ATP and WTA Indian Wells tennis returns in March 2021 after being cancelled in 2020: Dominic Thiem and Bianca Andreescu are the defending champions but can they retain their titles?
Indian Wells 2021 Predictions
After being cancelled in 2020 due to the global health crisis, the BNP Paribas Open – usually known as the Indian Wells Masters, or simply Indian Wells after the Californian resort town in which it is played – returns from 8-22 March 2021.
Sometimes known as the ‘fifth major’, Indian Wells is one of the biggest tournaments outside the four Grand Slams. With 96-player draws for both men and women, the BNP Paribas Open is the first ATP Masters 1000 Series tournament and first WTA Premier Mandatory event of the season and is played over two weeks in the dry, windy heat of the Californian desert.
Dominic Thiem and Bianca Andreescu will be attempting to defend the titles they won in March 2019 when tennis returns to Indian Wells in 2021, but with full casts of top players expected on bith the men’s and women’s sides, will they be successful?
Indian Wells ATP Masters 2021: Men’s Tips
When Dominic Thiem beat Roger Federer in the final in 2019, it presaged the rise of the Austrian as a force on hard courts which would see him reach the Australian Open final and go on to win his maiden major title at the US Open in 2020.
Thiem will return as one of the very top seeds in 2021, but will surely be faced with a tough task when it comes to defend his title, with five-time champions Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer both in the draw.
After so many gains on hard courts in 2019, and a superb season amidst global chaos in 2020, Thiem faces the task of defending and consolidating his gains in 2021.
From 2009-17, only one man not named Djokovic, Federer or Nadal broke through to win the Indian Wells Masters (Ivan Ljubicic in 2010). Djokovic’s performances at Indian Wells haven’t been so strong in the past couple of years, however: An early defeat to Nick Kyrgios in 2017 was one thing, but losses to Taro Daniel and Philipp Kohlschreiber in 2018-19 are quite another. Djokovic, while maintaining his grip on the world no. 1 ranking, isn’t quite as year-round dominant as he sometimes used to be, and Indian Wells is one of those places where he seems to have let his grip slip.
That by no means suggests he won’t get it back in 2021, however, while Roger Federer has featured in five of the past six finals, as the Swiss continues to thrive on the hard courts of Indian Wells. Federer may have had a soft-ish draw (except for having to play Stan Wawrinka) to make the final in 2019, with Rafael Nadal giving him a walkover in the semifinals, but he remains extraordinarily dangerous at this particular tournament.
Nadal last reached the Indian Wells final in 2013, when he won the title, but the four-time US Open champion is ever-improving on hard courts and has made the semifinals on two of his last four appearances at the BNP Paribas Open.
Apart from the usual suspects, there are also players who have broken through to become Masters 1000 Series champions and looking to do the same at Indian Wells. Daniil Medvedev, now a three-time Masters 1000 Series winner and a strong performer on US hard courts, could be a real threat, although his Indian Wells results in the past have not been great. Alexander Zverev, like Medvedev a US Open finalist and three-time Masters 1000 Series winner, is another player with the pedigree to win, although his results have also been poor. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov are also players who would surely be considered candidates to win their first Masters 1000 Series title in 2021, and have had good results on American hard courts.
WTA Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open 2021: Women’s Tips
On the women’s side, Bianca Andreescu had her breakthrough tournament at Indian Wells in 2019 when the Canadian teenager, ranked world no. 60, beat Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber to win the title.
Andreescu of course went on to win the Rogers Cup and the US Open in 2019, but did not play a single match in 2020. On the assumption that she returns healthy in 2021, and has had the opportunity to gain some match fitness in Australia, Andreescu could be extremely dangerous at the BNP Paribas Open in 2021.
Naomi Osaka is another former champion who would be considered a threat, especially as the Japanese-Haitian player grew visibly in stature and confidence in 2020 as she picked up her third major title at the US Open. If Osaka is fit and in form, she can beat absolutely anybody on hard courts.
Other former champions who should be considered serious threats to win the BNP Paribas Open again in 2021 include Simona Halep, who won the title in 2015 and has twice made the semifinals, and who went 23-2 in 2020; and Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Indian Wells winner. Azarenka most recently won at the BNP Paribas Open in 2016 and has struggled badly since, even to the point of considering retirement, but put together a dazzlingly resurgent run in the late summer/early autumn of 2020. If Azarenka stays fit and her personal life does not intervene again, she is one of the world’s best players on American hard courts and should be considered one of the favourites for the Indian Wells title.
German left-hander Angelique Kerber has shown little form since reaching the Indian Wells final in 2019 but is always a danger, while Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina, both semifinalists in 2019, thrive at this type of tournament and could also be very dangerous when the 2021 BNP Paribas Open is played from 8-22 March.