Autographs highlight BNP fan experience

POSTED: 12:33 AM PDT Mar 12, 2013    UPDATED: 10:25 PM PDT Mar 11, 2013 
INDIANS WELLS, Calif. -

 The BNP Paribas Open is well-known for being one of the most fan-friendly tournaments on tour.  One of the best activities for fans during the tournament is getting autographs, and getting up close and personal with some of their favorite players.  Even though Rafael Nadal didn't play Monday, he still got rushed by a huge mob of his fans as he came off the practice courts.  Fans reached over each other, trying to get the Spaniard's signature on their programs, tennis balls and hats.  "Just fantastic," said Victor Guiang.  "I can't believe I got a real person signing signature for us."

In the nearby courtyard, fans lined up and waited for one of the many autograph sessions at Tennis Warehouse.  The number 7 ranked woman in the world Petra Kvitova made time to meet and greet some of her biggest supporters.  "My 11 year old son is at home, and he said 'mom don't come home' without an autograph please," said Erika Wilson, visiting from Oregon.  "It's just really special to have Petra do her autograph for my son."

The access to the players at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden obviously benefits the fans, but even the athletes enjoy the interaction.  "It's pretty cool in the grassy area," said Marinko Matosevich.  "One of the best tournaments in the world, it's one of everyone's favorites, everyone loves coming to the desert."

The Australian star took part in a special autograph session. Some of the athletes thank the ball kids with private question and answer and autograph time.  "He's on tour, he's a professional tennis player," said Emma Vanderhyden, a ball kid.  "I play tennis and I look up to all the people on tour it was really cool to meet him, and he was really funny."

"Oh it's cool because you get to interact with him and stuff, crack some jokes like I did, and loosen everyone up for the rest of the day," said Jared Thompkins.

The unique fan experiences continue to help grow the success of the tournament and keep fans wanting more. "I think that's what this tournament is so known for, you know the access to the players," said Wilson. "It's really a wonderful tournament and I'll probably come back again."