BNP Paribas Open, commonly referred to as the unofficial fifth grand slam on the tennis calendar, will return to the schedules in October after its 2021 edition was postponed late last year.

The tournament at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California became the first major US sporting event to be cancelled as COVID-19 took hold last year, while on December 29 it was announced that it would not retain its planned dates of March 8-21 in 2021.

However, tournament director Tommy Haas has now confirmed the combined men’s ATP Masters 1000 and women’s WTA 1000 event will be held in October, with dates to be announced once the ATP and WTA Tours finalise their calendars for the final part of the year.

Organisers said the tournament will enforce all protocols established by the ATP and WTA Tours, as well as the City of Indian Wells and Riverside County Public Health Department, to ensure the safety of players, fans and officials.

“We are ecstatic to have the opportunity to hold the BNP Paribas Open in October, and thankful for the on-going commitment of our title sponsor BNP Paribas in supporting the return of tennis to the desert,” said Haas. “We have never wavered in our desire to create an unforgettable experience this fall in Tennis Paradise for our fans, players and sponsors.”

The BNP Paribas Open set a new attendance record of 475,372 fans for the most recent staging of the two-week event in 2019. Riverside County is currently in the moderate level, or orange tier, of California’s four-tier reopening plan.

This allows for venues that hold fewer than 1,500 people to operate at 15% capacity and those that can hold more than 1,500 to allow 10% capacity. These limits can be increased to 35% if all attendees are tested for COVID-19 or can show proof of full vaccination.

California is planning for a full reopening of the state’s economy on June 15, provided there is enough vaccine supply for all eligible residents. BNP Paribas Open organisers said ticket, suite, and hotel packages for the event are anticipated to be on sale starting June 21, without outlining any capacity plans.

The ATP yesterday (Thursday) announced updates to the 2021 ATP Tour Q4 provisional calendar, including the staging of the BNP Paribas Open. Elsewhere, the Stockholm Open, originally scheduled to run in Week 42 in late October alongside the VTB Kremlin Cup (Moscow) and European Open (Antwerp), will now take place from November 7-13 in the same week as the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

The ATP said it continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 in assessing the provisional Q4 calendar, including the three-week sequence of events in Beijing, Tokyo and Shanghai. Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP chairman, said: “Since the resumption of the Tour in August 2020, we have had to take an agile approach to the calendar with the aim of staging as many of our events as possible.

“Everyone in our sport has missed the BNP Paribas Open over the past two years and its return this October is great for tennis. The calendar is extremely complex and I would like to thank all events in that section of the season, as we look to accommodate these changes for the benefit of the overall sport.”

Image: BNP Paribas Open