2014/04/21

Sharapova Inks a New Sponsorship Deal

Maria Sharapova photo ©John Russo for Supergoop!

Maria Sharapova photo ©John Russo for Supergoop!

(April 11, 2014) NEW YORK, NY – IMG Tennis announced a new global partnership deal for its client Maria Sharapova with Supergoop!, a skincare line solely dedicated to a healthy approach to broad spectrum sun protection. In addition to signing on as Supergoop’s brand ambassador, Sharapova will become a co-owner of the company with Founder and CEO Holly Thaggard.

Sharapova’s investment supports her ongoing agenda of expanding her business platform, which already includes Sugarpova launched in 2012.

‘’I couldn’t be more excited about my partnering with Supergoop!, a brand I trust to protect my face and body from sun damage. I am a huge fan of the products and my belief in Supergoop’s commitment to offering innovative and smart sunscreen solutions for people of all ages is what’s made me want to invest in the company and help with its long term growth,’’ said four-time Grand Slam Champion Sharapova.

The line was launched in 2007 by Thaggard, Supergoop! Supergoop! products are available at retailers such as Sephora, Nordstrom, Space NK, and Amazon.com, among many others.

“Skin cancer is diagnosed more frequently than all of the leading cancers combined, yet it’s primarily preventable. To date, there has not been a broad reaching voice for UV education and we’ve finally found our megaphone in Maria,” said Thaggard. “Maria is the ideal choice to own and champion this position and we value her as our ambassador of ‘suncare as skincare’.”

A former World No.1 and only one of six women in the Open Era to have won all four Grand Slam titles, Sharapova has been ranked by Forbes magazine as the highest paid female athlete in the world for a record nine years. Supergoop! joins Sharapova’s family of partners which include Nike, Porsche, Evian, TAG Heuer, Samsung, Head and Cole Haan.

In the last twelve months, IMG Tennis has signed a number of partners for its clients including global deals with Peugeot and Seiko (Novak Djokovic); Delta Airlines (Kei Nishikori); Crown Hotels and Doing Li Energy (Li Na); Longines, Peugeot and Thomas Sabo (Sabine Lisicki); Banc de Sabadell and Peugeot for the ATP event in Barcelona and Claro and Itau for the Rio Open, among many others.

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Williams Continues Her Domination Over Sharapova To Reach 9th Miami Final

 

By Kevin Ware

(March 27, 2014) Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to reach her ninth final in Key Biscayne. Williams came into this semifinal the prohibitive favorite, owing to her 15-2 head-to-head against Sharapova. But it was quickly evident that Williams’ best level hadn’t quite made it to the court by match time.

In a repeat of their 2013 final, Sharapova came out ready to play her best tennis from the very first point. She came out hitting the ball hard, deep, and into the corners. In typical fashion, she struggled with her first serve percentage, but still managed to start the match with a crucial hold.

Williams was slow to get going, and unable to take advantage of her many chances at the Sharapova second serve. She even struggled with her own potent serve at the outset, and was broken in the fourth game for a 4-1 Sharapova lead.

While this type of deficit might lead many players to panic, Williams kept her focus on the big picture. “I thought, Okay, I’m only down a break.  It was really just one break.  The scoreline looked bigger than what it was.  I felt if I could just break back, then I would be back in the match.”

Williams came back after the changeover with her “A” game ready to go. She methodically held serve for 2-4 before breaking Sharapova twice to take the first set 6-4. Her early sluggishness was replaced by big hitting, sharp angles, and untouchable serves.

The slump in Sharapova’s shoulders after Williams held at love for the set said it all. She has chances for a win if Williams is off her game, but knows that it’s going to be tough to beat Williams if she regains here form.

Sharapova was asked about Williams’s ability to take her game to another level when needed, and simply replied, “That’s why she’s No. 1 in the world.”

“There are always going to be drops. But she’s the player that is most capable of coming back from that or regaining focus and regaining that concentration as someone that’s ultimately going to do better.”

