Mostly uneventful day at Indian Wells

There wasn't much exciting action Thursday at the BNP Paribas Open

Thursday was a tournament director's nightmare at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

They played some matches, but not the kind that would drive TV ratings through the roof.

It started with Jelena Jankovic, a former champion, playing a quarterfinal match against qualifier Lesia Tsurenko. Jankovic won the first set, 6-1, and was leading in the second set, 4-1, when Tsurenko retired with an ankle injury.

Next up was Andy Murray vs. Feliciano Lopez in a men's quarterfinal. Murray, seeded fourth, beat Lopez, seeded 12th. But then, Murray always beats Lopez. They have played 10 times. Murray has won 10 times. This time, it was 6-3, 6-4.

But some drama in the day remained. Murray's likely opponent in the semifinals would be No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who had to recover quickly from a Wednesday evening of bombardment by huge-serving John Isner. Djokovic survived in two sets, managing to break Isner's serve once and squeezing out a second-set tiebreaker.

So how would Djokovic recover for his evening quarterfinal against Bernard Tomic? He would be right there in the prime time 7 p.m. spot in the big stadium. Fans were ready. TV cameras were poised.

Oops. Tomic had to withdraw with a bad back and a painful wisdom tooth, not a great daily double for a tennis player.

At this point, tournament director Steve Simon was seen tearing his hair out, and he doesn't have any.

Simon made the only move he had. The scheduled late afternoon rematch of last year's Wimbledon doubles, a wildly entertaining match between Bob and Mike Bryan against American Jack Sock and Canadian Vasek Pospisil, was moved into the Djokovic-Tomic 7 p.m. spot.

Then ESPN, apparently not charmed by doubles, filled part of the time slot with a day-old Serena Williams match.

Many viewers missed another entertaining match.

Sock and Pospisil, who won that Wimbledon match and are a real force now in men's doubles, handed the Bryan brothers their first defeat at Indian Wells in 14 matches and four years. The score was 6-4, 6-4, one service break in each set.

The last time the Bryans, champions here the last two years, lost in the desert was the second round in 2011. They withdrew in the 2012 quarterfinals.

Match points

ESPN did get a bit of the women's day-session quarterfinal between Flavia Pennetta, defending champion, and Sabine Lisicki. The tournament let the night-session ticket holders join the day-session crowd for the end of the competitive match, won by Lisicki, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4). Lisicki saved three match points on her way to a semifinal berth against Jankovic.

More fans

As of Wednesday, attendance at Indian Wells was running about 6% ahead of last year. And that meant it is likely that this sport's non-major major will surpass the 450,000 mark when it ends Sunday.

Through Wednesday of 2014, the attendance was 336,508. Through Wednesday this year, it is 359,061.

The French Open, the least attended of the four designated majors in the sport, lists its attendance record as 430,093 in 2012.

Price hikes

With growth in attendance and revenue comes the unavoidable ticket price increase and corresponding fan unhappiness.

Bill Dunlap of Newport Beach, who said he has been a season ticket holder for the Indian Wells event for 25 years, complained that his third-row, north-end pair of seats have been increased from $5,000 to $15,000 next year.

“They have re-designated my seats as courtside boxes,” Dunlap said. “Up until now, only the first two rows on both the north and south ends have been courtside boxes.”

Ray Moore, tournament chief executive, said that Dunlap had the numbers right, and added, “We have changed our selling strategy to one of location-priced seating.”

Moore rejected the theory that these moves are to open up seats for corporate buyers.

“That is not the case at all,” he said. “Our DNA is our tennis fans. That's who we are and what we want.”

Dunlap said this may affect 40 to 50 people. Moore agreed with that number and said he was dealing with them personally through emails and that, prior to the April 25 purchase deadline for next year, he hoped to find reasonable alternatives for all of them.

“We are developing options for them as we speak,” he said.

Quick volleys

Canadian Milos Raonic took over the tournament serving speed lead with a 150-mph bomb Wednesday against Tommy Robredo. ... Isner is second at 146. ... There is a new tennis book out about longtime men's tour trainer Bill Norris. It is called “Pain, Set and Match,” and among the most interesting chapters is the one that explains the false scare on the tour in 2003, when 40 players tested positive, but were not punished, for the steroid Nandroline. It was eventually shown that the human body, especially when exercising at high temperatures, can produce enough Nandroline on its own to produce a positive. ... Sock, a product of Nebraska, summed up his trip to the tournament: “I don't think I've seen a cloud yet,” he said.


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