Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)|Associated Press

Tennis: Neal Abrams previews Indian Wells

Nearly every top player will be vying for the massive prize money in the California desert

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

On Thursday one of the biggest, most influential, and most lucrative tennis tournaments outside of the four Grand Slams begins in Coachella Valley, Calif. The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells for both the ATP Men and the WTA Women starts, with a star-studded cast of entries, along with close to $9,000,000 in prize money. Four out of the top five ranked men are entered, and all five of the top women will try to capture the championship purse of $1,354,010 from a draw of 128 for the 11-day tournament. Each champion will also earn 1,000 ranking points—the most of any tournament outside of the four Grand Slam fortnights.

On the Women’s side, Defending Champion and #1 ranked Naomi Osaka sits on top of the draw and #2 ranked Romanian Simona Halep resides on the bottom. In Osaka’s way to the finals sits Caroline Wozniacki (13th seed), Karolina Pliskova (5), Petra Kvitova (3), and Angela Kerber (8). In Halep’s path are Ash Barty (12), Elina Svitolina (6), Sloane Stephens (4), Serena Williams (10), and Kiki Bertens (7). Former champions this century alone include Williams, Halep, Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Kim Clijsters, and Justine Henin, among others.

The Men’s draw has been dominated recently by the Big Three, not surprisingly, as they have accounted for 13 of the past 15 titles with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer each having won 5, and Rafa Nadal winning three. In this year’s draw, Djokovic is the top seed and Nadal is seeded second. Fourth ranked and fourth seeded Federer sits in Nadal’s path along with Daniil Medvedev (14), Karen Khachanov (12), John Isner (8), and Kei Nishikori (6). Standing in Djokovic’s way, besides 3rd seeded Sascha Zverev are Nick Kyrgios (31), Gael Monfils (18), Dominic Thiem (7), Milos Raonic (13), Stefanos Tsitsipas (9), and Kevin Anderson (5).

The doubles, which begin Thursday also, features the Bryan Brothers as one of the favorites among the Men, and the Williams Sisters, playing together for the first time since last May, and seeded fifth, as the targets for the other women. Doubles winners split over $500,000, so those draws are packed with some really great pairs as partners, and intriguing first round matches.

Tune in early and often to see who will set up their 2019 with superior results here in the California desert. Notably, this tournament precedes the Miami Open, another 11 day coed tournament that offers 1,000 ranking points and the same generous prize money as Indian Wells.

As the players plan their calendar year and try to accumulate ranking points, these two domestic hard court tournaments preface both the European clay court season in the spring and the switch to grass culminating in The Championships at Wimbledon in July. These next eleven days in Indian Wells, in particular, will give tennis fans a preview of what to expect in the spring in Paris, and in the summer at Wimbledon. So grab a drink, make yourself comfortable, and watch the world’s best players battle and entertain. It will be worth your while.

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