INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - Women's main draw singles play is set to start today in the 2013 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which has broken its own attendance record for the past six years.
The tournament, held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, drew 370,408 fans last year and organizers expect 375,000 this year. The BNP Paribas Open's success comes at a time when some U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Jose, have lost or will lose tournaments.
Darren Cahill, a former professional player and coach turned ESPN tennis analyst, said there are several reasons for the BNP Paribas Open's success.
"They put fans closer to players. They let you know when and where they're practicing so ... fans can get in arm's reach of their favorite player. It feels like one big family between the players and fans and I think the facility lends itself to that," Cahill told City News Service.
"They have the ability to put lot of people on the ground and I think that (contributes) to the attendance record. And the weather is always glorious," he said.
The tournament is also part of the Association of Tennis Professionals' Masters Series and a Women's Tennis Association Premier Mandatory tournament, attracting nearly all of the world's top players.
The men's field includes each of the world's top 40 ranked players, led by Novak Djokovic, who has won all of his matches this year, defending champion Roger Federer, 2012 U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal.
The women's field is not as stellar because of the continued absence of the Williams sisters. Serena Williams, the world's top-ranked female player, and her sister Venus, have not played in the tournament since 2001, when Serena was booed during her final against Kim Clijsters and during the trophy presentation, one day after Venus withdrew four minutes before her semifinal against Serena because of a knee injury.
Also missing from tournament is fifth-ranked Li Na of China, who hasn't played since injuring an ankle during her loss in the Australian Open final to Victoria Azarenka Jan. 26.
However, all of the rest of the world's top 40 players are in the tournament, including Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber.
Cahill said owner Larry Ellison has made improvements and has reinvested in the tournament since he bought it in 2010, but "it's always been a great tournament."
"I know playing 20 years ago I always looked forward to playing in Indian Wells ... it's one of the tournaments where players look forward to coming back every single year," said Cahill, an Australian who coached Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt.
There are 16 women's first-round singles matches scheduled for Wednesday, with play set to begin at 11 a.m. All 32 seeded players in the 96-player draw receive first-round byes and won't begin play until Friday at the earliest.
Men's main draw singles play is scheduled to start Thursday.