tennis world, really. It’s good for college and future pro players to see, in my opinion.”

Baylor and Cal face off on Saturday, while Illinois takes on Tulsa. On Sunday, Baylor plays Illinois at 9:00 a.m. and Cal vs. Tulsa starts off at 12:00 p.m.

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BNP Paribas Open – What to Watch – Sat., March 15

By Nicholas McCarvel

Photos by BNPPO

[7] Roger Federer (SUI) vs. [28] Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR), noon, Stadium 1
This is just the second meeting between Federer and Dolgopolov, the Swiss having one their only previous match played in Basel in 2010. Dolgopolov has had a career-best Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, upsetting top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the third round before marching into the semifinals. It’s been a banner tournament for Federer, as well, the four-time champion playing some of his best tennis in recent years to reach the final four.

More: Friday’s Wrap-up | Updated Draws | Schedule of Play | Tournament Photos

[2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [12] John Isner (USA), second match, Stadium 1
For the second time in three years the big-serving American Isner will meet Djokovic in the semifinals here after the American denied a hot-streaking Ernests Gulbis in the quarterfinals. The Serbian owns a 4-2 lifetime record against Isner, though they have split their last four meetings, including the semifinals here in 2012, when Isner won a third-set tiebreak en route to a loss in the finals against Federer.

[1] Hsieh Su-Wei (TPE)/Peng Shuai (CHN) vs. [5] Cara Black (ZIM)/Sania Mirza (IND), third match, Stadium 1
The top seeds and world No. 1s needed three sets to win their semifinal on Friday, advancing them into the final to play Black/Mirza in the final. These two teams have met just once – in September in Tokyo – a match that Black/Mirza won. But Hsieh/Peng have been a team on the rise, winning Wimbledon in July and becoming the sport’s top-ranked duo earlier this year.

[1] Bob and Mike Bryan (USA) vs. [2] Alexander Peya (AUT)/Bruno Soares (BRA), fourth match, Stadium 1
The top two doubles teams in the world meet up here after facing off seven times last year, the Bryan brothers winning six of those matches (3-1 in finals). Bob and Mike are the defending champions at the BNP Paribas Open after waiting over a decade to win their first title here. Peya/Soares fought through their half of the draw with a semifinal win over Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka while the Bryans held off compatriots Sam Querrey and John Isner Thursday night.

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BNP Paribas Open – Daily Wrap-Up – Fri., March 14

By Erwin Ong

Photo by Michael Cummo

Photo of the Day: That focus says it all. BNP Paribas Open 20th seed Ernests Gulbis wielded his racket in a tough 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3) loss to John Isner in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon. The two are now 2-2 in their career head-to-heads, with Isner winning their two most recent meetings.

Quote of the Day: Two-time champion and 2014 second seed Novak Djokovic on Larry Ellison and Indian Wells:

“Larry Ellison is a brave man. He’s always each year coming up with something new because he just loves the sport. He’s always trying to make the players feel good, and he’s definitely succeeding in that. Indian Wells is one of the ATP events that shows that, you know, ATP events deserve to be in the same league as the Grand Slams. Why not? So, I mean, this is a great example of a tournament that is seeking always to improve. I thank them for that.”

Match of the Day: Isner and Gulbis put on a show on Stadium 1 to close out the day session on Friday, Isner blasting 13 aces to Gulbis’ seven, and both doling one out on a second serve. The two had no breaks in the first set – and traded breaks in the second – giving the fans an edge-of-their-seats thriller that ended in favor of the American.

Honorary Match of the Day: The big game of Romania’s Simona Halep, the sixth seed in Indian Wells, did not hold up against the touch and guile of tactical Pole Agnieszka Radwanska in the first of Friday’s semifinals. The No. 2 seed won 6-3, 6-4 in 83 minutes, avenging a loss against Halep in the Doha semifinals this year. This is Radwanska’s first Indian Wells final in eight appearances at the tournament.

Tweet of the Day:
We haven’t featured Champ in a little bit! It was nice to see him posing for this photo with some long-time lovebirds celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Honorary Tweet of the Day: Radwanska, the World No. 3 tipped her hat to Halep after their semi-final. What a sweet welcome into the Top 5 for Simona!

Stat of the Day: With his win over Gulbis, Isner returns to the Top 10 in the ATP rankings for the first time since September 2012.

Video of the Day: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan have watched the greats hoist trophies in Indian Wells since they were kids, capturing their own title at this desert event in 2013. Watch on as the Southern California natives talk about capturing the elusive trophy, jamming out in the Tennis Garden, and dish on which twin has the better win-loss record.

On Saturday, the top seeds face second seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares in the men’s doubles final.

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BNP Paribas Open – Photos – Semifinal Rematch: Djokovic to Play Isner

Novak Djokovic defeated Julien Benneteau and John Isner needed two tiebreaks to beat Ernests Gulbis to set up a rematch of their 2012 BNP Paribas Open semifinal. The doubles finalists for both the men and women were also decided on Friday.

