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4 things to know for Indian Wells

Mar 01, 2017
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada
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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.

Defending champion not in attendance

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.

@vichka35 lol ? #ultimatePhotobomb

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

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… ?

Threatening underdogs

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).

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.

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.

Serena and Venus return

It has been 16 years since Serena Williams last lifted the trophy in the desert (Venus has never won this tournament).

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.

We hope you come back year after year after year, #Venus. Welcome back #BNPPO16

A post shared by BNP Paribas Open (@bnpparibasopen) on

In case you’re not familiar with the Williams sisters and their history at the tournament, you can view the story here.

Genie’s hot run in the desert

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.

Bonus note: Anniversary date

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.

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.