BNP Paribas Open.

BNP Paribas Open Highlights Included Bees, Rain, Incognito Players

Almost half a million people (including Zendaya) came to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden this month to watch the BNP Paribas Open. We look back at some of the standout moments.

Ellen Alperstein Sports

BNP Paribas Open.

BNP Paribas Open.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the weirdest of times at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open this month (March 3–17). A new attendance record was set at nearly half a million. Rain disrupted play on several days, and people donned puffer jackets more often than spaghetti straps. Stadium 1 was invaded by an insect army.

Iga Swiatek won the women’s championship, her second, and Carlos Alcaraz was the men’s champ for the second consecutive year. Neither weather nor warriors stopped people from eating, drinking, and making merry. There were 493,400 stories at the Tennis Garden in Indian Wells. These are some of them.


Disorder on the Court

The quarterfinal between Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev in Stadium 1 was interrupted 15 minutes into the match by a swarm of bees that stopped play for almost two hours, but not before a bee nailed defending champ Alcaraz in the forehead. At least five spectators, according to the EMTs in first aid, also got stung, but the EpiPens remained pocketed.

The players, the chair umpire, and multiple spectators were swatting and ducking as the insects attacked, but most of the critters made a beeline for the overhead spider camera as people fled the stadium. Lance Davis of the oxymoronic Killer Bee Live Removal in Palm Desert was summoned to quell the invasion.

Armando’s Bar

A swarm of bees surround a camera.

The bee-infested camera was moved to an upper-level platform where Davis, wearing only jeans and long-sleeve T-shirt, Shop-Vac’d the interlopers into a cage he constructed to capture them for transport to their home hive. No animals were harmed in the making of this picture.

Davis, who works on-site every year at the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, received a standing ovation on exiting the stadium, and grateful fans saluted him with the wave.

“I’ve never experienced something like that. I’ve never seen something like that,” said Alcaraz, who recovered from the assault and won the match.

“That’s what you get when you name a sports venue a ‘garden,’” snarked Bill Dwyre, former Los Angeles Times sports editor and columnist. “Watch for bees next at Madison Square.”

Davis removing the bees.

Lance Davis vacuums the bees, a humane way to relocate them.

Secret Agents

Among the granular data that tennis geeks can mine on the BNP Paribas Open website resides the single-most delicious bytes of the player apple. Early in the tournament, six top professionals took a break from their real jobs to assume those of low-level workers at the Tennis Garden. Few of the patrons they served recognized them.

Maria Sakkari hawked popcorn. Holger Rune and Daniil Medvedev clerked at the BNP Paribas store. Ons Jabeur handed out maps. Andrey Rublev wielded a security wand. And Alex de Minaur was a parking attendant. The tournament award for being a good sport is a six-way tie.

Nutrition Break

Most of the vendors in the food court and in stadiums 1 and 2 were new this year as part of an effort to elevate the culinary experience and support local/regional chefs and businesses. The new vision embraces the mixed marriage of cuisine haute and le plus bas. Coachella Valley stalwart John’s — one of the original vendors at the Tennis Garden — remained, offering its Greek-inflected salads and pitas at, if we’re grading on the curve, almost normal prices.

One new vendor, Sumo Dog, offered Japanese-inspired hot dogs dressed for success with wasabi relish, furikake, nori, and pickled daikon. One wag described them as “bougie.”

Burger and fries from John's.

Burger and fries from John's.

Chicken salad from John's.

Chicken salad from John's.

Because I’m the Mom, That’s Why

Seven mothers were in the main draw at this year’s tournament. In the aggregate, they held 10 Grand Slam titles, and 92 tour-level titles.

Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, Tatjana Maria, and Taylor Townsend all made it through the first round. Three mothers — Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, and Kim Clijsters — have won a Grand Slam, but a mother has yet to hold the trophy aloft at Indian Wells, although Azarenka and Osaka won the tournament when they were nursing only sore muscles, not offspring. 

