The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells gets underway starting March 7.
It is easy to see that the 36-year-old tournament has grown into a major attraction for tennis fans in this country as the stands and grounds become packed with spectators each year when March rolls around.
Some tennis aficionados have grown so enamored with the annual event, they now call it California’s version of a fifth major.
This year’s Masters Series 1000 Tournament, whose inaugural event took place in 1976, is now held annually at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens after several location changes during its history.
It features both a men’s and a women’s draw with the top players attending, hoping to add this prestigious title to their respective resumes.
For the ladies' field, the tournament gradually evolved into a top tier event. In the beginning, it was non-sanctioned. It became, however, an official WTA Tour event in 1991.
Initially, the women’s tournament preceded the men’s, but in 1996, tournament sponsors along with the WTA and ATP decided to hold both competitions concurrently.
Unlike the men, the women have no player who has won this tournament three times.
In the women’s competition, however, seven players have won the tournament twice—Daniela Hantuchova 2002 and 2007, Kim Clijsters 2003 and 2005, Serena Williams 1999 and 2001, Lindsay Davenport 1997 and 2000, Steffi Graf 1994 and 1996, Mary Jo Fernandez 1993 and 1995 and Martina Navratilova 1990-1991.
Who will add to these totals in 2011?
2010 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells: Jelena Jankovic defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4
Nobody gave much thought, let alone any ink, to the probability of Serb Jelena Jankovic winning the tournament at Indian Wells in 2010.
Seeded No. 6 as the tournament got underway, most of the tennis world overlooked the former World No. 1, whose reputation had faded significantly since she achieved the top spot in 2008.
Jankovic met a qualifier, Croat Petra Martic, in the second round defeating her 6-3, 7-5.
In the next round, the Serb had to fight for her life to stay alive fending off Italian Sara Eranni 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 in a difficult third-round contest. In the fourth round, Jankovic met Israeli Shahar Peer, winning in much easier fashion 6-2, 6-2.
In the quarterfinals, Jankovic found herself across the net from Russian Alisa Kleybanova. The match was tight, but the Serb pulled away 6-4, 6-4. In the semifinals, Jankovic put down Aussie rising star Samantha Stosur in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.
On form and playing as she once did to get to the top of the women’s ranking, Jankovic met and dominated Caroline Wozniacki in the final 6-2, 6-4.
Jankovic bolted out of the gates and led 4-0 before the Dane could find either her legs or her range. Even though Wozniacki held her serve to get on the score board at 4-1, Jankovic took the first set.
In the second set, Jankovic broke the Dane’s serve right away and then played steady holding onto her advantage to close out the match.
It was Jankovic’s first title at Indian Wells.
2009 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells: Vera Zvonareva defeated Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (5) - 6-2
Prior to injuries that set the Russian back, Vera Zvonareva began her 2009 season in stellar fashion especially after her victory at Indian Wells.
Zvonareva won over Chang-Yung-jan 6-2, 6-2 in the second round, Czech Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-1 in the third round and Na Li of China 6-4, 6-4 in the fourth round.
In the quarterfinals, the Russian upended the No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2.
Victoria Azarenka awaited Zvonareva in the semifinals. The Russian dispatched Azarenka 6-3, 6-3, paving the Russian's path to the finals.
During the championship match held on Saturday, Zvonareva faced extraordinarily windy conditions as she faced the No. 5 seed Ana Ivanovic, the defending champion.
The ball toss on serves became an experiment in terror and breaks of serve were as common as a service hold. In the first set, both were broken twice, but the Russian held on to win the tiebreak after the Serb netted a forehand.
In the second set, Ivanovic immediately broke Zvonareva to go up 2-0. But the Russian was much more consistent on the day, breaking the Serb in fourth, sixth and eighth game to clinch the second set and the match.
This proved to be a day to play one point at a time using consistency and patience.
Zvonareva won the title at Indian Wells for the first time and was pleased with her efforts, especially after winning the doubles championship the day before.
2008 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Ana Ivanovic defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3
As the No. 1 seed, this was the year for the lovely Ana Ivanovic to come through the draw to win the 2008 Pacific Life Open.
It became the “Year of the Serbs” because on the men’s side Novak Djokovic would win his first Indian Wells title just as fellow Serb, Ivanovic, did.
Ivanovic made her way through the draw by defeating Romanian Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 in the second round, followed by Italians Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 6-0 in the third round and Francesca Schiavone 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth round.
Ivanovic met and defeated the No. 12 seed Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
That left Ivanovic to meet countrywoman and No. 3 seed Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals.
After defeating Jankovic 7-6, 6-3, Ivanovic moved into the final to face the No. 2 seed Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova .
