WHAT'S THE BEST SPECTATOR EXPERIENCE IN TENNIS?

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Photo by Brent Bishop

What’s the best spectator experience in tennis? Many say Indian Wells. And why not? It’s so relaxed, joyous and user-friendly. The place is part athletic palace and part theme park. It combines the excitement, artistry and intimacy of tennis with the feel-good vibe of California and its beautiful, toney people.

There’s Rafa practicing without his shirt! There’s Djokovic signing autographs not far from the locker room. There’s a lively players’ soccer game. California’s Williams sisters are back where they belong. Three-set thrillers excite. Celebs wave to the throng with just a tad of “why bother” condescension. Tangerine-pink sunsets on the Santa Rosa mountains lift our spirits, and most important, the very best players in the world abound.

Nearby are the shop-swim-and-eat joys of the Coachella Valley and the serenity of the desert. All the while, the BNP Paribas Open gets better and better. With Tommy Haas at the helm as the new tournament director, the huge stadium will now be one-third bigger. There will be 21 new restaurants and concessions, a vastly expanded viewing plaza, upgraded suites, and new media and hospitality centers. And, if you get hungry but don’t want to miss any of the action, you can drop in on Wolfgang Puck’s new Spago restaurant overlooking Stadium 1 and munch on a Guajilio Chili Chicken Salad or a little Yukon Gold Potato Puree.