Singles action at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells kicked off on Wednesday, but Thursday marks the start of play in the men’s singles draw and thus the first complete day of main draw showdowns in the desert.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer headline the men’s field as the trio have combined to win nine of the last 10 tournaments at Indian Wells. Federer, who has won here four times since 2004, is more confident than ever coming in after winning his first title of 2014 in Dubai last week
Meanwhile, with world No. 1 Serena Williams sitting out of the year’s first Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory event again, the women’s draw is wide open.
Reigning Australian Open champion Li Na, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, will enter as the top overall seed. Despite boasting two major titles, Li has never won here, and will face stiff opposition throughout her time in Southern California.
Past champions Maria Sharapova highlight the long list of female contenders to keep an eye on.
With women’s first-round action wrapping up on Thursday and half of the men’s draw taking to the court, there’ll be plenty of intriguing matchups and storylines to watch for.
Roger Federer is coming off a huge title win in Dubai. Is he ready to take out other members of the Big Four? Second-ranked Li Na leads the field of women. Can she capitalize on the momentum she gained in Australia? Defending champions Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova must navigate through tough draws en route to repeating.
With no clear-cut favorite on either side, these are the biggest questions facing the top stars ahead of Indian Wells.
Murray, who is looking to become the sixth player in history to win double-digit ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, commented on the state of his game following his first Latin American venture. While the Scot fell in the semi-finals in Acapulco, he sees the positives in his form after recovering from minor back surgery.
“The first few tournaments back were hard but my body feels good now,” Murray admitted. “Last week in Acapulco I played four matches in four days, three three-set matches, which didn’t start until late. I woke up the next day and felt fine for the first time since the surgery. That shows I am starting to recover properly though which is great.”
Djokovic and Murray, who competed in an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden on Monday, provided a fitting nightcap to an important day focusing on the promotion of tennis in countries throughout the world.
The Mallorcan is back at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where he is due to open his campaign against Radek Stepanek at the weekend, looking to win his third ATP World Tour title of the season, following victories in Doha (d. Monfils) and Rio de Janeiro (d. Dolgopolov). By anyone’s standards, it has been a very strong start to the season, but for Nadal there has been one major disappointment that hasn’t been so easy to shrug off as he prepares for March Mania on the ATP World Tour.