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Fans’ guide to the week ahead: March 9 2009

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:34

BNP Paribas Open

When? March 11-23
Where? Indian Wells, California, USA
Event type? WTA Premier and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 combined
Surface? Outdoor hard
Prize money? $4.5 million
ATP draw Size? 96 singles, 32 doubles
WTA draw Size? 96 singles, 32 doubles
Defending champs? Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic
Big names? The first of two massive back-to-back combined mens and womens events to be staged in the US, the BNP Paribas Open features the worlds very best, unless your surname happens to be Williams, that is. The sisters have again decided not to play the event, a tournament they have boycotted since some unsavoury goings on back in 2001. Shame, since they are setting the standards on the womens tour so far this year.
Sub-plots? Where shall we start? With neither of the Williams sisters in action its a massive opportunity for another female to grab some of the limelight. One player itching to get back on the winners podium will be Maria Sharapova wholl make her long-awaited return to the tour in the doubles with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina. “Im excited to be playing competitive tennis again,” said the 21-year-old, who hasnt played since last August. Judging by her form at the Aussie Open, Dinara Safina would be many peoples favourite, although Russian workhorse Elena Dementieva is bound to be there or thereabouts. The form of defending champ Ivanovic will be under scrutiny as will that of former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic who has so far misfired this season. Among the women who have started the year strongly are Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki and Monterrey winner Marion Bartoli.

Events in the mens draw are eagerly anticipated, with the return to the tour of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer from injury and Andy Murrays re-appearance after withdrawing from GBs Davis Cup tie with a virus. Fernando Verdasco will also be lining up after his Aussie Open heroics. Bring it on.

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