There was a glimmer of hope for Sharapova at the start of the second set when Williams took her foot off the pedal for a two-game walkabout that included lax defense, minimal footwork, and one of the worst drop shots seen at this year’s tournament. But Williams again raised her level as needed to break back for a 2-1 lead.

After Sharapova was broken at love in the seventh game of the second set for a 4-3 Williams lead, there was little chance this match might even go the distance to a third. Sharapova fought hard, but ultimately wilted under pressure. A forehand into the net handed Williams her 15th straight win over her Russian opponent.

Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams in almost a decade, with her last victory coming at the 2004 WTA Championships in Los Angeles. And while many believe this to be one of the WTA’s big rivalries, she is quick to remind everyone that it’s not much of a rivalry until she can get a win.

When asked about their lopsided “rivalry”, Sharapova attempted to put a positive spin on the situation. “I mean, despite my results against her, I still look forward to playing against her because you learn so much from that type of level which she produces.”

“You finish the match, and you know where you need to improve and the things that you need to work on.”

In spite of her win, Williams remained subdued in the press room afterward, fending off questions of rivalries and potential challengers. She takes no one for granted, and views every opponent as a potential rival.

“I mean, everyone I play always plays me hard, so I feel like every match I play I literally have to be on my best, so for me I take a rival as every match, and I think that’s one of the best ways to take it.”

“You have to show up, and if you don’t show up, then your biggest threat will be yourself.”

Williams has won the title in Miami a record six times, one more than Steffi Graf. A seventh title would give her the record for the most Miami titles of all, surpassing the great Andre Agassi.

Williams will face Li Na in Saturday’s final after her late-night three-set win over Dominika Cibulkova.

Kevin Ware is in Key Biscayne covering the Sony Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Li and Cibulkova Reach Sony Open Semis

 

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

(March 26, 2014) It will be a rematch of the Australian Open women’s final in the semifinal of the Sony Open as both Li Na and Dominika Cibulkova advanced on Wednesday. Li won the Australian Open in straight sets for her second major title.

No. 10 seed Dominika Cibulkova saved  three match points in the second set en route to a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 2 Li Na won the last 4 straight games to close out Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 7-5.

Cibulkova won despite poor serving and unforced errors. She had her serve broken 10 times and double-faulted 8times, committing 51 unforced errors.

One of her match points saved came on a controversial call which was overturned due a challenge.

He match against Radwanska was a repeat of the Arustralian Open semifinal where the Slovak won over the Pole to make her first major final.

The Slovak who is in the Sony Open semis for the first time, will enter the top ten for the first time when the rankings come out on Monday.

“I’m really glad, especially about my win today,” Cibulkova said.

“It wasn’t easy at all to play today against Aga with the wind and conditions, and I had to stay aggressive all the time even if I missed many shots, you know.  I just had to keep going.

“So today the match was really tough, and I’m happy about everything, you know.  Before the match, even before the tournament, like they keep asking me, Top 10 and everything, and I just, you know, I just said, like, Okay, if I should be there, I will be there.  If I should not be there, I will not be there.

“So now I’m there.  So finally it’s over.”

“I think it was so close, the second set,” Radwanska said.  “But I think, you know, in those matches you have to play good and you have to be lucky.

“I was just playing good and she was both.”

With Li Na’s win, she became the first Chinese player to reach the Sony Open semifinals.

“I think today I was feeling she was the best to defend in all the tour, so I was feeling a little bit like player against a wall,” Li said about her match against Wozniacki.  “Because doesn’t matter where is it.  She always come and put the ball back to my court.

“After I was finished the match, I was feeling, Wow, you doing good.  You beat a wall.  Yeah.”

Li Na now leads the tour with 20 match wins on the season

On Thursday six–time Sony Open winner No. 1 Serena Williams will take on five-time finalist and No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova in the first women’s semifinal. Williams holds a 15-2 record against the Russian, winning the last 14 straight.