Reap What You Sow

For the eighth consecutive year, BNP Paribas bank, the tournament’s title sponsor and global supporter of tennis, awarded $20,000 scholarships to local high school seniors. This year’s recipients were Jose Arreola, Kamila Cortes Ramirez, Miguel Gonzalez, and Nevaeh Robles from the 2024 graduating class of Coachella Valley High School in Thermal. The bank, renowned for its commitment to scholastic as well as athletic excellence, chooses underserved communities from which to recognize and support youth achievement.

Recipients of the BNP Paribas scholarships.

Recipients of the BNP Paribas scholarships pose with Jean-Yves Fillion and Peggy Michel (at center).

A school assembly was held March 14, where Jean-Yves Fillion, BNP Paribas vice chairman of the board of directors/BNP Paribas USA, and Peggy Michel, assistant tournament director, were assisted by the school’s marching band, cheerleaders, and dance team in celebrating the high achievers, all of whom are tennis players and academic stars. Scholarship alumni Miguel Alvarez, a recipient in the program’s inaugural year, and Lydia Rodriguez, who received hers in 2022, spoke about their college experience.

Ramirez and Rodriguez were both ball kids in previous years of the tournament. Said Rodriguez, “The BNP Paribas Open is my Disneyland.”

All of the Coachellans onstage were greeted by their peers, families, and school administrators like rock stars. If this is the kind of community BNP Paribas fosters, we’ll have what they’re having.

Rah Rah Redux

The tournament coincided with International Women’s Day, March 8, which tournament sponsors acknowledged on the Tennis Garden’s Village Stage in a panel discussion of “the inspiring journeys of women leaders in sport, finance, and media” and “inclusive leadership.” The BNP Paribas Open has paid equal prize money to the singles’ winners since 2012, and BNP Paribas bank donates a dollar to the Riverside/San Bernardino chapter of Girls on the Run for every point scored during the tournament. Its gender cred needs no gilding.

So why was this you-go-girl pep rally more Gloria Steinem than Malala Yousafzai? All the participants were young, accomplished women, but the conversation was, if we’re being kind, quaint. If we’re being honest, hoary.

“Trust yourself.” “Center yourself. Find out who you are.” “Do not let them see you cry.”

This was a whiffed pitch.

Aerial view of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

Aerial view of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Tequila Sunset

Two of the rain-delayed matches occurred on two consecutive nights in the first week. Some patrons, presumably, repaired to the Dobel tequila concession to sample its signature Ace Paloma cocktail rimmed in black salt. Sodexo Live!, the tournament’s new food operations company, had ordered 20 percent more tequila than last year. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was the increase in overall attendance this year, but by the first Saturday, demand was poised to exceed supply.

What to do? Commercial liquor deliveries on Sunday are not permitted by state law. Dobel risked bad business and worse karma until a Sodexo executive drove his personal SUV to the San Bernardino distribution center, loaded it with as many cases of the silver elixir as he could manage, and reprovisioned the vendor before the Sunday quaffers queued.

Dobel tequila

Dobel tequila's signature cocktail, the Ace Paloma. 

Tennis Warehouse Store.

Tennis Warehouse Store.

Retail Tales

“The crowds are definitely bigger this year,” claimed a manager at the BNP Paribas Open merch tent. Four days before the tournament ended, the store had sold out of the oversized tennis balls fans purchase in hopes of securing player autographs courtside or alongside the player lawn.

The Tennis Warehouse store reported robust sales of the Wilson Blade racket ($229–$249) endorsed by Aryna Sabalenka and the Babolat Pure Aero racket ($209–$269) Carlos Alcaraz used in claiming the championship. Roger Federer fans went crazy for RF logo hats, which sold out daily and were resupplied by the San Luis Obispo distributor, even on Sunday.

Fila, an official sponsor of the tournament, offered a jacket ($110) from its Palm Springs collection. The pin-striped 1970s retro gear inspired by Björn Borg was so hot the ladies’ stock had been depleted long before the final weekend. “There’s been steady retail traffic,” reported Fila executive Lauren Mallon.

