A new champion will be crowned from one of the most wide-open fields in many years at this year’s BNP Paribas Open. A wrist injury has sidelined defending champion Dominic Thiem, while the four men before him who prevailed in the desert – Juan Martin del Potro, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – are all absent.
Not since 2010, when Federer’s coach Ivan Ljubicic defeated Andy Roddick, has another name triumphed. US Open champion Daniil Medvedev is the top seed ahead of Rolex Monte Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, but of the top eight seeds, only one has reached the quarter-finals in the desert before.
Here is a rundown on the top eight seeds…
1. Daniil Medvedev: The Russian was ruthless in his sole match on Laver Cup duties in Boston less than a fortnight ago, allowing Denis Shapovalov just four games. It was a rested and reassured Medvedev who returned to competition following his breakthrough maiden major in New York (d. Djokovic). Medvedev, who also boasts titles in Marseille, Mallorca and the ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Toronto this year, is yet to shine at Indian Wells, arriving with a modest 3-3 record, following round of 32 appearances in 2018 and 2019.
2. Stefanos Tsitsipas: The 23-year-old scored a first victory over Nick Kyrgios in three ATP Head2Head meetings in Boston in his first match since a five-set third-round exit at the US Open, where he fell to #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. The Greek has reached the quarter-finals in five of his six Masters 1000 events this season, winning in Monte-Carlo, but only has a 1-2 record in the desert, which includes a loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime in his opening match of the 2019 edition.
3. Alexander Zverev: Medvedev may have landed the silverware in New York, but Zverev bagged the gold at the Tokyo Olympics as part of a 16-match winning streak, which Djokovic ended in the US Open semi-finals. Victory over John Isner at the Laver Cup has the German at 17-1 since Wimbledon, but he stands at 5-4 at Indian Wells, where he has reached the round of 16 just once, in a 2016 defeat to Nadal.
4. Andrey Rublev: After reaching his eighth semi-final of the season at the weekend in San Diego (l. to Norrie), the Russian continues his California campaign at Indian Wells where he holds a 1-2 record, including a round of 32 run in 2018 as a lucky loser. Rublev has reached two Masters 1000 finals this year (Monte Carlo and Cincinnati) and pursues his first trophy since Rotterdam in February.
5. Matteo Berrettini: The Italian backed up his maiden run to a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon with his third straight major quarter-final where Djokovic again had his number in New York. The 25-year-old, a champion at Belgrade and the Queen’s Club, beat Auger-Aliassime in his sole Laver Cup singles outing, but arrives at Indian Wells having never won a match from two main draw appearances.
6. Casper Ruud: The first five-time titlist of 2021, Ruud is on a roll since his second-round loss at the US Open (l. to van de Zandschulp). The Norwegian beat Reilly Opelka in his Laver Cup debut and went on to win his first hard-court title at the San Diego Open (d. Norrie). He has twice contested qualifying at Indian Wells, where he failed to make the main draw both times.
7. Felix Auger-Aliassime: Despite a defeat to Berrettini in Boston, the 21-year-old returns for his third appearance at Indian Wells on the back of a maiden Grand Slam semi-final showing at the US Open (l. to Medvedev). Sitting 11th in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, the Canadian will be keen to stamp his claim for a Nitto ATP Finals berth in the desert, where his 3-2 record includes a win over then No. 10 Tsitsipas to reach the round of 32 in 2019.
8. Hubert Hurkacz: The Pole added the Metz trophy less than a fortnight ago for his second title of 2021, following his Masters 1000 triumph in Miami. The only top-eight seed to have reached the quarter-finals at Indian Wells (4-1 record), the Pole did so on debut two years ago, when he defeated three Top 30 players in succession – Lucas Pouille, Kei Nishikori and Shapovalov – before falling to eventual runner-up Federer.