Milestones on line in Indian Wells for Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Kerber and more
With Indian Wells dominating the tennis calendar over the next week, here's a look at the past champions, challengers and milestones
For the last three years in a row, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells has been voted the best Masters tournament in the calendar. Seven times, it has also won the WTA’s Premier tournament of the year award. There is, then, no doubting the high regard in which Indian Wells—the first Masters and Premier Mandatory event of the year—is held by the 96 men and 96 women who make up its huge draws.
So big is the event that it is held over almost two weeks, and is often regarded as the ‘fifth Grand Slam’: Its main arena is second only to Arthur Ashe in capacity, over 16,000, its second will seat 8,000, there are seven more match courts (all with Hawkeye), and no fewer than 20 practice courts.
And the big numbers do not stop there. A $1 million purse is on offer to each of its singles titlists, who will add their names to lists that include the brightest and best that tennis history can offer. Grand Slam champions such as Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, and Pete Sampras have all been multiple champions, as have Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.
Move into the current era, and the honours board is just as illustrious. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova have each won twice. As for the men’s side, the last 13 years have been dominated by three champions who are all among the best ever to have played the sport.
Novak Djokovic is five-time and defending champion; Roger Federer is a four-time winner; Rafael Nadal is a three-time singles and two-time doubles champion. And these three giants of the game invariably have new milestones in sight whenever they play, but there are other elite players ready and willing to try and deny them.
Here are a few of those champions, challengers, milestones—and what they have to say.
Novak Djokovic: facts, figures and quotes
· Could be the first man to win four Indian Wells titles back to back: He is on a 17-match winning streak
· Could extend his record from five to six titles here
· Could become the third man (after Federer and Nadal) to reach 300 Masters match-wins: He has 298
· Could equal Sampras at No10 in overall match-wins: currently has 760
· Could extend his lead in Masters titles to 31: Nadal is second with 28
“Definitely one of the toughest draws, but it is what it is. Sometimes just a matter of luck. You have to deal with it and try to focus all my attention on the level of my game and hope to go far.
“I think having those four or five months in the second half of 2016 was actually very important for me, for my growth as a player and as a human being. I learned a lot… Generally, I see myself with a broader perspective today and comparing myself to the end of last season, I’m a different player. I feel more comfortable, more fresh.”
Roger Federer: facts, figures and quotes
· Aiming to win his 90th title
· Aiming to equal Djokovic’s record of five Indian Wells titles
· Playing in Indian Wells for 16th time, having won his first title 13 years ago
· Has most match-wins in the field, 52 for 11 losses; Djokovic is 47-6
· Runner-up to Djokovic in last two appearances
· Could meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals, their earliest meeting in a decade
“I didn’t think it was going to be like this after missing Indian Wells last year, where things were really not ideal having just had knee surgery. Also, taking six months off at the end of last year, I thought I was going to come here as part of me getting back into a new year, and here I am, Australian Open champion. Definitely expectations have risen. But then I liked how I played in Australia, totally free, nothing to lose, that was new for me after all these years… Everything that happens now is a bonus really.”
“Goals? Right now the focus is on here and Miami… For the year, it’s a lot about Wimbledon, lot about the US Open, hopefully qualify for World Tour Finals.”
Simona Halep: facts, figures and quotes
· One of just three former champs in the draw
· Lost only two matches in Indian Wells in last three years
· This year has played only four matches, winning two, and been injured since beginning of February
· Third-ranked player in draw after Williams’ withdrawal
“I had an injury on my knee: Hopefully I can play. Every day is better and better. It’s tough, but I had this since Singapore.
“We learn from everything, and now just happy the pain is gone. I’m just trying to build my confidence because I have no expectations.”
Angelique Kerber: facts, figures and quotes
· Will return to No1 next week irrespective of her performance after Serena Williams pulled out of the tournament with injury
· Reached the semis in 2012 and 2013, but has lost in the first round in her four other appearances since 2011
· Has beaten only one top-40 player this season, No 36 Ana Konjuh in Dubai
“I’m feeling good. I came here a little bit early, so been practising and getting ready. After Dubai, I went home and had treatment [on back and knee]. For the moment, it’s fine.
“No1 ranking? Of course it’s a nice feeling but it’s not a priority for me. It’s going out and winning matches and winning tournaments.”
Rafael Nadal: facts and figures
· Aiming to win his 70th title, but his first hard-court title in over three years
· Could meet Federer in the fourth round in Indian Wells, their earliest match since Miami 2004
· Is on 12-3 this season after beating four seeds to reach the Australian Open final
· Not just a three-time champion but a five-time semi-finalist and also runner-up to Djokovic in 2011: a 48-9 record
Andy Murray: facts, figures and quotes
· Top seed in a Masters for the first time
· Targeting his first Indian Wells title: is missing only this and Monte-Carlo from Masters resume
· Has won 10 titles from 14 finals in his last 16 tournaments
· Runner-up to Nadal in 2009, lost to Djokovic in semis and once to del Potro in quarters: Can only meet one of them—or Federer—in the final as all four are in the bottom quarter
“It’s probably my best opportunity to win this year. Bottom half of the draw is unbelievably strong, the bottom quarter may be the toughest you will ever see.
“I come here fresh, had to take a break after Melbourne [for shingles], so hopefully I can play some good stuff, as it’s a place I’ve struggled a bit in the past.”
Karolina Pliskova: facts, figures and quotes
· Placed in top spot in draw after Williams’ withdrawal
· Has WTA’s best results in 2017 thus far: two titles in Brisbane and Doha, quarters at Australian Open, plus two Fed Cup wins, a 15-2 run
· Lost to eventual champs Victoria Azarenka (in semis) and Halep in last two visits
“I just want to try at every tournament. I think I have a good chance every week. Doesn’t matter which tournament, doesn’t matter which surface. Obviously clay it going to be difficult—I just want to try.
“Out of four tournaments I made two finals, so I think I have a good chance every week.”
Stan Wawrinka: facts, figures and quotes
· Has played a total of 700 matches and won 15 titles—11 of them in the last three years, with a Grand Slam in each of last three years, too
· Made only two quarter-finals in Indian Wells in nine visits, most recently six years ago
· Avoided all ‘big four’ in his quarter
“I’m happy with the first month, with semis in Brisbane and Melbourne. I was playing well, after a good off-season. I had some knee problems since then, so I couldn’t play well enough in Dubai [he lost R1].
“Not had many matches for sure, but the last few days were really great. I arrived really early, I practise a lot, but now I need some matches.”
Other milestones: age shall not wither them…
· Ivo Karlovic is the oldest man in the draw at 38, one of 17 seeds over the age of 30 and 32 players in the main draw over 30. Seven of them are, like Federer, aged 35 or over.
· There are 17 over-30s in the women’s draw, the most in the event’s history. The oldest, Venus Williams, is 36. Six more seeds are over 30, as is former champion Jelena Jankovic.
· Philipp Kohlschreiber, age 33, needs just one match-win to reach a career 400
· Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 31, tops the list for match-wins so far this year with 17
· A day after turning 35, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who is enjoying a second-career surge that includes her second Grand Slam semi run in Australia 18 years after her first at Wimbledon, plays the youngest in the draw, Kayla Day, age 17.
· Alexander Zverev is the only men’s seed age under 20: the youngest in the main draw is wild card Stefan Kozlov, age 19 and 36 days.