In recent years, the ATP and WTA 1000-level event in Indian Wells has served as something of a coming out party for rising young talent on both tours. The last five years have seen Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, Dominic Thiem, Cameron Norrie, Paula Badosa and Taylor Fritz all earn their first-1000 level title in the Californian, and Among that group, Osaka and Andreescu would pick up their maiden Grand Slam titles that same year, whilst Thiem won his first 18 months laster.
The other two may not have tasted Grand Slam glory yet, but both Fritz and Norrie have used it as a springboard to strong results subsequently and both have since broken into the top 10. Suffice to say then, Indian Wells has served as a useful platform for emerging stars. Which begs the question: who might breakthrough in Indian Wells in 2023?
There are plenty of promising candiates, including Australian Open success stories Tommy Paul, Ben Shelton and Jiri Lehecka who all put together strong runs in Melbourne, whilst surprise semifinalist Magda Linette cannot be ignored either. So let’s take a look at some of the potential
Tommy Paul / Ben Shelton / Maxime Cressy, USA
On one hand, it seems unfair to lump three very good players together like this (one could throw J.J. Wolf and Brandon Nakashima into the mix too for good measure). On the other hand, this group highlights the incredible depth of talent in American men’s (and women’s, for that matter) tennis right now. Even with Sebastian Korda out with a wrist injury, this young trio, plus Fritz and Frances Tiafoe provide plenty of hope that the Stars-and-Stripes will still be flying in Indian Wells come finals day.
Anastasia Potapova, RUS
After reaching #1 in the girls’ juniors rankings and getting off to a promising start to her pro career, things have stalled somewhat for Anastasia Potapova due to injuries and recovery from a lengthy ankle surgery. Now, she is healthy, still just 21 years of age and rising through the rankings to current career-best #28. This year alone, Potapova has won the Linz Open, reached the quarterfinals in Lyon and knocked Sloane Stephens out at the Australian Open.
Jiri Lehecka, CZE
If you didn’t know Lehecka’s name before the 2023 season began, you certainly should now. The 21-year-old gained some momentum at the end of last year with a run to the final of the 2022 ATP NextGen Finals before falling to Nakashima. Since then, he has upset Alexander Zverev at the United Cup, knocked off Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the Australian Open quarterfinals and he also recently stunned Andrey Rublev to reach the semifinals in Qatar. Could California be the next stop on Lehecka’s giant-killing tour?
Liudmilla Samsonova, RUS
Early season momentum, plus a strong Indian Wells track record? Power hitter Liudmilla Samsonova is well-positioned to do well at the BNP Paribas Open after reaching the fourth round of last year’s tournament. This time around, the 24-year-old arrives at a time when she’s closing in on the top-10 after reaching the top-15 for the first time in her career earlier this year.
Main photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports