Indian Wells tennis returns to California desert in October

The BNP Paribas Open is returning to the Southern California desert this fall after being knocked out of its usual March dates this year and last because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unofficial '5th slam' hasn't been played since Bianca Andreescu won in 2019

Bianca Andreescu, featured above, of Canada plays Angelique Kerber, unseen, of Germany during the 2019 women's final at Indian Wells. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The BNP Paribas Open is returning to the Southern California desert this fall after being knocked out of its usual March dates this year and last because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two-week tennis tournament featuring the men's and women's pro tours will be held in October at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Tournament director Tommy Haas said Thursday that dates will be announced after the ATP and WTA tours confirm their fall schedules.

"Everyone in our sport has missed the BNP Paribas Open over the past two years and its return this October is great for tennis," ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

It will return to its usual place in March in 2022.

The event never began last year after a case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Coachella Valley, where many players were already in the desert practicing.

The tournament typically draws upwards of 450,000 fans to Indian Wells, located 110 miles east of Los Angeles. It is referred to as the "fifth slam" because of its popularity among the players and its stature, ranking points and over $17 million US in prize money that place it one rung below tennis' four Grand Slam tournaments.

Dominic Thiem won the men's title and Bianca Andreescu was the women's champion when the event was last played in March 2019.

Organizers had said in 2020 that they were prepared to play the event on different dates, but it never happened. The pro tennis calendar is tightly scheduled and the summer months in the desert are notoriously hot. October is not much cooler. The average temperature in Indian Wells that month is 33 degrees.

Tournament officials said health and safety protocols established by the pro tours, as well as the city of Indian Wells and the Riverside County Health Department, will be enforced. The state of California is expected to fully open on June 15 after over a year of pandemic restrictions. However, individual counties may choose to keep certain restrictions beyond that point.

Tickets are expected to go on sale June 21.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden will be busy in November, too. The courts will be the site of World TeamTennis' 2021 season from Nov. 13-28. Five teams — defending champion New York Empire, Springfield Lasers, Orange County Breakers, San Diego Aviators and Chicago Smash — will participate in 31 matches.

WTT is moving its season from July to November to be able to have as many fans in person as possible. Last year's season was played entirely at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

The ATP Tour on Thursday announced a date change for another event this fall. The Stockholm Open, originally set for late October, will be played Nov. 7-13, the same week as the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

The ATP says it is still assessing the fall schedule, including a three-week Asian swing that includes stops in Beijing, Tokyo and Shanghai in early October.

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