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Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova Set Up Semifinal Meeting at Sony Open

 

(March 25, 2014) It will be a Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova semifinal at the Sony Open as both women defeated quarterfinal opponents in straight sets.

No. 1 Serena Williams made quick work of No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-2, winning 62% of all of the points in the match,  in the first match of the night session on Tuesday.

Williams’s match demonstrated total dominance, unlike her last two matches in which she was pushed to three sets.

“I’m playing a little better,” Williams said.  “I had to play better.  As the tournament progresses you can’t get worse, you have to get better.

“I’m happy to be doing a little better.”

The 17-time major winner still is not totally happy yet.

“The good news is I can play better, so that keeps me really happy, actually.  “So knowing that I can still play several levels higher is good for me.”

No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova came back from a break down in the first set in a rematch of the 2011 Wimbledon final to top Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1. She won 11 of the last 13 games.

“I started getting more chances as we played more games in the first set,” Sharapova said.

“Little by little I started seeing more opportunities and started getting myself back in the points and playing my game, playing well, going inside the baseline.

“You never are sure until you finish the match and you win the last point, but I really felt like I started doing the right things.”

Sharapova, always a bridesmaid but never a bride in Miami – she’s been a finalist five times has never won a Sony Open title.

It will be Williams against Sharapova for a place in the Key Biscayne final. Williams holds an overwhelming record against the Russian 15-2. The last time Sharapova beat Williams was back in 2004.

“Well, when you’re playing, you know, champions, you have to play your best.” Williams said.  “So she always plays her best and her heart out against me.

“We just have to bring the best because we both are really good players.”

“It’s no secret that she’s been a big challenge of mine, an opponent that obviously I would love to beat,” Sharapova said.  “There are certainly, you know, ways that I need to step up in certain situations that I haven’t been able to do in the past against her.

“But it’s great that I have come to that stage and have the opportunity to play her again.”

“I love playing her,” said the six-time Sony Open winner Williams about playing Sharapova.  “I really do.  Doesn’t matter what surface or anything.  She’s one of my favorite people to play. And so I think that helps, too, when you’re like playing people.  I think it just gets you really pumped.”

“I feel in the last few times I have played I have had my chances and opportunity and something that maybe I didn’t quite create, you know, say, a couple years ago,” Sharapova said to media.

“It’s about taking those.  Someone, an opponent that plays with so much confidence and so much power, you really need to take those few opportunities that you have.”

 

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Serena Williams Crushes, Maria Sharapova Rebounds to Advance at Sony Open

(March 24, 2014) In a tale of two different matches, expected results as No. 1 Serena Williams and fourth seed Maria Sharapova reached the quarterfinals of the Sony Open on Monday.

Williams dismissed American countrywoman qualifier CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-1 to reach the elite 8 in Miami for the 13th time in 14 appearances.

After her first two matches in the tournament she showed some rust, Williams cleaned up her game hitting 17 winners to only 11 unforced errors and stopping all six break points she faced.

“I was definitely happier today,” Williams said.  “I was really struggling my first two matches, so I just wanted to have a better performance today.”

“She’s improved a great deal,” Williams said of her opponent’s game.  “Her focus is so much better.  Her movement is good.  Her attitude is great.  She’s a nice girl.

“You know, it’s always fun to play with young Americans, I think, and just enjoy it.  It’s so good to see another American doing really well.”

Williams was so impressed with the young American that she spoke to her about possible playing doubles.

“She said, `Listen, you played so well. We’ve got to play doubles. We’d do so well,’” Vandeweghe said.

Next up for Williams will be the No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber, who beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

“It will be good to play a different opponent,” Williams said.  “I feel like I have played the same person three times in a row.  It will be nice to play a lefty, someone that just plays different.

“Angelique has been able to beat me in the past, so I have to be really focused and be ready in that match.”

