By J. Fred Sidhu
Defending champion Andre Agassi and 2001 finalist Pete Sampras have entered the men's field of the Pacific Life Open scheduled for March 4-17 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
In fact, each of the top-50-ranked players in the world have entered the tournament including America's newest tennis star, Andy Roddick, who led the U.S. to a 5-0 Davis Cup victory over Slovakia last week in Oklahoma City.
Also entered in the men's draw are Brazil's
Gustavo Kuerten, Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero and former
tournament champion Marcelo Rios.
Other players of note who are committed to play include, Lleyton Hewitt of Australia; Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia; Tommy Haas of Germany; 2002 Australian Open champion, Thomas Johansson of Sweden and 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia.
The Pacific Life Open, which is played in the second largest tennis stadium in the world, will feature the best of both the men and women professional tennis circuits. The women's draw begins on March 6 with qualifying to take place March 4-5. The women's final will be played on Saturday, March 16 and will be televised live on ESPN at 4:30 p.m.
"With such a strong field of men and women players, this tournament guarantees to offer close, competitive and exciting matches from the first round all the way through the finals," said tournament director, Charlie Pasarell.
The men's field, which will play simultaneously over nine days during the two-week tournament, begins qualifying on March 9-10 with the main draw starting on March 11. The men's final is set for Sunday, March 17. ABC Sports will broadcast the men's final at 10:30 a.m.
During the tournament, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports will broadcast a total of 32 hours, including 26 hours of live coverage during the second week.
"ESPN's and ABC Sports' commitment to sports fans across the county is evident with the coverage this package provides," Pasarell said.
The ESPN schedule includes live afternoon broadcasts on Monday, March 11 through Friday, March 15 at noon, as well as live prime-time coverage on Thursday, March 14 and Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m.
Men's semifinal action will be broadcast on Saturday, March 16 at noon. ESPN2 will add daily live coverage on Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m.
The Pacific Life Open is in its 27th year as a men's championship and 14th as a women's tournament. Past champions include Agassi, Sampras, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Michael Chang, Stefan Edberg and Jim Courier. It is one of nine elite Tennis Masters Series events on the ATP circuit.