Music Man

For the sixth consecutive year, DJ Trizz provided the musical interludes in Stadium 1, which rocked from 9 a.m. until lights out. Trizz is an equal-opportunity event maestro whose playlists include hip-hop for the X Games and Olympic halfpipe competitions, Pachelbel at weddings, and classic pop/rock/remixes here.

At the BNP Paribas Open, where the crowd skews older, affluent, and international, Trizz says, “It doesn’t seem appropriate to play new hip-hop.”

But it’s always appropriate to read the room, especially when a swarm of bees takes center court. That day, spectators heard “Buzzin” by Mann, “Honey” by Mariah Carey, and when the beekeeper arrived, “My Hero” by Foo Fighters.

When Iga Swiatek won the women’s championship, Trizz called upon The Police for “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” The soundtrack for men’s champ Carlos Alcaraz was “Praise You” by Hannah Grace.

We Interrupt This Program

Men’s champ Carlos Alcaraz was rudely interrupted during the last press conference of the tournament by a screeching stadium-wide broadcast: “An emergency has been reported in this building. Please cease operations and leave the building.” The bogus technical difficulty repeated incessantly for several minutes before the assembled surrendered. As Alcaraz departed the room, he smiled broadly and said, “And bees!

Naomi Osaka signing autographs.

Naomi Osaka signs autographs.

They Said It

Asked on her 20th birthday at what age she felt like she belonged to the adult world, Coco Gauff responded: “I still live with my family. My mom still washes my clothes and still helps me unpack my clothes. My dad is … the one helping me with my car. If I need the tire to be changed, he’ll do it, or wash it for me. … I don’t know if I’ll ever grow out of that, because who’s going to say no to free help?”

Asked where she keeps her two Australian Open trophies, Arnya Sabalenka also mentioned a parent: “My mom has them, and they are side by side. She calls them twins and says, ‘We need to have a different one — it looks boring when you have two of the same ones. Can you work on the other Slams?’”

Asked if the U.S. men players were a close-knit group, a fraternity, Taylor Fritz answered: “I don’t know what that’s like, I didn’t go to college.”

Asked about the possibility of playing at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028, Novak Djokovic said: “Everything is in the cards. I just don’t know how many cards I have left.”

Asked, after his last match as a professional tennis player, what he would say to his deceased father if he could, Stevie Johnson responded, in tears: “This has always been home for me as a kid from Orange County, and now I live in L.A. This has been my favorite tournament since I was a kid. … That relationship with my dad was incredibly special. He was my coach forever, … I just wish I could share moments like this with him. … It’s kind of crazy to think I’ve done this since I was 2 or 3 years old, and today is the last day I’ll compete as a professional.”

Marta Kostyuk.

Marta Kostyuk.

Carlos Alcaraz

Carlos Alcaraz.

Asked about the negative comments and pressure pro players can feel from social media, Caroline Wozniacki mused: “It looks so easy from the outside, but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. … You don’t become one of the best players in the world by listening to people who don’t really know tennis as well as you do.”

Asked how it felt to meet actress Zendaya right after winning the tournament, Iga Swiatek said: “I was just happy that she’s enjoying tennis, and she’s, you know, having this movie with tennis theme coming out. … She can practice with me any time if she wants to.”

Figuratively Speaking

Number of attendees for the 2024 BNP Paribas Open

Number of spectators on highest single day, Saturday, March 9

Number of pixels in the digital Tennis Garden displays

Number of miles of racket strings strung

Number of scoops of ice cream sold

Number of glasses of Champagne sold

Number of points scored

Number of dollars donated to Girls on the Run by BNP Paribas bank

Number of days before the first aid stations ran out of sunscreen.

Number of rain delays/play suspensions at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open

Number of workers blow-drying the Stadium 1 court after the rain

Highest number at the BMW test-your-serve-speed booth

Number of dollars it takes to buy the new black matte i7 M70 EV sedan at the BMW test-your-serve-speed booth

Number of songs DJ Trizz plays in Stadium 1 during a day of long matches

Number of hearing aids turned in to Lost and Found

Number of hearing aids claimed from Lost and Found