 

Maris Sharapova had to reset from a first set drubbing to beat Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The Belgium jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and Sharapova could only win five points during those four games. In the second set Sharapova jumped out to a 4-0 lead, then Flipkens won 4 out of 5 games, but Sharapova broke serve to take the set 6-4.

“I usually like playing the first match, but I didn’t start off the way I wanted to,” Sharapova said. “Nothing was working.”

“Nothing was working in the first set,” Sharapova said. “Yeah, that’s just the way it went in the beginning.

“She’s a different type of opponent. There aren’t too many girls that hit a slice backhand 90% of the time in the rallies. You expect that because she’s been around for a long time, and it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but I wasn’t doing too much from my end and made a lot of mistakes from the first ball, which gives your opponent that confidence and the time they need to do whatever they want.

“It was about finding that combination of getting something in to give her something to play with.”

Sharapova’s momentum carried over into the final set where she kept her errors low and her aggression high, dropping only one more game.

Final stats for Sharapova- 36 unforced errors, 13 winners and 10 double-faults.

Sharapova will play the woman she lost to in the 2011 Wimbledon finals, No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. Kvitova regrouped to stop Ana Ivanovic 3-6, 6-0, 6-0.

“We haven’t played for a long time, but we have always had interesting, tough matches against each other,” Sharapova said about her next opponent.  “I think we know what to expect from one another.  She’s always tricky because she is a lefty.  You don’t play so many out there.  I already had one in this tournament, so maybe that was good practice for it.

“She has a different game than someone like Safarova.  She has a powerful game and goes for her shots, and when she’s on it’s tricky to play against her.”

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Maria Sharapova Wins Thriller over Lucie Safarova to Advance at Sony Open

Sharapova fh

(March 22, 2014) Maria Sharapova was pushed hard by Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-2 in a three hour contest to move into the round of 16 at the Sony Open. The No. 4 seed won the match on her ninth match point over a pesky opponent, 56 minutes after her first match point, which came in the second set tiebreaker.

Safarova saved 6 match points against Sharapova in the final game of the match with a series of winners.

“There are so many emotions and there are so many ups and downs,” Sharapova said. “You finish off the first set and then I was down a couple of breaks in the second.  Then I brought it back up, and then I had my chances to win that match.  And then it went to a third.

“So of course you’re going through a lot, that I was really happy that I was able to come back after losing the second set and not letting that affect me, although it’s always challenging to know that you had the match so close.”

At the end of the match, instead of the traditional handshake, the women exchanged hugs.

“She was coming up with some really good shots,” said the winner.  “There was not really much that I could do.

“She’s going for her shots and she was hitting winners on the run.  I tried to stay focused, and I think I did a good job of that.  It would have been very easy to let that game go.

“I’m happy to be sitting here winning the match,” the Russian said in press.  “Obviously it was tough to lose that second set after having a couple of match points, but I was really happy with the way I came out.”

Both Sharapova and top seed Serena Williams’ matches were three-set thrillers. Williams stopped Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Serena Williams Pushes Past Caroline Garcia into Miami Round of 16

In the past, early round matches for the women were considered by some as “warm ups” for the rest of the tournament. Sharapova said that nowadays that’s not the case and that women’s tennis is much more competitive.

“I’d say five years ago I’d say you’d consider the first couple of rounds as a warmup to the tournament,” said the fourth seed.  “You don’t see that now.  You don’t see players that are seeded playing the first round, but they have had great wins.

“Someone like (Caroline) Garcia, she’s played three sets against me.  She’s an up and comer and playing really well.

“So we all know that everyone can play, and that’s really why there is a draw and the net goes up in the morning, is because you have to play those matches.

“But it is exciting for women’s tennis.”

In other women’s action on the day:

No. 9 seed Sara Errani fell to Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Kirsten Fipkens advanced into the next round when No. 14 seed Sabine Lisicki withdrew from the tournament due to the flu.

Other seeds advancing on the day were No. 5 Angelique Kerber who beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-0, 6-2, No. 12 seed Ana Ivanovic who topped Indian Wells winner No. 20 seed Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-3, No. 8 Petra Kvitova who beat teen qualifier Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4.