Gallery: BNP Paribas Open Men’s Quarterfinals

All photos Billie Weiss and Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open.

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BNP Paribas Open – Signing The Camera

The TennisTV coverage of the BNP Paribas Open has been screengrabby fun, especially for those post-match celebratory signings of on-court cameras. Here’s one, above, that Roger Federer did after his Indian Wells third-rounder vs. Dmitry Tursunov. Federer explained his note in his post-match presser.

“I’m happy I won the match. I’m always happy when I win,” said Federer. “I’m never pissed off or sad. I like to share that with my fans and supporters and people who came to the stadium. Little subtle ways of showing, you know, my appreciation, I guess, as well.”

No. 2 American Sloane Stephens sends some love to her grandma after upsetting 11th Ana Ivanovic in the third round.

Further Reading: We love this piece on how the tradition, possibly, came about.

More Signing: See the rest of the player scribbles after the cut…

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BNP Paribas Open – Photos – Twitter Mirror On The (Facebook) Wall

Everyone at the BNP Paribas Open – from players, to ballkids, to fans – has been taking part in our roving Twitter Mirror.

We’ve put up the best of the bunch over on Facebook – including a sleepy Novak Djokovic, women’s top seed Li Na giving us fish face, and some pre-match photobombing involving two women’s quarterfinalists. | Tournament Twitter on Facebook

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Alan King Award: Bud Collins

Assistant Tournament Director Cindy Liberati, Bud Collins, Tournament Director Steve Simon, and Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore. Photo by Billie Weiss/BNP Paribas Open

In 2014, the Alan King Tennis Passion Award was given to the colorful Bud Collins.

Watch: Tennis Channel coverage – Bud Collins Receives Alan King Tennis Passion Award | BNP Paribas Open on YouTube | BNP Paribas Open Video Features

The Passion Award, awarded at the BNP Paribas Open, was founded in 2004 in honor of Alan King‘s dedication to the sport of tennis. King’s love of the game translated through the attention and details placed on his beloved namesake, the Alan King Tennis Classic. That event is still known as the larger-than-life grandfather of tennis tournaments, an insurmountable benchmark for the production of tennis events around the world.

King was responsible for bringing the popularity of tennis to a new level, still unsurpassed in grandeur, by marrying the exclusive cache of Hollywood glitz and glamour, the notoriety made only through TV and his charismatic personality.

King, who passed away in 2004, left behind a large legacy not only in the entertainment world – but in the world of tennis. In those early years of Open tennis, The Alan King Caesars Palace Tennis Classic in Las Vegas – organized by King – set a standard by which all major tournaments would be measured. Some years later, we were fortunate to bring Alan to this desert and serve as our tournament co-chairman for 17 years. Alan’s inspiration, guidance and passion for the sport of tennis are evident in this tournament today.

The Alan King Tennis Passion Award recognizes and honors individuals who also share that same kind of passion for tennis. Past winners include Rod Laver, Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin, and other legends in the sport.

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Baccarat: 250 Years of Art de Vivre

When the winners of the 2014 BNP Paribas Open lift their trophies on Championship weekend, all eyes will turn to the beautiful crystal creations joining them for the on-court ceremonies.

The stunning trophies are made by Baccarat, the prestigious crystal company celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. The current design, made exclusively for the tournament, debuted in 2009 and has been awarded to Indian Wells champions ever since.

Founded in Lorraine, France, in 1764 by permission of King Louis XV, Baccarat has been the icon of exquisite moments of celebration and has created truly unforgettable experiences, the BNP Paribas Open part of this rich history.

Baccarat received its first royal commission in 1823 when Louis XVIII ordered a glass service to be produced specially for him. Charles X, Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III and a host of Presidents and Heads of State would follow suit.

Baccarat soon earned a solid international reputation: from the furniture pieces produced for Indian maharajahs, to the majestic Tsar chandelier created for Nicholas II, from the exquisite commissions for the Japanese imperial court, to the sheer purity of the water glasses engraved with the initials of the American President F.D. Roosevelt, Baccarat crystal has cast its luster all over the world as the embodiment of the most precious symbol of French Art de Vivre.

As with the Harcourt glass, created in 1841, and now famous for its majestic silhouette, Baccarat’s creations are the vector of a history whose strength lies in its ability to convey the magic of light reflected into infinity. It is this brilliance that magnifies the Maisons Baccarat in Paris and Moscow as well as the first Baccarat Hotel & Residences, which will open in New York in 2014.

Baccarat opened their store in the desert in 1997. At that time, it was the third retail store to open in the United States. (There are currently six in the country.)

The Baccarat store is located at 73-111 El Paseo, Palm Desert, CA 92260; 760-346-6805; store hours: Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm, and Sunday 11am-4pm.

