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Tennis Superstars Heat Up The Desert

‘Impressive,” is only one superla-tive used to describe the BNP Paribas Open now underway at Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. Named for its presenting sponsor—a major international bank best known in Europe—the open has grown to become the largest ATP World Tour and WTA combined two-week event anywhere, offering more than $11 million in total prize money, with the men and women singles champion pocketing a cool $1 million, each. And, the other top finishers benefit as well, since their share of the total purse has increased to six-figures.

Here’s a sample of some of the players to watch at this year.

• Topping the list to watch is the #1 ranked player in the world and defending open champion Novak Djo-kovic, enjoying one of the best years in tennis, ever.

• “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal, ranked #1 before being dethroned by Djokovic, will be back at Indian Wells again this year. He is one of only seven male players in the sport to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career.

• No list of current outstanding tennis players would be complete without Roger Federer. Unquestionably one of the best tennis players of all time, he holds more Grand Slam titles (16) than any other male player in the history of the game, and will be looking to win another ATP World Tour final.

• British favorite Andy Murray, ranked #4, has generally done well in the open, though he has never won it. He’ll be looking to change that this year.

• L.A. resident Mardy Fish is the highest-ranked American player (#8) in the tournament. He is looking for crowd support in his quest for a slice of the top prize money.

• Women’s tennis used to take a back seat in most tourneys—but not anymore. #1 ranked and defending BNP Paribas women’s champ Caroline Wozniacki won 11 titles last year. The jewel in her crown was the 2011 open; and you can bet she will pull out all the stops to retain retain the luster.

• Another Angelena and crowd favorite is former #1 Maria Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam champion who is out to show she is more than a pretty face.

• Finally, eyes will be on Li Na, the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam when she captured the French Open last year.

More than 350,000 tennis fans are expected to share in the excitement of two weeks of world-class tennis, running through March 18.

However, for the days you may be unable to make it to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, various networks will prove a total of 350 hours of TV coverage. The Tennis Channel kicks off live coverage tomorrow.

On Mach 16, the Tennis Channel and ESPN2 will split eight hours of live coverage starting at 11 a.m.

The two men’s semi-finals will be played on Saturday, March 17; and the men’s and women’s finals are on Sunday, March 18. ABC will broadcast the weekend matches.

For those who may want to view their tennis the old-fashioned way – in person – the BNP Paribas Open box office can be reached at 800-999-1585

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