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Maria Sharapova Leads Off Sony Open Night Session with a Win

Maria Sharapova with media

(March 20, 2014) Five-time Sony Open finalist and fourth seed Maria Sharapova beat Kurumi Nara 6-3, 6-4 to begin the Thursday night session in Key Biscayne.

“She made me work extremely hard today,” Sharapova said.  “She’s a really quick opponent, got a lot of balls back, as you saw, made me hit a lot, and made me feel like ‑‑ tried to do too much in certain situations.

Although Sharapova’s match lead off the night session, fans not attending the tourney were unable to watch it on television or on live stream. This was pointed out to Sharapova in her post-match news conference.

“I’m not exactly sure of the logistics of TV, but I know it’s different at every tournament,” Sharapova said.  “Everyone has different rights.  ATP and WTA has different contracts.

“I’m not aware of that.  I’m happy to be on the schedule at this point.”

Always a bridesmaid but never a bride at the Sony Open for Sharapova who has lost five finals.

“I have been close, and I have had my fair share of chances of winning the tournament,” said the Russian.  “Obviously I’m still looking for that.

“But with that said, I have had really great experiences, great matches here, and it would be really special if I could win it, for sure.”

She isn’t giving up her quest for title in Key Biscayne.

“I expect to win because I have won before.  I have won tournaments before.

“So when you’re in the draw, that sense of competitiveness and presence that you have has to be positive and not thinking that I’m here to let somebody, you know, get in the way of what I should do.

“I want to go out there and get it myself, and that’s the attitude that I have.”

The victory puts the Russian into the third round where she’ll play lefthander Lucia Safarova.

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Defending Champion Maria Sharapova Falls to Qualifier Camila Giorgi at Indian Wells

Camila Giorgi

Camila Giorgi

(March 10, 2014) INDIAN WELLS – Qualifier Camila Giorgi stunned defending BNP Paribas Open champion Maria Sharapova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the third round on Monday. The win marked the first time that the 22 year-old Italian ranked at 79th in the world wan a match over a top five player. For Sharapova it was her first loss to someone ranked below the top 30 since 2013 Wimbledon.

It was very far from a clean match from the Russian who committed 58 unforced errors to Giorgi’s 48 and hit 9 double-faults to the Italian’s 11. There were a total of 15 breaks of serve during the match.

“I did not play a good match at all, and, you know, I started very poorly,” Sharapova said.  “Never played against her, but she’s someone that doesn’t give you much rhythm.  She’s quite aggressive, but some shots she hits incredible for a long period of time.  Sometimes they go off a bit.

“But, you know, if I’m speaking about my level, it was nowhere near where it should have been.”

“It was really good match,” Giorgi said.  “I think so.  I mean, wasn’t too consistent, but was great.”

“It was good because I was in the point in a good moment.  It was really important even, but just in the third set was really important to do it, so I was happy.’

“When I’m in the court I don’t think about the crowd,” Giorgi said answering a questions about her possible nerves during the match.  I just try to play my game and just keep going.

“If something, even if I miss, I just still going.  I’m going my game.  I don’t change it.”

Sharapova fh

Sharapova despite all of the errors, still had chances to win. At 4-4 in the final set the Russian was broken over a disputed line call. Her shot was called long and she raised her arms, which the chair umpire thought was a challenge, which showed the ball as out. Sharapova debated with the umpire and questioned who made the out call. The umpire disagreed and Sharapova was broken.

“Just because I heard the call from her box rather than from the line judge first, which wasn’t right at the beginning,” Sharapova said.  “Then I asked her why that happened and she thought I challenged the ball, which I have no problem admitting if I challenged a call.

“Then she went with it and I had no challenges left.  It’s not a big deal, but, I mean, I have no problem admitting if I challenged a call.  I’m not sure why she wouldn’t believe me if I wasn’t challenging it actually.  But I guess I was giving, you know, the hand gesture just because I had the out call from the sidelines rather than from the line judge.

