It’s known as the “Fifth Slam” by tennis fans. The BNP Paribas Open (also simply known as Indian Wells) is one of those tournaments that everyone marks, highlights and circles on their calendars in the new year, and we preview the top things to look out for this year in the desert.
In 2016 Victoria Azarenka completed the “Sunshine Double” by winning both Indian Wells and Miami. Let us never forget the 2016 Indian Wells trophy ceremony where Serena Williams had the greatest photobomb in history.
Since winning Miami, Azarenka has been gone from the tour. Why? She recently became a mother to a baby boy, Leo. While we’re sad the Belarusian won’t return to the desert this year and try to defend the title, we’re happy to see her and baby are doing well! Until Vika returns to the tour for more trophies and epic photos with Serena, we’ll settle for this one… ?
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) February 4, 2017
Never underestimate the depth and talent of the WTA. Unseeded teenagers with little experience can upset the greatest of champions (let us never forget Belinda Bencic defeating Serena Williams in the Rogers Cup semifinals).
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) February 18, 2017
World No. 3 Karolina Pliskova leads the charge of “underdogs” with their eyes on the Indian Wells title. Pliskova has already won two tournaments in 2017 (Brisbane and Doha). Another player who mirrored these results was Simona Halep in 2015 when she held two titles before coming to Indian Wells and overcame the odds to win the tournament.
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) February 28, 2017
Someone on an absolute hot streak right now is Elina Svitolina. The Ukrainian has accomplished so much in recent weeks, namely making her Top 10 debut in the WTA rankings. She is the first Ukrainian woman to hold such a high ranking and she is only 22 years old. Svitolina held a 13-match win streak from Taiwan to Kuala Lumpur (3 tournaments plus a Fed Cup tie) and will come in to Indian Wells smoking hot. With an Olympic victory against Serena Williams and two victories against Angelique Kerber this year, count on her to continue.
Another player to watch out for is World No. 9 Madison Keys who will begin her 2017 season in Indian Wells after a wrist injury kept her out of the Australian Open series. Dominika Cibulkova, Johanna Konta, and the 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki could also pose a threat for the title.
It has been 16 years since Serena Williams last lifted the trophy in the desert (Venus has never won this tournament).
— rennae stubbs (@rennaestubbs) March 14, 2015
In 2015 Serena returned to Indian Wells for the first time since winning the title in 2001. It was by far one of the most emotional moments of Serena’s career. Venus returned to the tournament in 2016, receiving the same reception as her sister. Both are set to return again in 2017! Every time the sisters step on court it’s a special feeling, but nothing quite compares to their comeback to Indian Wells.
In case you’re not familiar with the Williams sisters and their history at the tournament, you can view the story here.
Indian Wells is one of Genie Bouchard’s most consistent tournaments. Bouchard has at least made the third round on all three occasions at the BNP Paribas Open. Her lone loss prior to the third round came in qualifying in 2013 when she faced Elina Svitolina in the first round. Since then, Bouchard has been steady in the desert. Genie will once again return to Indian Wells in 2017 and look to go further than ever before.
.@GenieBouchard crushes a forehand return winner!
— WTA (@WTA) March 13, 2016
One year ago around this time, 2-time Indian Wells champion Maria Sharapova made the shocking announcement that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open and would be receiving her punishment from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in the coming days. A few days later it was announced that Sharapova was suspended from competitive tennis for four years, which has since been reduced to 12-13 months.
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) January 28, 2017
The time has come to make a comeback! Sharapova will return to the tennis tour in April at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany. Sharapova is a 3-time champion in Stuttgart, holding the title from 2012-2014. It’s only fitting that the 5-time Major champion begins her comeback on the European clay.