A mural of 2014 BNP Paribas Open women’s champion Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, was unveiled on Tuesday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

After counting down from three to one in Italian, Pennetta pulled a red-tasseled cord and ripped a large, butcher-paper-brown shroud off a life-size portrait of the champ.

“It’s so nice!” Pennetta exclaimed, clapping her hands and looking up at the colorful artwork painted on tiles.

“I’m really happy to be back – I have so many good memories,” she said. “It’s really a pleasure to have something like that – something I will remember forever. I think this is the best tournament of the year. It’s amazing for me to have something I didn’t expect last year, and I hope to do well also this year.”

BNP Paribas Open CEO Raymond Moore praised mural artist during his comments.

“I came across the artist, Mike Sullivan, through a friend of mine, Dr. Merle Bolton (CEO of Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower Medical Center) and he showed me all of his work – there’s almost not a stadium on a college campus in the United States that does not exhibit his work.

I was really impressed because Steve Simon (BNP Paribas Open tournament director) and I were trying to find a way to dress up the stadium – there’s a lot concrete here. It is the tennis garden, but in addition to the gardens I wanted to bring something else. So we devised this program to always create life-size murals of our defending champions.”

Murals of 2013 BNP Paribas Open champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova and tennis legend John McEnroe alread were unveiled last year. A mural of 2014 men’s tournament champion Novak Djokovic will be unveiled on Wednesday.

Moore said Pennetta’s mural will remain in place until the end of the year and then, “We then move a small version to what I call the corridor of champions, which is inside the stadium. The first time we did this was last year in which Rafa and Maria won the tournament and if you go by Suite 203, you’ll see their murals flanking that suite… Flavia’s and Novak’s will do the same thing.”

“Now if Flavia repeats, she’ll have another mural,” he said as the crowd laughed. And then that would be a differend action shot.

Our plan is to always honor the defending champions. We think it’s special and we’re very happy about it.”

Sullivan, who was in attendance at the ceremony, stopped to chat about his artist creation.

“I wanted to capture the champion’s backhand – the very powerful backhand she used to win the championship last year,” Sullivan said. “It was a great honor for her to be here and to have this ceremony and I hope the visitors and the fans of the BNP Open enjoy it.”

Source: The Desert Sun | March 10, 2015