Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory at the BNP Paribas Open in March. (Mike Nelson / EPA )
The tennis tournament that has positioned itself as the next-best thing to the four majors on the tour calendar took another step to solidify that status Tuesday.
The BNP Paribas Open, the Indian Wells event that gives Southern California an annual claim as host to all the sport's stars, announced that it would pay both men's and women's singles champions $1 million. That will make it the first combined men's and women's tour event to do so. The four Grand Slams, which are run by the International Tennis Federation rather than the ATP and WTA tours, pay seven-figure prizes to the winner, as do each tour's season-ending championships.
In four years, the Indian Wells tournament's purse has grown from total prize money of $5.835 million in 2008 to $11.073 million next spring.
According to tournament director Steve Simon, prize money has been increased across the board, in both singles and doubles. Losers in the men's and women's singles finals will receive $500,000, semifinalists will be guaranteed $200,000 and quarterfinalists will be guaranteed $100,000.
The tournament, operated for much of 35-year run in the desert by Charlie Pasarell and Raymond Moore's PM Sports Management, was sold in December 2009 to billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison, a tennis enthusiast. PM Sports still runs the event.
Last year's tournament attracted a record attendance of 350,086 over its 12 days. This year's event will run from March 5-18, with main-draw matches beginning March 7.