Defending champion Novak Djokovic leads the Indian Wells Masters field – watch the 2015 BNP Paribas Open live from Thursday 12 March.
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Three-time Indian Wells Masters champion Djokovic returns to the ‘fifth Grand Slam’ in the California desert as the world no. 1 after turning around his season with a three-set defeat of Roger Federer in the 2014 final, going on to capture Masters 1000 titles in Miami, Rome and Paris as well as the Wimbledon and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals titles. Djokovic, and perennial rival Rafael Nadal, will both be aiming to tie Federer’s four Indian Wells titles when the BNP Paribas Open begins on Thursday 12 March.
Four-time BNP Paribas Open champion Roger Federer in action at Indian Wells (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
One of nine Masters 1000 events on the ATP World Tour calendar, Indian Wells has evolved into the most-attended tournament outside the four Grand Slams since it was first played in 1976. Along with the event which follows it in Miami, Indian Wells is the only Masters event to boast a Grand Slam-sized draw of 128 players each year. Coupled with the fact that its location since 2000, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, boasts a 16,000-seat stadium which is the second largest tennis court in the world, and the BNP Paribas Open can truly lay claim to being one of the world’s biggest tennis events, if not the biggest, outside the Grand Slams and the season-ending championships.
Indian Wells’s primacy is backed up by its position on the calendar: The first Masters 1000 event of the season, it sits equidistant between the first and second Grand Slams of the year, January’s Australian Open and late May’s French Open. The BNP Paribas Open is also a major women’s event, with the women’s event initially played the week before the men’s before becoming a combined tournament in 1996. Between the biggest stars of the ATP and the WTA, the event attracted a record 431,527 fans in 2014, helped by the new 8,000-seat Stadium 2 court which opened for the first time that year.
Since six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker won the first of his back-to-back titles in 1987, the BNP Paribas Open has consistently featured the biggest stars, with many of the legends of men’s tennis lifting the trophy including Stefan Edberg (1990), Jim Courier (1991, 1993), Michael Chang (1992, 1996-7), Pete Sampras (1994-5) and Andre Agassi (2001).
Rafael Nadal celebrates victory at Indian Wells in 2013 (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
No player, however, has yet matched Roger Federer’s record of four titles at Indian Wells, winning an unprecedented three straight titles between 2004 and 2006 and returning to the winners’ circle at the BNP Paribas Open in 2012, when he beat John Isner in the final.
Indian Wells has followed the general trend of men’s tennis, with only one player not named Djokovic, Federer or Nadal – Ivan Ljubicic in 2010 – winning the Masters 1000 title since 2004. Nadal and Djokovic both have a trio of titles to their names and will be bidding to equal Federer’s four-trophy haul when they return to the BNP Paribas Open in 2015.
With Djokovic extending his lead over world no. 2 Federer in the rankings when he won the 2015 Australian Open, the Swiss player has the opportunity to strike back and recover from his early Melbourne defeat to Andreas Seppi at the BNP Paribas Open, while Nadal – who is tuning up for Indian Wells at the clay-court events of the Golden Swing – aims to break back into the hard-court winners’ circle for the first time since Doha in January 2014 after a year of injury and illness.
Djokovic, Federer and Nadal face stiff competition from the other 125 players in the field, however, with the chasing pack led by a resurgent Andy Murray who is back into the top four after reaching the Australian Open final and including Grand Slam champions Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic as well as the ‘little three’ of Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, who are eagerly knocking on the door of Masters 1000 glory. There are some titanic duels in the desert to come when the BNP Paribas Open begins on Thursday 12 March.
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