The BNP Paribas Masters tournament in Indian Wells boasts a lush setting in the California desert, a multi-billionaire owner in Larry Ellison, a state-of-the art (and ever-expanding) facility, and - along with the Miami Masters - the most lucrative prize pool of any non-major.
It's for these and other reasons that the tournament holds itself above other ATP and WTA events, often referring to itself as the "Fifth Major." Now, it wants to be officially recognized as such.
Tournament director Ray Moore told Carole Bouchard of The Yellow Ball Corner on Tuesday he has lobbied the ATP for the right to be reclassified as something like a Super Masters event, with a point and payout structure that would place it somewhere between the other eight 1000-level events (or seven, as the Shanghai Rolex Masters organizers have reportedly requested the same provision) and the four Grand Slams.
"We're very interested in having a different category so we can have more points and more prize money for the players," Moore told Bouchard.
Moore also hopes to make the tournament a two-week event rather than 10 days, and increase the breadth of the draw to 128 players (the same size as a Slam draw) from 96. He notes, however, that none of this can happen until at least 2019, since tennis' organizing bodies have an agreed-upon schedule for the next three years.
"It could come in 2019 but not before, as right now the system is set through 2018," Moore said. "So the next year or two the ATP and the WTA will begin to discuss a different format, maybe new categories and we look forward to that."
The WTA has a slightly different tournament-tier structure than the ATP, and though the women play several tournaments in China, the Shanghai event hosts only the men. According to Bouchard, the organizers of that tournament have no intention of making it co-ed.
Indian Wells, on the other hand, is a joint ATP/WTA event, and is seeking to upgrade its status for both men and women, bringing it ever closer to Slam status (on the WTA side, Indian Wells is already one of just four Premier Mandatories - the highest echelon of their three-tiered Premier event structure).
"We could be a Grand Slam," Moore said. "We have the facilities and the space, and in terms of land we're twice the size of Wimbledon, the French Open, or the Australian Open. But we're very happy where we are. We're just always pushing to improve ... Tennis is a global sport with a lot of potential, lots of opportunities."