The 2023 ATP Masters 1000 action kicks off this fortnight in Indian Wells, California, where the ATP Tour’s finest compete at the BNP Paribas Open from 8-19 March.
Carlos Alcaraz, who will return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with a title run, is the top seed. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the in-form Daniil Medvedev and defending champion Taylor Fritz are also among the contenders at ‘Tennis Paradise’, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch at the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the year.
1) Sunshine Double Begins: The BNP Paribas Open is the first of back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 hard-court events known collectively as the ‘Sunshine Double’. Lifting the trophy in both Indian Wells and at the Miami Open presented by Itau is considered one of the toughest feats in tennis — it was last achieved by Roger Federer in 2017.
2) Double Motivation For Alcaraz: The 2022 Sunshine Double was a memorable one for Alcaraz. The then-18-year-old pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in a blockbuster Indian Wells semi-final before triumphing in Miami, performances which later proved crucial to the Spaniard becoming the youngest No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history last September.
Despite having since dropped to No. 2 below Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz arrives in Indian Wells this year knowing that a title run will secure his return to top spot. The top seed has made an 8-1 start to his 2023 season and will hope to maintain that strong form to claim his third ATP Masters 1000 crown.
3) Stef To Step Up?: Besides Alcaraz, Tsitsipas is the only threat to Djokovic’s No. 1 spot across Indian Wells and Miami. The Greek needs one title and another final from the Sunshine Double events to have a chance of reaching top spot for the first time.
His first priority will be to improve on his modest 5-4 record in Indian Wells, where his best showing was a quarter-final run in 2021. Yet the second-seeded Tsitsipas will be feeling confident after racking up a 13-2 record on hard courts in the first two months of the year.
4) Fritz Defending Champ: Fritz’s title run in Indian Wells was one of the stories of the 2022 season. The American dramatically defeated Nadal in the final despite suffering an ankle injury in the warm-up.
As he returns to defend the title at his hometown tournament, the 25-year-old also has some more recent achievements to draw confidence from — he won the United Cup as part of Team USA in January, lifted his fifth ATP Tour trophy in Delray Beach in February, and arrives in Indian Wells at a career-high No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
5) Red-Hot Medvedev Faces Early Test: The fifth-seeded Medvedev has won his past 14 matches en route to an ATP Tour title hat-trick in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai. Extending that red-hot run in Indian Wells will not be easy, however. The 27-year-old will face a high-quality home favourite — John Isner or Brandon Nakashima — in his opening match at an event where he holds a 6-5 record.
6) Top 10 Stars Seek Success: Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune and Felix Auger-Aliassime all seek their first ATP Tour title for 2023 in southern California.
Of the four, only 2022 semi-finalist Rublev has ever been past the fourth round in Tennis Paradise. The 19-year-old Rune competes in his first ATP Masters 1000 event since becoming a champion at that level for the first time at last November’s Rolex Paris Masters.
7) #NextGenATP Shelton Makes Debut: Alongside Alcaraz and Rune, another young talent in the Indian Wells draw is starting to establish himself among the world’s best — #NextGenATP American Ben Shelton. The 20-year-old lefty, who reached the quarter-finals in his maiden Australian Open campaign in January, will take on the experienced Fabio Fognini on his Indian Wells debut. His reward for victory would be a mouth-watering all-American clash with defending champion Fritz.
8) Can Americans Maintain Momentum?: Fritz and Shelton are two of 14 home favourites in the Indian Wells draw (not including qualifiers). With 10 players from the United States currently in the Top 50 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the emergence of such a strong group of Americans has been one of the talking points of the year so far.
Among those hoping to emulate Fritz and become a home champion in California are four seeded players — Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Maxime Cressy.
9) Wu Aims To Back Up History: Both competing as wild cards, Wu Yibing and Dominic Thiem possess contrasting levels of experience in Indian Wells. Wu, who became the first Chinese ATP Tour titlist in history in February in Dallas, faces Jaume Munar on his event debut. Meanwhile, Thiem is preparing for his seventh appearance at an event where he defeated Federer to lift the trophy in 2019. The Austrian is one of just three former champions in the draw, alongside Fritz and 10th seed Cameron Norrie.
10) Isner/Sock Chase Third Doubles Crown: Home favourites John Isner and Jack Sock team up in pursuit of their third Indian Wells crown, but the 2018 and 2022 champions face stiff competition in California. That includes top seeds Wesley Koolhof/Neal Skupski, second seeds Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury, and Australian Open winners Rinky Hijikata/Jason Kubler.
A host of singles stars will also team up on the doubles court. Ruud partners Thiem, Fritz plays with his countryman Paul, Tiafoe teams with Stan Wawrinka, and Rune competes alongside his fellow #NextGenATP star Shelton.