Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic will clash for the Indian Wells Masters title on Sunday: Who will claim the crown at the BNP Paribas Open, the first Masters 1000 Series event of the year?
Djokovic vs Raonic BNP Paribas Open tennis is live from Indian Wells on Sunday at 1pm local/8pm GMT. Watch & bet on tennis live from Indian Wells at 365
Will Novak Djokovic equal Rafael Nadal's record of 27 Masters 1000 Series titles or can the ever-improving Milos Raonic claim his first crown at the Indian Wells Masters on Sunday?
Matches to watch at Indian Wells on Sunday 20 March (all times GMT)
Click on the links for full match analysis and live streaming information
After a spellbinding fortnight of tennis, there are just two men left standing at the Indian Wells Masters: Defending champion Novak Djokovic and the rising, big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
Milos Raonic (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Djokovic shook off a poor start against Bjorn Fratangelo at the BNP Paribas Open and has rounded into form as the closing stages approached, edging fellow Masters 1000 Series champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in two tie break sets in the quarterfinals 7-6(2), 7-6(2) to set up a huge semifinal clash with three-time Indian Wells champion Rafael Nadal on Saturday. Despite some of Nadal's best tennis for some time, Djokovic recovered an early break and was clinical on serve for the vast majority of the match, taking the first set in a tie break and breaking Nadal's serve twice for a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory which saw his head-to-head against his great Spanish rival improve to 25-23.
Djokovic has given himself the chance to equal Nadal's record of 27 Masters 1000 Series titles and become the first man to win five Indian Wells titles - but it won't be smooth sailing even for the incredibly dominant world no. 1 as he faces Milos Raonic. Sidelined by injury in February after a booming start to the year saw him capture the Brisbane International title and reach the semifinals of the Australian Open, Raonic has returned to action in style at Indian Wells, dropping just one set on his way to the final as he beat the likes of Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils and the in-form David Goffin to reach his third Masters 1000 Series final.
Raonic has an unfortunate 0-5 record against Djokovic and there's no denying that the world no. 1 is the overwhelming favourite, so impenetrable is his dominance over the ATP World Tour at the moment. But nobody works harder or is improving more than Raonic.
Roger Federer celebrates winning his fourth Indian Wells Masters title in 2012 (Robyn Beck/AFP/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 winning the Indian Wells Masters in 2013 (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Like most of tennis’s biggest events, however, the Indian Wells Masters has been dominated by three names – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – since 2004, with only one other player winning the title between 2004 and 2015. Ivan Ljubicic briefly interrupted the Djokovic-Nadal-Federer dominance in 2010 when the big-serving Croatian player defeated Andy Roddick in the final, but otherwise the Californian desert has been the scene of displays of greatness by Federer (2004-6, 2012), Nadal (2007, 2009 and 2013) and Djokovic (2008, 2011, 2014-15).
Federer still holds the record for most consecutive titles at the Indian Wells Masters for his trio of titles between 2004 and 2006, when he defeated Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake and Tim Henman in the finals, and for the most finals reached (six overall). But he saw his record of four Indian Wells Masters titles matched by Djokovic when the Serb claimed the second of back-to-back titles in 2015.
Former champions Djokovic, Nadal and Federer will be hot favourites for the 2016 Indian Wells Masters title, along with Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, when the first Masters Series event of 2016 begins on 7 March.
Watch and bet on all the best action from the BNP Paribas Open 2016 as it unfolds, live via mobile, computer or tablet, from 7-20 March.