For the last few months, the Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai was, somewhat stubbornly, the only big event on the Asian swing not to be cancelled for 2021.
But on Monday, the BNP Paribas Open announced that its men’s field would be expanded.
It will join the women’s tournament over the full two weeks in the desert.
The dates for both now will be Oct. 4 – 17, 2021.
The original dates for the Shanghai tournament were to be Oct. 3-10; the Indian Wells event was to immediately follow it with a reduced 56-player draw.
Now, it will be the regular 96-player singles draw, with a 32-team doubles draw.
On the ATP Tour website, the tournament is already official as cancelled, with the new dates at Indian Wells already modified.
New tournament in San Diego
To help make the trip out to the West Coast more viable, a new event has been added in San Diego the week before Indian Wells.
It’s a city that’s easily drivable, when comes time to head to the desert.
As well, another one-year licence has been granted to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The changes to restore a certain flow to the thing, although the ambitious ones will leave the US Open, go to Europe – and then return to the west coast for the double-dip.
But after that, the tour does relocate to Europe for as many as four weeks (plus the Next-Gen Finals and the ATP Tour finals).
Conflicts of interest make things interesting
The ATP has hemmed and hawed over the fate of the Shanghai tournament, which is obviously part of the premier Masters 1000 series of tournaments. There is big prize money (not so big, if there are no fans), and television contracts.
It sat alone for a long time, as the other tournaments in Asia this fall have long been cancelled.
But Charles Smith, who sits on the ATP Tour board of directors as a tournament representative, is intimately involved with the Shanghai event.
He is the managing Director/International of Juss Event, which runs the tournament.
So you know the backroom, boardroom machinations were going full-force. And the optics are poor even if everything was above board.
BNP Paribas Open pivots commendably
In the end, it’s commendable that not only was the BNP Paribas Open willing to wait for them to sort it all out, but also was willing to pivot and change the size of the event, the amount of prize money – and all the details that go with that.
Another point – the tournament will require people to be vaccinated.
“The BNP Paribas Open will require all fans, staff, sponsors, media, and vendors to show valid proof of full vaccination in order to enter the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the tournament. In addition, depending on the COVID-19 conditions at the time of the tournament, additional testing as well as mask mandates in certain seating areas may be required by the Riverside County health department and the state of California. The guidelines for the players are governed by the protocols established by their respective governing bodies, the WTA and ATP Tours.”
(In English, that means the players, who have a very poor rate of vaccination at this point, will likely not be held to the same standard.
And that is a not a great look.