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BNP Paribas Open – What to Watch – Friday, March 14

By Nicholas McCarvel

Photo by Billie Weiss

Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) vs. [2] Alexander Peya (AUT)/Bruno Soares (BRA), first match, Stadium 1
One round after taking out the US Open champions Radek Stepanek and Leander Paes, the Swiss doubles pair of Federer and Wawrinka meet the runners-up from Flushing Meadows in doubles experts Peya and Soares. The No. 2 seeds have squeaked through a couple of close matches to get to the semifinals against the 2008 Olympic champions. This is the first meeting between these two teams.

More: Thursday’s Wrap-Up | Schedule of Play | Doubles Draw | Singles Draws | BNPPO Radio

[2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Julien Benneteau (FRA), second match, Stadium 1
Djokovic has not been at his best during this BNP Paribas Open, but the No. 2 seed is into the quarterfinals and gets 32-year-old journeyman Benneteau, the Frenchman who is into his second Masters 1000 quarterfinal in 63 appearances. The Serbian owns their head-to-head 5-1, but will have to bring his A game against “Benny,” who upset countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round and has only been gaining steam since then.

[12] John Isner (USA) vs. [20] Ernests Gulbis (LAT), third match, Stadium 1
Back in the quarterfinals for the first time since his run to the 2012 final, American Isner has seemed to re-capture the form that brought him close to the title that year. Gulbis is a dangerous foe, having won two tight three-setters to reach the final eight. These two have met three times, the Latvian winning two of them, though Isner took the most recent and the only one to be played on hard courts.

[2] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs. [6] Simona Halep (ROU), first match, Stadium 1 – Evening
There is perhaps no player on the men’s or women’s circuit that has had a better year than the Romanian Halep, who is projected to enter into the top 5 after Indian Wells when a year ago she was ranked No. 57. The crafty No. 2 seed leads their head-to-head 3-2, but Halep has won their last two meetings, most recently just last month in straight sets.

[1] Li Na (CHN) vs. [20] Flavia Pennetta (ITA), second match, evening session
Both Li and Pennetta survived three-set tussles on Thursday that weren’t particularly pretty, but advanced them to the semifinals of the BNPPO nonetheless. It’s a first-ever semifinal appearance for Pennetta – or any woman from Italy, for that matter – and Li gets back to the final four for the first time since 2007. It WTA encounters, these two are square at two apiece, though Li won their most recent battle at the Australian Open 6-2, 6-2. Pennetta will be swinging for the fences once again as the top see looks to continue to prove herself.

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BNP Paribas Open – Daily Wrap-Up – Thurs., March 13

By Nicholas McCarvel

Photo by Billie Weiss

Photo of the Day: It was an intense match-up between Alexandr Dolgopolov and Milos Raonic, but that didn’t mean the two couldn’t share a smile (and some sarcastic words) during their handshake. Dolgopolov reaches a Masters Series 1000 semifinal for the first time in his career.

Match of the Day: High on drama and oddities, Flavia Pennetta‘s 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Sloane Stephens was hard-earned, though not always pretty. Pennetta served for the match at 6-4, 5-4, only to lose that game and five more in a row, falling behind 3-0 in the deciding set. It was at the beginning of the third that the wind whipped up, first frustrating the veteran Pennetta before she found her footing. Stephens had the lead deep in the third set, but couldn’t maintain it, coming up tight as Pennetta began to surge.

Honorary Match of the Day: It was a re-match of the Australian Open for top seed Li Na and the never-say-die Dominika Cibulkova, Li coming out on top 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Li had beaten the diminutive Slovakian in straight sets in Melbourne, but was made to work harder on Thursday, Cibulkova often stepping up and belting the ball for winners off the ground. But Li eventually righted her ship, staying even in the third set and closing it out when she could, advancing to the last four here for the first time since 2007.

Stat of the Day: They came close again, but John Isner and Sam Querrey weren’t able to overcome their compatriots and nemeses, Bob and Mike Bryan. The reigning doubles champs and world No. 1 Bryan brothers dropped the first set only to come back and win their ninth straight match against “Quisner” – in nine tries. The brothers will play their fourth final in Indian Wells on Saturday.

Take 2: With his quarterfinal win over Kevin Anderson, four-time champion Roger Federer is set to return to the Top 5 in next week’s rankings. Can he climb higher? He’ll need a couple more wins to do that.

Tweet of the Day: Players have been having fun on the Twitter Mirror during this tournament, and Dolgopolov was no different after his win over Roanic.

Quote of the Day: She may have lost on the court, but Sloane was in good spirits off of it, looking forward to her birthday next week. How is she celebrating? She’s registered for gifts with Target.

Stephens: “I registered at Target. [Smiling.] I’m in the wedding registry, which is so … I’m marrying my mom. Like when it pops up, it says like, Sloane and Sybill’s big day is like eight days away. I was going to marry myself, but I couldn’t put my same name. I ended up having to put my mom’s.”

Question: Did you get to run around with the gun or you did it online?
Stephens: ”No, I did it all online, so it was super easy.”

Video of the Day: It’s never too early to look forward to the next day’s play, is it? Get amped for the action here:

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