The BNP Paribas Open could almost be called a rite of spring – even if that would be a touch premature according to the calendar.

Indian Wells is in the Coachella Valley about 100 miles east of Los Angeles and each year attracts tennis aficionados from far and wide as much for the sensory pleasures of the event as for the sport and its players.

At the top here is a picture of an early match Tuesday on Stadium 4, which happens to also feature the national flags of Canada and Ukraine in a bit of coincidental serendipity in view of Canada’s support for the war-torn nation.

As a complement to being in such a pleasurable experience, the tournament this year has embarked on an environmentally friendly campaign that means it is transforming to a mainly paper-free tournament.

There will be no tournament programme available to fans when they arrive, neither will there be daily draw-sheets to peruse – all that kind of information will be found digitally on the smartphones of 2022 visitors to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The changes also affect the media attending this year’s edition of the tournament with all the information – draw sheets, daily order of play and player interview schedules etc. – to be transmitted digitally.

When visitors take a look on their smartphones they will find a 2022 tournament that features three-time Indian Wells champion Rafael Nadal as the head-liner ahead of the new world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev on the men’s side, as well as four-time Grand Slam winner and unlikely current world No. 78, Naomi Osaka. She is the focus of attention in the women’s draw above the tournament’s remaining top seed – now No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka after world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty elected not to play and No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova withdrew Tuesday with an elbow injury. If there was any debate about Osaka’s prominence in this field, it was dispelled when she drew fellow-former US Open champion Sloane Stephens for a blockbuster opening-round encounter.

Whether or not the unvaccinated Novak Djokovic, seeded No. 2 when Tuesday’s men’s draw was done, is indeed able to travel to the California Desert and play, is above the pay grade of this tennis journalist to speculate about.

In terms of the Canadians, Leylah Fernandez is the only woman in the main draw and she’s coming from her title last week at the WTA 250 event in Monterrey.

Seeded No. 18, she will face the winner of two Americans – No. 43-ranked Amanda Anisimova and No. 200 Emma Navarro – in the second round with the possibility of match-ups in the third and fourth rounds against No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko and No. 5 seed and defending champion Paula Badosa.

In last October’s edition of the BNP Paribas Open, Fernandez’s first event after reaching the final of the US Open, she defeated No. 64-ranked Alizé Cornet and No. 13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenko before losing 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) to No. 44 Shelby Rogers.

In the men’s draw Félix Auger-Aliassime is seeded ninth and will have a bye before facing the winner of a match between a qualifier and No. 47-ranked Botic van de Zandschulp. It would be an ironic confrontation if the Dutchman makes it through because he and Auger-Aliassime were scheduled to play each other when Canada took on the Dutch in Davis Cup action in The Hague last weekend.

In the third round, Auger-Aliassime could play No. 24 Marin Cilic, whom he beat in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, and then potentially a good friend, the sixth-seeded Matteo Berrettini, in the round of 16. Last October in Indian Wells, the No. 9-ranked Auger-Aliassime lost his opening match to Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He currently sits just 32 points (3915 to 3883) behind eighth-ranked Casper Ruud and could overtake him with a decent showing in the coming days.

Denis Shapovalov, seeded 13th, (practicing above with Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday) gets a first-round bye before taking on the winner of No. 45-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Borna Coric, the 25-year old Croat who’s using a protected ranking to enter after right shoulder surgery last May and not having played a tournament since Rotterdam in 2021. In the third round Shapovalov could play No. 17 seed Reilly Opelka with the No. 4 seed, and man-of-the moment, Nadal a possible round-of-16 opponent.

This is the 22-year-old Shapovalov’s fourth Indian Wells event, with his best showing coming in 2019 when he reached the fourth round before losing to Hubert Hurkacz.

A third Canadian is hoping to make the main draw after Vasek Pospisil won his first round of qualifying match on Tuesday defeating No. 148 ranked Egor Gerasimov of Belarus – but stateless in terms of the men’s tour at the moment – 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Pospisil started slowly, having to save two break points in his opening service game. The set then went on serve to 5-4 for Gerasimov when Pospisil took a medical time-out to get some work done on his upper left leg.

He got to 30-all in the following game on serve but badly missed a forehand volley into the net at 30-40 and then a forehand in the net to drop the 42-minute opening set.

Things began to turn his way in the second set as he picked up his game and the 29-year-old Belorussian began to lose his edge. Pospisil broke to 3-2 and made it hold for the set and then continued his dominant play in the third – quickly grabbing a 4-1, double-break lead before Gerasimov made a last stand with a break back, closing to 3-4.

Things got a little dicey near the end but Pospisil was able to win the key points when it mattered most to finish matters in two hours and eight minutes.

“I just stayed in there and did what I could,” he said about turning things around after the first set. “I was playing well, hitting the ball cleanly even though I had fitness issues. I’m tired because I’ve been traveling a lot (including winning a Challenger title in Pau, France, two weeks ago and then reaching the semi-finals of another Challenger in Turin, Italy, last week).”

Asked about the medical time-out in the first set, Pospisil said, “it was a quad strain and I had some trouble pushing off on it at times.”

He did look weary after the match but his opponent on Wednesday, Thanasi Kokkinakis, probably isn’t a frisky kangaroo himself after traveling from last weekend’s Davis Cup action in Sydney, Australia, where he won the fifth and decisive match over Zsombar Piros of Hungary.

The No. 97-ranked Kokkinakis is resurgent after winning his first career title at the Adelaide 2 event before the Australian Open and then triumphing in doubles at Melbourne Park with his great mate Nick Kyrgios.

In Tuesday’s first round of qualifying, the 25-year-old defeated No. 174-ranked Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-3, 6-4.

The Pospisil – Kokkinakis match is slated second on Stadium 3 after an 11 a.m. (2 p.m. ET Canada) start, with a spot in the main draw on the line.


Rumours of Rafa: On Monday these two young women had heard that Rafael Nadal was nearby and set off trying to get there as quickly as possible. We have no report about whether the legendary Spaniard ever actually appeared somewhere in the vicinity.

Hana’s daughter: Hana Mandlikova of the former Czechoslovakia won four Grand Slam singles titles during her career, and was effectively No. 3 behind the two supernovas of her era – Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Now, 60, Mandlikova won the Aussie Open in 1980 and 1987, Roland Garros in 1981, the US Open in 1985 and was a two-time Wimbledon runner-up – in 1981 and 1986.

Her daughter Elizabeth Mandlik, 20 and ranked No. 313, was in the qualifying this week but was beaten 6-2, 6-1 by No. 111 Viktorija Tomova of Bulgaria on Monday.

Mandlik is quick and a good mover on the court but she is a classic baseliner and has little of the flare and flowing, all-round game that made her mother one of the classic stylists in the history of the sport.

On grass – real grass: The large lawn behind Stadium 1 is a playground for players to just lounge around on as well as a spot where they can do moderate exercising. In the picture here on the left is Ugo Humbert of France in some kind of routine with his fitness trainer. We weren’t able to identify the fellow contorting himself on the right.

The high life: These cozy seats await high-lifers during this year’s tournament.

In a large grassy, treed area nearby (below), there’s another option for those more common folk.


Late in the day when the shadows are long as the sun sets behind the Santa Rosa Mountains, there are some interesting effects on the practice courts.