Net Talk: Building for the future
With the tennis world in awe of the new-look Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Andy Schooler looks at what projects other venues have planned.
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The need for continual improvement has been driven home on the court in recent years - stand still and others will catch up.
It's no different off the court either with tournament organisers and owners seemingly now in a constant battle to ensure they keep pace with the rest.
In the case of Indian Wells, home to the ongoing BNP Paribas Open, it's not simply a case of keeping up with the Joneses; they are looking to be one step ahead.
The latest part of their scheme to do just that is the new Stadium 2 court, one which has sprung up out of the desert in the past 12 months.
At last year's event, tournament owner Larry Ellison posed with the likes of Rafael Nadal at the ground-breaking ceremony. Twelve months on and the world's fifth richest man has his new court.
The latest 'house that Larry built' holds 8,000 and sits nicely across the way from Stadium 1, which can seat 16,100 and is the second biggest purpose-built tennis stadium in the world. Only the gigantic Arthur Ashe Stadium, home to the US Open finals, can hold more. Its capacity is more than 22,000.
London's O2 Arena, home to the ATP World Tour Finals, can handle 17,500 fans but tennis is not its primary function. That's also the case for Brussels' King Baudouin Stadium which drew the largest tennis crowd of all-time - 35,681 watched Kim Clijsters play Serena Williams in July 2010, an exhibition match which came the day after the American famously cut her foot in a Munich restaurant.
Indian Wells is lucky to have Ellison, the man behind the Oracle computer technology company whose logo adorns the court skirting. He is the man who also bankrolled Team Oracle in last year's America's Cup sailing series - you may have seen him celebrating on board with Ben Ainslie and co.
Few tournaments can really afford to compete with his spending power and as an avid tennis fan he's put his money where he mouth is in terms of making Indian Wells the top tournament outside the Slams.
However, the four majors are where you will see the strive for 'bigger and better' pan out in the coming years.
When not staging tournaments, Melbourne Park and Wimbledon have looked like building sites in recent years and that's not about to change. Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows are also letting the diggers roll in.
As you may have seen in January, Australian officials have already installed a roof over the Margaret Court Arena - it will be fully functional come the 2015 Open, making Melbourne Park the only venue to have retractable roofs on three of its courts.
In a similar vein, Wimbledon have plans to add a roof to Court One by 2019, while over recent months you may have seen Court 14 and 15 being completely dug up to provide additional facilities underneath them. As part of the All England Club's 'masterplan', more excavations are looming with plans to add three more courts to the complex next to 'Henman Hill'.
In Paris, the cranes are due to arrive next year with Court Philippe Chatrier next to join the retractable roof club. Plans to build a new court at the adjacent botanic gardens met with protests, holding up the whole project, but organisers still hope to have all their changes completed by 2018.
Perhaps the biggest change which will be seen at any tennis venue over the next five years will come at Flushing Meadows where officials have finally come up with a plan - and the funding - to add a roof to the aforementioned Ashe.
Two new stadium courts - one with a roof - will also be built as the complex undergoes a massive transformation. The first should be ready for 2016, the second (the one with a roof) in 2018.
Only this week the USTA were unveiling more details, revealing visitors to this year's tournament will see the foundations for the roof structure having been dug. On the grounds, courts 4, 5 and 6 will have been rebuilt with a new fan viewing gallery overlooking them.
Time waits for no man - or tennis tournament - it seems.
Tomas Berdych has already let the side down in Indian Wells - quite why I opted to side with the unreliable Czech I'm still wondering - so 125/1 long shot Gael Monfils is my only surviving tip for the tournament.
Meanwhile, our betting partners Sky Bet have now priced up the International Premier Tennis League which this column featured a couple of weeks ago.
With early team picks having been made at last week's player draft, Singapore have been installed as favourites at 2/1. They have signed Berdych, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams, Bruno Soares, Patrick Rafter, Daniela Hantuchova and Nick Krygios so far.
Andy Murray's Bangkok team are offered at 3/1.
Stat of the week
This week is Serena Williams' 179th as world number one in her career, taking her past Monica Seles (178). Williams is fifth on the WTA list of 'weeks at number one', one which is led by Steffi Graf, who enjoyed 377 in top spot.
What you may have missed
Former world number one Lindsay Davenport and British broadcaster John Barrett will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer.
Former British number one Elena Baltacha revealed she has been diagnosed with liver cancer.
This week in tennis
All week: The BNP Paribas Open continues in Indian Wells. Both finals take place on Sunday - the women's at 1900 GMT with the men's following.
Wednesday: Tickets for the French Open go on general sale. There's no set time but organisers have told me it won't be before 0600 GMT.
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic took a dual selfie - a 'couplie' I believe - when on court at Madison Square Garden last week. Murray the better photographer it would seem - check out the pictures via the links.
And if you are planning on buying tickets for Roland Garros, organisers have crated the @RGclients account to deal with any related queries.
From my perspective, @SportingLife and @NetTalkTennis are the accounts to follow!
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