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Let The Games—And Tennis Madness —Begin

This year marks the BNP Paribas Open’s 35th anniversary and will see 2009 defending champions Rafael Nadal and Vera Zvonareva and more than 300 of the best men’s and women’s tennis players in the world at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens.

Tennis madness and the tens of thousands of tennis fans who make the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament held at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens—the fifth most-attended tennis tournament in the world—are welcome March visitors to the Desert; but this year has one remarkable exception.

Friday night, March 12, was set to feature a “Hit for Haiti” exhibition featuring four legendary female players with a combined 50 Grand Slam titles between them.

Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport were set to play an exhibition doubles match against the equally illustrious duo of Martina Navratilova and Justine Henin.

The ladies will still play the first match of the evening, but a second match, featuring Roger Federer and Pete Sampras playing against Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi. Together these four men, who were, or as in Federer case now is, ranked as No. 1 in the world, have an aggregate 44 Grand Slam titles between them.

There are only four Grand Slam events: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open; together, these men and women have won 94 championships at these venues and represent an awesome, never-before-amalgamated amount of tennis prowess.

This special event is presented by Oracle, the software giant co-founded by Indian Wells Tennis Gardens and BNP Paribas tournament owner, Larry Ellison, as part of an effort to achieve a fundraising goal of $1 million to benefit the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, which was established to help those impacted by the recent earthquake in Haiti.

The excitement, even days before the match, is electrifying and the best way to experience the energy is to become part of the evening. However, for those who cannot attend in person, the event will be broadcast live in numerous countries around the world, and domestically on the Tennis Channel, beginning at 7:30 p.m. PST.

As a show of support, the broadcasters, satellite uplink

 providers and production teams of the event are picking up all of the production costs to ensure that the maximum amount of money can be generated for the fundraising effort.

Friday evening’s event will begin at 7 p.m. with the annual “Salute to Heroes” ceremony, where the tournament will recognize veterans, military personnel, police, firemen and women, and Red Cross volunteers. The ceremony and tennis exhibition will be followed by one main draw match.

The BNP Paribas Open is the largest combined ATP World Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event in the world, with a combined purse of more than $8 million.    

This year marks the tournament’s 35th anniversary and will see 2009 defending champions Rafael Nadal and Vera Zvonareva and more than 300 of the best men’s and women’s tennis players in the world.

To purchase tickets, call 800-999-1585 or visit www.bnppariabas-open.org.

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