The Serb pounded Kuznetsova from the baseline, breaking the Russian three times in the second set to secure a win 6-4, 6-3.
The Serb had defeated the Russian in five of their last six meetings.
It was Ivanovic’s sixth WTA title and her first title at the Pacific Life in Indian Wells.
2007 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Daniela Hantuchova defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4
Daniela Hantuchova won this tournament for the second time in her career, the first win coming in 2002.
Seeded No. 14 coming into Indian Wells, Hantuchova defeated the No. 2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final after advancing through a very tricky draw.
Slovakian Hantuchova defeated Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in the second round, Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 7-6 in the third round and No. 3 seed Martina Hingis 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round.
Into the quarterfinals, Hantuchova won over Israeli Shahar Peer 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 to advance into the semifinals.
The Slovakian defeated Na Li of China 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 to advance into the finals where Hantuchova faced the No. 2 seed Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.
While both women played to the top of their games, Hantuchova played the critical points best and managed to win out over the No. 2 seed 6-3, 6-4.
The Slovakian, who won this title first in 2002, seemed on the brink of a brilliant career then.
This win marked her return to form with deadly groundstrokes and first class serving.
It was Hantuchova’s second WTA title in her career, and ironically, both were won at Indian Wells.
2006 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Maria Sharapova defeated Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-2
Prior to the start of the Pacific Life Open, Russian Maria Sharapova, recovering from a shoulder injury, remained in a title drought.
The desert air, however, seemed to agree with the Russian beauty who found her game and made the most of it during this tournament.
Sharapova scored wins over American Jamea Jackson 6-4, 6-3 in the second round, Lisa Raymond 6-4, 6-0 in the third round and Israeli Shahar Peer 7-6, 6-1 in the fourth round.
Then Sharapova dispatched Anna-Lena Gronefeld 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Swiss Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals.
As the No. 3 seed, 18-year-old Sharapova met and defeated the No. 4 seed fellow Russian Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-2 in the finals, executing her game well despite the windy conditions that existed on court.
It was Sharapova’s first title in 2006 and her 11th title overall.
In fact, it was the Russian’s first tournament win in nine months. Sharapova had not scored a victory since June of 2005 in Birmingham.
Dementieva, who had played a long and physically demanding semifinal against Justine Henin, had difficulty with her ball toss in the wind.
Moreover, she did not play the big points with confidence. Dementieva did not have enough energy to keep pace with the teenager Sharapova.
2005 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Kim Clijsters defeated Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
It was a remarkable win for the lady from Belgium who keeps coming back and reinventing her game with determination, fiery competitive spirit and brilliant shot-making.
In 2004, during this same tournament, Clijsters suffered a severe wrist injury requiring surgery and a very long layoff.
Clijsters entered the 2005 Indian Wells tournament ranked 133 in the world, hoping only to compete well. She did that and more as she mowed down the competition, making it all the way to the final.
In the first round, unseeded Clijsters defeated Nicole Pratt of Australia 6-2, 6-1, Argentine Paolo Suarez 6-2, 6-3 in the second round, Russian Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 7-6 in the third round and Russian Evgenia Linetskaya 6-2, 6-1 in the fourth round.
In the quarterfinals, Clijsters had dispatched Conchita Martinez of Spain 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 while No. 1 seed Lindsay Davenport met and defeated Nathalie Dechy of France 7-6, 6-0.
Clijsters continued her winning ways defeating the No. 4 seed Russian Elena Dementieva in the semifinals 6-4, 6-2 while Lindsay Davenport scored a double bagel 6-0, 6-0 over her semifinal opponent, the No. 3 seed Russian Maria Sharapova.
In the finals against Davenport, Clijsters fell behind immediately 0-4 in the opening set.
The Belgian, however, won the next six games to take the opening set. Davenport came back strong in the second set to level the match.
But a determined Clijsters came through to win her second Indian Wells final after overcoming enormous odds.
2004 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Justine Henin-Hardenne defeated Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 6-4
Justine Henin won her only title at Indian Wells defeating American Lindsay Davenport in the final.
Seeded No. 1 Henin-Hardenne worked her way through the draw in workman-like fashion.
The Belgian started her campaign defeating American Samantha Reeves 6-2, 6-2 in the second round followed by a win over Spain’s Marta Marrero 6-1, 6-2 in the third round.
In the fourth round, Henin-Hardenne met and defeated Czech Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-4.
In the quarterfinals, the No. 12 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova waited. Henin-Hardenne dismissed the Russian 6-4, 7-5 to advance to the semifinals where the Belgian defeated the No. 4 seed Anastasia Myskina 6-1, 6-1.
Lindsay Davenport, the No. 3 seed, also made her way to the 2004 Indian Wells final.
