If you are heading to the desert for some tennis viewing over the next 12 days, get ready for more of the same. In the case of the prestigious BNP Paribas Open, that's not a bad thing.
There will be some radical differences in the physical plant, where there has been an estimated $70 million in improvements, including a new enclosed Stadium 2, plus palm trees and walkways and shady areas galore.
This event, designated by the pro tours as the next notch below the four majors and bringing near-mandatory participation, has generally taken the approach of sparing no expense to get better. That has been the case since it moved to its massive 16,100-seat Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the 2000 tournament.
To justify that, it has — by mandate of the men and women's tour and by the interest level it creates — attracted the top stars in the game. That's where fans may see a lot of the same faces in big matches.
On the men's side, three players have won all but one of the titles in the last 10 years. Those three, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, are back to give it another try. The only interloper in that run was Ivan Ljubicic, the Croatian star who won in 2010 and is now retired.
Federer, 32, won in 2004, '05, '06 and 2012. Nadal won in '07, '09 and last year, Djokovic in '08 and 2011.
The women's side has been less predictable, especially since Venus and Serena Williams have boycotted the event ever since the well-documented booing incident in 2001.
Maria Sharapova, last year's winner over Caroline Wozniacki, has won twice. But she will be seeded only No. 4, behind No. 1 Li Na, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 3 Victoria Azarenka. Li, of China, won her second major title at the Australian Open this year — to go with her 2011 French Open.
The other Australian champion, Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, has moved up the rankings to hold the No. 3 spot in the men's draw, behind Nadal and Djokovic. Tomas Berdych will be No. 4. Scotland's Andy Murray, a two-time major winner and the Wimbledon champion last year, will be No. 5. Juan Martin del Potro, last year's finalist after knocking out Murray and Djokovic along the way, will be No. 6, followed by Federer at No. 7.
Federer won last week at Dubai, beating Berdych in the final, and has now won at least one tour title in each of the last 14 years.
The tournament will begin with the women's main draw Wednesday. The men's main draw is Thursday. The event heads to its high-profile ending a weekend hence, with women's semifinals and men's quarterfinals on a busy March 14, men's and women's doubles finals and men's semifinals the next day and men's and women's finals on Sunday.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times