World’s top players head to Indian Wells
We get the first chance since the Australian Open to see all the world’s top players in the same tournament this week as both the ATP and WTA tours head to Indian Wells.
The BNP Paribas Open is the first of nine ATP 1000 events for the men and a Premier Mandatory Event for the women and so there is a very strong field in both draws.
Keep reading for our preview of all this week’s tennis action.
BNP Paribas Open – Women
Indian Wells is one of the WTA calendar’s four most prestigious stops (outside the Grand Slams) and was the first event in the world to offer the Hawk-Eye challenge system on every match court in 2011.
The main story in the women’s event is that Serena Williams will end her 14 year boycott of this event and participate for the first time since she won the competition in 2001.
Williams was scheduled to face her sister in the semi-finals that year and after Venus withdrew due to injury there were speculations of match-fixing and Serena was roundly booed during the final and in the post-match presentation ceremony.
The world number one told Time magazine:
“I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove. I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game. And it is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015.”
With all of the world’ top ten women – Petra Kvitova excepted – in action it promises to be an intriguing event as there has been no dominant force in women’s tennis this year.
Maria Sharapova has won a Tour event in 2015 and was the beaten finalist at the Australian Open although she hasn’t won the Indian Wells title since 2006. Simona Halep has won two Tour events in 2015 and the world number three should go well while Caroline Wozniacki won in Malaysia last week and is a three-time finalist in Indian Wells.
Victoria Azarenka has fallen down the rankings after injury but reached the final in Qatar recently and won the event in 2012. We fancy the Belarusian to knock out one or two higher ranked players in a run to the later stages.
If you’re looking for an outside bet then one of the form players on the WTA tour at the moment is Timea Bacsinsky. The Swiss player won the tournament in Acapulco a fortnight ago and beat both Ursula Radwanska and Sara Errani on the way to the title in Monterrey last week.
The world number 41 is in great tournament form and could be one to watch at longer odds.
BNP Paribas Open – Men
The Indian Wells hard court tournament is the best attended tennis tournament outside the four Grand Slam tournaments, with over 370,000 visitors during the event. It also has the fourth largest permanent tennis stadium in the world and so perhaps it’s not a surprise that all the big guns are in action this week.
All of the world’s top ten are in California and it promises to be a terrific couple of weeks of tennis. The final could well be a repeat of last year’s classic when Novak Djokovic ended Roger Federer’s eleven match winning streak in Indian Wells to take his third title.
The Serb won 3-6 6-3 7-6 on that occasion but Federer proved a couple of weeks ago that he can still get the better of the world number one.
Federer won the Dubai final 6-3 7-5 and as a four time winner of this tournament he could certainly go well this year.
Rafael Nadal won his first tournament since returning from injury at the Argentinean Open a couple of weeks ago although it’s worth remembering that was on his favoured clay. Nadal is a three time winner in Indian Wells but his best form may be saved for the clay court swing in the next couple of months.
Andy Murray has fallen back to world number six after surprise defeats in both Rotterdam and Dubai and his best performance in Indian Wells was as a beaten finalist in 2009.
Kei Nishikori won on the hard courts of Memphis last month and is likely to reach the latter stages while it may be worth keeping an eye on the in-form David Ferrer who has won two ATP titles in the last month.