INDIAN WELLS: Top two seeds, Russian Daniil Medvedev and Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas, will be bidding for a maiden Indian Wells trophy in the absence of the past five champions when the ATP Tour returns for the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the season at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday.
Following its cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was rescheduled this year to be held in October.
The newest major champion Medvedev, who defeated Novak Djokovic in the US Open final, leads the pack and the Russian will look to maintain his momentum on US soil and claim his second Masters 1000 trophy of the season.
The world No. 2, who defeated Reilly Opelka for the Toronto Masters 1000 trophy, has also claimed titles in Marseille and Mallorca. He will attempt to add another at Indian Wells as the top seed, where he will attempt to build on a modest 3-3 record.
Tsitsipas, in only his third appearance in the BNP Paribas Open, arrives as the second seed. The 23-year-old has shown great consistency at Masters 1000 events this season, advancing to at least the quarterfinals in five of the first six events at this level.
Tsitsipas won his first Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo, where he did not lose a set, and will try to claim his second in Indian Wells, where success has eluded him in the past. The second seed fell in the third round of the US Open before helping Team Europe clinch the Laver Cup in Boston recently.
Since the BNP Paribas Open has not been held since 2019, there are several stars who will make their debut at the Masters 1000 event. Umag champion Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Parma titlist Sebastian Korda of the US lead the bunch.
Alcaraz reached his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal in New York last month, following a five-set upset of world No. 3 Tsitsipas, while Korda advanced to the fourth round at a major for the second time at Wimbledon in July.
A first-time BNP Paribas Open singles champion is guaranteed in 2021. World No. 1 Djokovic is not playing and 2019 finalists, reigning champion Dominic Thiem and five-time champion Roger Federer, are injured. Thiem announced in August he would miss the remainder of the season due to a right wrist injury. Will Cincinnati titlist Alexander Zverev, Russian star Andrey Rublev or Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini seize the opportunity to make their mark in the desert?
Zverev has been on a red-hot run since his fourth-round Wimbledon departure. The German went on a 16-match winning streak - capturing a Tokyo Olympics singles gold medal and his fifth Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati- before Djokovic stopped him in the US Open semifinals.
In his first outing at Indian Wells since 2017, the 2009 runner-up Andy Murray is one of the five main draw wild cards. Murray has compiled a 25-12 record in the desert since his debut in 2006 and reached his first tour-level quarter-final in nearly two years two weeks ago week in Metz.