Outside of four Grand Slams, Indian Wells Masters is the most-attended premier tennis event in the combined calendar of ATP and WTA. Like the majors, it has a huge congregation of top stars and it lasts for two weeks. The prestigious annual show is staged at the most beautiful tennis venues of the world and has world’s second largest tennis stadium. The 2015 BNP Paribas Open is the 40th edition that got underway on Thursday. The popularity of the tournament can be gauged from the fact that 46 of top ATP ranked 50 players are taking part in men’s event and most of top WTA stars are in the fray as well. World no.1 Novak Djokovic is the defending champion but the 96 strong men’s singles field has only two other former champions in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The month of March also features another prestigious ATP 1000 event at Miami that will immediately follow Indian Wells. Any one, who can clinch back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami will add 2000 points to his Emirates Ranking points. Top men and women stars will, therefore, spend the entire month of March in California and Miami. While Roger Federer will bid for the unprecedented fifth title, having won in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012, Nadal and Djokovic will attempt to equal Federer’s record. Nadal’s three title victories at Indian Wells came in 2007, 2009 and 2013, while Djokovic emerged victorious in 2008, 2011 and 2014.
The great Federer will chase another record at Indian wells. He is just 3 wins away from making it 50 match wins at Indian Wells Masters, which is unique in another respect. For the first time since Rome Masters in May 2012, the Big Four of tennis will come together in an ATP 1000 tournament as top seeds. Top seed Djokovic leads the field, followed by Federer, Nadal and Murray. In 2014 Wimbledon too, these were the top seeds but Wimbledon is not counted among ATP1000 events. Since Monte-Carlo Masters in 2010, the Big Four have won 39 out of 43 titles. The four exceptions have been Soldering and Ferrer in 2010 and 2012 Paris-Bercy; Wawrinka in 2014 Monte-Carlo and Tsonga in 2014 Toronto. These titles have been shared by Djokovic 15, Nadal 12 and Federer 7. Interestingly, for the most number of career ATP titles, Novak Djokovic is tied at 49 with his current coach Boris Becker and he is closest to the coveted figure of 50. Great Britain’s Andy Murray is also inching towards a record of 496 career wins by a British tennis player. With 492 wins already in his bag, he is just 4 match-wins away from Tim Henman’s feat of 496 wins. If he does that, Murray will emerge as Britain’s most successful tennis player in Open Era. Murray is also close to 500 career wins, a feat achieved by Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych in Dubai last month.
American veteran Mardy Fish is making waves by his return to tennis after 18 months. Three years back, Fish showed signs of a heart problem that was diagnosed as cardiac arrhythmia. He had to endure a medical procedure but soon afterwards, Fish began suffering from psychological problems. With such personal setbacks, his return to active tennis will be the life’s new chapter for Fish, who plays his first match after 18 months against fellow American Ryan Harrison. For Fish, this is the 13th visit to Indian Wells and his best performance came in 2008 when lost to Djokovic in the final.
America’s celebrated tennis doubles player of Bob and Mike Bryan won their first Indian Wells title in 2013 after 15 earlier attempts. They successfully defended that title last year and this year, they will attempt to make it three-in-a-row.
Federer and Nadal have been bracketed in the bottom half for a likely semifinal encounter. Before that however, Federer will need to get past compatriot Stan Wawrinka, if the two keep winning their earlier round matches. Nadal is also set for a tough quarterfinal challenge by Canadian star Milos Raonic. In the top half, defending champion Djokovic is drawn to meet David Ferrer in quarter-final, while in the other quarterfinal, it could be a showdown between Andy Murray and Japanese Kei Nishikori.
In the women’s field, no.1 seed Serena Williams, no.2 Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova are among eight players to have won the BNP Paribas Open title twice. They share the feat with such illustrious greats as Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Mary Joe Fernandez. 19-time Grand Slam winner Serena is coming to Indian Wells with an 11-match winning streak that includes the most recent US and Australian Opens. But Serena’s two victories have come here more than 14 years ago in 1999 and 2001. Sharapova is not far behind having won Indian Wells in 2006 and 2013. She is playing well this year with a victory at Brisbane and reaching the final of the 2015 Australian Open. Sharapova however, has a tough draw in which she will have to get past former champion Ana Ivanovic, last year’s winner Flavia Pennetta, and 2012 champion Victoria Azarenka. Other players in Sharapova’s half include; Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard Madison Keys and former champion Jelena Jankovic.