A long-awaited return to Indian Wells

In March 2020 a trip to Indian Wells for one of the biggest tournaments in calendar was called off due to Coronavirus. Little did we know we wouldn’t be back at Indian Wells until 18 months later but Tennis Paradise returns.

It is an unusual time of the year to be heading to California, it is usually a trip in early March when most of the top players return following the Australian Open, but here we are in October, what can we expect?

Who isn’t in Paradise?

Each singles field will have 128 players as usual which means some names and some of the biggest won’t be here!

Roger, Federer, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Borna Coric are just a few men who will not be in California. Jo Konta will not be there, neither will Jennifer Brady and the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams signals their respective seasons have come to an end.

The world number ones, Novak Djokovic and Ash Barty have announced late withdrawals from the competition with rumours that may be that for 2021. Aryna Sabalenka took over as the top seed but she has since pulled out due to a positive Covid-19 test.

The wildcards…

There are a few notable names making an appearance as a wildcard at Indian Wells, they are:

US Open Champion – Emma Raducanu
Former Finalist – Andy Murray

There are also wildcards for Holger Rune, Jack Sock and 18 year old Zachary Svajda who won on his US Open debut earlier this year.

Joining Emma Raducanu is five Americans including Caty McNally as well as 18 year Elsa Jacquemot and Kim Clijsters!

Defending your title, 900+ days later

It does feel like a lifetime ago that Dominic Thiem and Bianca Andreescu won their first Indian Wells titles on March the 17th and 16th respectively, over 925 days ago! We know Dominic won’t defend his title leaving Andreescu with that challenge.

Since winning the title in the last 24 months (excluding the tour break) the Canadian has only played in 17 events and with points coming off her ranking will take a hit. It has been a tough time with injury, those dominating performances we saw in Indian Wells and in New York hasn’t resurfaced. Matches are a bit more of scrap, too much hard work early on in events and with this I can’t see winning once more.

A new men’s champion!

It is guaranteed to happen, there will be a new champion on the ATP Tour.

There is no Federer, Djokovic, Thiem, Nadal or Del Potro which means there will be a new champion in the Californian desert.

The top two seeds, Daniil Medvedev and Alex Zverev will be favourites but expect challenges from elsewhere in the draw. Matteo Berrettini will be one to keep an eye on, there will be some expectancy on Rublev to go far but also Casper Ruud who has been playing well on the hard courts recently.

The ones to watch…

It is an unusual time for Indian Wells, usually its the first tournament for many after Melbourne at the back end of the season it is time to see those who have been in good form this season continue their impressive runs.

All eyes will be on Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, their US Open runs were marvellous. Every time I write about them I just run out of superlatives to use. On the men’s side I would keep an eye on Casper Ruud and Cam Norrie, both have gone to another level this year and I hope they continue their good form in California.

A new women’s champion?

With Naomi Osaka being out it will mean not one of the top ten seeds at Indian Wells would have lifted the trophy before. Bianca Andreescu is the defending champion and former champions in the draw this year also include Simona Halep and two time winner Victoria Azarenka who completed the sunshine double back in 2016.

I would love to see either Simona or Vika win again but you just never know what will happen. It’s a draw where everyone is a contender and it’s a good thing for women’s tennis. My favourite in the conditions would have to be Sabalenka but she can’t get involved in a scrappy match as then the errors become a worry.

Kim’s back a decade later!

Kim Clijsters first played at Indian Wells back in 2000, her debut run ended in the fourth round against Serena Williams and the Belgian went onto win two titles in the dessert back in 2003 and 2005 when she became one of the few players to have done the ‘sunshine double’ 16 years ago.

It has been a decade since Kim last played at Indian Wells, her last match as the second seed in 2011 was a 6-3 1-3 retirement against Marion Bartoli.

Kim’s comeback from February last year has been halted by injury and of course Covid-19, since her return she has played four singles matches losing all four but has always been competitive. She was unlucky recently against Hsieh Su-Wei in Chicago losing a close three set battle and will be hoping to pick up her first win in singles since 2012.

Image credit – bnpparibas

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