Phoenix's ATP Challenger event finds itself in an unlikely spotlight

Phoenix's ATP Challenger event finds itself in an unlikely spotlight

With Indian Wells' cancellation, the 56-player Arizona Tennis Classic is the only stage for tennis next week in the United States.

For now at least, the show will go on, in Phoenix. With the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the focus of the tennis world will switch gears, and states. 

The Phoenix Country Club is preparing to welcome players for its second-ever ATP Challenger event, the Arizona Tennis Classic, from March 16-22. The increased 56-player field was already going to be strong, but with Indian Wells' second week no longer overlapping with the tournament, there is no limit to the caliber of players who might appear. 

As players scramble for matches and ranking points, Phoenix has suddenly become the most sought-after stop on the ATP calendar. It helps that the 120-year-old country club is just a four-hour drive from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (Another ATP Challenger tournament is taking place next week in Olimpia, Brazil.)

The women will have to travel a lot farther next week in search of points and play, with a WTA 125K Series event taking place in Guadalajara, Mexico. Guadalajara increased its draw from 32 to 56 players and includes six Top-50 players and four additional wildcards. The draw increases followed meetings by tour officials after the cancellation of Indian Wells. There are also a number of men's and women's ITF World Tennis Tour events occurring around the globe.

As of Tuesday, 14 players in the Top 80 will play the Arizona Tennis Classic, including world No. 40 John Millman, veterans Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon, and fast-rising youngsters Miomir Kecmanovic and Janik Sinner. They will be competing for $162,480 in prize money and a maximum of 125 ranking points.

On Wednesday, the tournament announced that Frances Tiafoe would be competing in the tournament. 

Not all of the event's wild cards have been doled out, but they could go to anyone—even a Top 10 player. Last year, world No. 10 David Goffin was given a wild card after losing in the first round of Indian Wells. Matteo Berrettini, who would go on to reach the US Open semifinals, would end up as the inaugural Phoenix champion. 

It's not just the players finding rides east—Tennis Channel announced that its production truck was making its way to Arizona for 60 hours of live match coverage. It's likely unprecedented for an event of this size, but circumstances have made Phoenix must-watch.

Starting on Monday at 2 p.m. ET, the network will show seven days of live tennis, with coverage concluding with the singles and doubles finals on Sunday, March 22, beginning at 4 p.m. ET. Tennis Channel Live will air from 1-2 p.m. ET on Wednesday through Sunday from the network's Los Angeles studio.

Tennis Channel's Brett Haber and Leif Shiras will announce the matches, with Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport, Paul Annacone and Prakash Amritraj offering commentary.

"With daily conversation about this unprecedented moment in the history of the event," says Tennis Channel's Eric Abner, "the team will follow player developments and tennis-related social media activity, and share perspective from on-air and in-studio guests as this story unfolds."