“She says that the crowd has nothing to do with the match.  And, yes, he did call the ball out before the line judge did, but that’s just external interference and that has nothing to do.  Just have to keep playing, which is fine.

“And then she thought by doing that I was challenging the call, so…”

As for her opponent, Sharapova said: “I think if she played at this level for a consistent period of time I don’t think she’d be a qualifier here.  I think that’s pretty obvious for everyone in this room.

“But that’s the thing with tennis, is that ‑‑ and I have said it so many times ‑‑ you’ve got to bring this type of tennis when you’re playing on center court or when you’re playing on Court 18.  And especially when you’re just moving up and when you’re just getting that confidence and you’re playing well in Grand Slams, you’ve got to back it up.

“It’s a big challenge.  It really is.  Consistency is a big factor.  But if she keeps it up, I mean, if she can play like that on a consistent basis, I mean, she will be a good player.”

Giorgi also commented about her consistency in order for her to be a seeded player at events down the line.

“I think so I need to keep going, to play tournaments and be more consistent, to play more, because last year wasn’t like this for problems, injury.

“But I think is more important to play many matches and get to be with these kind of matches that will help lot to my game.

“I was trying to just play my game, and maybe I accelerate more than the other set.  I just play more aggressive.  I think this was the point.”

Sharapova will see her ranking fall to No. 7 and possibly to No. 8 if Petra Kvitova makes the quarterfinals.

Giorgi will play countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in the round of 16.

More to follow…..

 

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Li Na and Maria Sharapova Advance While Angelique Kerber Falls at Indian Wells

 

 

Li Na

Li Na

(March 8, 2014) INDIAN WELLS, California – No. 1 seed Li Na beat Chinese countrywoman Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5, while fourth seed Maria Sharapova began the defense of her title with an easy 6-1, 6-4 victory over Julia Goerges.

Two seeded German women fell – No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber was upset 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 by Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor while Aleksandra Wozniack stopped No. 15 seed Sabine Lisicki 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 (5).

Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was a set and a break down before stopping Elina Svitolina.

“I just tried to fight her at every point,” Ivanovic said of the turnaround in the second set. It probably wasn’t the best game I had played. I had lot of unforced errors I tried to stick with it and play each point and not try to think about the errors that I made and just to put pressure on her forehand and that worked well for me. I was very happy to manage to come back.”

In the night session, Sloane Stephens ran off the last nine games in a 6-4, 6-0 win over Ajla Tomljanovic. Advancing easily were No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova, No. 11 Ana Ivanovic and No. 12 Dominika Cibulkova.

For Li Na, this is her second tournament since winning the Australian Open.

“This is the first match after Doha, two weeks, and of course for I cannot be 100 percent for the first match,” Li said. “But I was happy. At least I can learn something from today’s match.”

This also marks the first time that Li has been the top seed in a premier mandatory event.

“The first match always tough, because like I say before, you didn’t know what happen on the court,” Li said.  “All you can do is like to try to do your best.  If you cannot hit good tennis, only one way is running all the shots and to fight every point.”

“First time to be the top seed in a big tournament.  Yeah, at least I’m still in the tournament,” she said smiling.

Li will play Karolina Pliskova next in the third round, who took out No. 28 seed Klara Zakopalova 7-5, 6-2,

“The first matches are always a little bit tricky, especially having not played in a few weeks indoor or outdoor,” Sharapova said.

“Tricky opponent, and she’s capable of playing good tennis.  She hasn’t been as consistent as she probably would have liked recently, but she’s had her results.  She’s beaten top players before, so the first round, that’s never easy, but I thought I did what I had to do.  Certainly improvements that I could make.”

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Around the Grounds of the BNP Paribas Open in photos for March 8

(March 8, 2014) Photographer David Sweet (@DavidSweetPhoto) snapped photos all around the grounds  and n the interview room of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday for Tennis Panorama News.

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