The Belgian, who had not dropped a set during the tournament, defeated Davenport in similar fashion winning 6-1, 6-4. Davenport, who had won this tournament in 1997 and in 2000 could find no answers during this final.
The Belgian had an outstanding serving day as she registered four aces and recorded an 83 percent success rate on first serve points in the afternoon.
During the final game of the match, Davenport held on as long as she could through seven deuces before Henin-Hardenne closed out the set and the match.
2003 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Kim Clijsters defeated Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 7-5
No. 1 seed Kim Clijsters met and defeated Venezuelan Fabiola Zuluaga 6-3, 7-5 to begin her campaign in the second round of the 2003 Pacific Life Open.
In the third round, the Belgian defeated feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the next round. There, Clijsters dispatched French woman Nathalie Dechy 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
In the quarterfinal match, Clijsters overcame American Chandra Rubin 6-2, 6-3. The Belgian followed that victory with a win over Conchita Martinez in the semifinals.
In the finals, Clijsters met Lindsay Davenport who defeated fellow American Jennifer Capriati 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to the final to face the Belgian.
Clijsters dominated the championship match with powerful shots from the baseline.
The Belgian made the American Davenport run hard during the match with her persistent cross court rallies.
Even when Clijsters fell behind in each set, she never quit pushing herself. In doing so, the Belgian broke Davenport’s serve five times, pounding out 24 winners during the match.
Davenport couldn’t seem to find the range with her groundstrokes. The American also struggled on her own serve with 10 double faults plus hitting 36 unforced errors.
Clijsters claimed her 12th WTA career singles title at the end of the match as well as her first title at Indian Wells.
Davenport, who was hoping to be the first to collect three titles at the event, remained wanting at the tournament’s end.
It was not a pretty match for high quality tennis, but for Clijsters, it was enough to win.
2002 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells: Daniela Hantuchova defeated Marina Hingis 6-3, 6-4
Teenager Daniela Hantuchova stormed through the draw to defeat the No. 2 seed Martina Hingis 6-3, 6-4 and win the 2002 Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells.
The No. 18 seed Daniela Hantuchova defeated Belarusian Tatiana Poutchek 6-2, 6-2 in the second round.
She followed up that win by winning the third round match with Austrian Barbara Schett 6-4, 6-4.
In the fourth round, the Slovakian teenager defeated the No. 3 seed Justine Henin 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the next round.
Hantuchova met and defeated American Lisa Raymond in the quarterfinals and followed that by a victory over Swiss Emmanuelle Gagliardi 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 in the semifinals.
In the finals, Hantuchova stunned Hingis as she played her first tour singles final.
The teenaged Slovakian employed a barrage of accurate groundstrokes and sent Hingis scurrying from corner to corner to track down Hantuchova’s returns.
In the end, the Slovakian broke Hingis’ serve six times and became the lowest seed ever to win a women’s tier one event since 1980.
At the time, it seemed to herald the rise of another great star on the women’s tour.
2001 Tennis Masters Series at Indian Wells: Serena Williams defeated Kim Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
2001 would be the last year that the Williams sisters played at the tournament in Indian Wells.
In 2001 as the tournament got underway, Martina Hingis was the No. 1 seed and American Lindsay Davenport was seeded No. 2. Venus Williams stood as the No. 3 seed while her younger sister Serena Williams was the No. 7 seed.
Serena Williams worked her way through the draw by defeating Czech Adriana Gersi 6-3, 6-2 in the second round, Spain’s Gala Leon Garcia in the third round 6-3, 6-1 and Bulgarian Magdalena Maleeva 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth round.
In the quarterfinals, Serena Williams met and defeated the No. 2 seed Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 6-2 which meant the younger Williams sister would face her older sister Venus Williams in the semifinals.
In the other semifinal contest, the No. 1 seed Martina Hingis faced the No. 14 seed Kim Clijsters.
One hour prior to the start of the semifinal between the two Williams sisters, Venus Williams reported she could not play because of tendinitis in her right knee. She withdrew, giving Serena Williams a walkover into the final.
Fans booed when this was announced because the match between the two top-ranked sisters was highly anticipated. Over 11,000 fans expected to watch this contest when the withdrawal was made public.
According to the Williams sisters, Venus had let the sponsors know well in advance that she would not be playing. Tournament officials, however, waited until the last possible moment to make the announcement because they hoped Venus would change her mind.
During Serena’s final match against Kim Clijsters, fans continued to boo throughout the contest.
As proceedings got underway, Serena was nervous and did not play particularly well. She hit many unforced errors. Fans cheered when the younger Williams sister double-faulted.
Eventually, Williams pulled her game together and came back strong to win the match.
In the aftermath, Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, contended that the boos were racially motivated, and the sisters vowed never to return to Indian Wells.
To date, they never have.