INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The BNP Paribas Open was the first tournament to understand and exploit the fact that non-diehard tennis fans want to watch the stars, above all else.
Those fans make up the bulk of the tickets sold at any big tournament. If only the diehards attended, you wouldn’t see these types of crowds. That’s why this event and so many others work hard to turn the tennis event into an overall “experience.”
Many of those casual fans – and, of course, the fans of particular players – would rather watch the big guns practice than take in a spellbinding three-setter between two players they don’t know as well.
The players also are in a more relaxed frame of mind, and more willing to engage with those watching on.
Not only are the Indian Wells stands set up around the practice courts for that purpose (a model copied by many other events now, including the US Open), the bonus is that best male players will typically hit on the two front practice courts.
(Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams almost always opt for Practice Court 9. That court is all the way in the corner of the complex, and in a spot where the fans are roped off one practice court away. Sometimes, they will refuse the media access, as well – depending on their mood).
A Friday double delight
On Friday, on Practice Courts 1 and 2, there was double trouble.
First Novak Djokovic came out with Lucas Pouille.
Then, half an hour later, Roger Federer came out with Diego Schwartzman.
(As it happens, because of Saturday night’s rainout, Djokovic and Federer were scheduled back to back on Sunday, as they make their 2018 Indian Wells debuts. Djokovic went down to Japan’s Taro Daniel. And then Federer took the court to complete his match against Federico Delbonis of Argentina).
Here’s what it looks like when two superstars are side-by-side.
Standing-room only – and even then
The stands were packed well in in advance.
And you can see by the video that they were jammed into every possible corner and peering over fences everywhere, some on their tippy-toes.
There were both kinds of fans. Djokovic has his crew. And there were also Federer fans in the crowd who arrived early to get a hard-to-snag seat.
It’s not something you get to see often. And it’s no wonder that so many took a pass on the actual match action for a few hours to watch it.
In the absence of Rafael Nadal, these two are it as far as the rock stars of the men’s circuit at this year’s BNP Paribas Open (with no offense intended to the rest of the players in the draw).
Needless to say, the two were much in demand from autograph seekers after their practice.
We’ll have more video on that later today.
With Djokovic already eliminated, there won’t be any more such opportunities this year.