Indian Wells is once again upon us, the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the season and the second WTA 1000 after Dubai. As has been the case in a recent years, there is a strong British contingent in the draw. But who will be the leading lights playing under the Union flag, and what are their chances in the Californian desert?
It’s been a difficult stretch for Emma Raducnu, with the young star having so far failed to follow up on her triumphant if unexpected US Open win in 2021. That said, it’s worth remembering that last season was her first full season on the WTA Tour. Injuries have been a real issue for the Briton, and after returning to the tour at the start 0f 2023, Raducanu had to retire in the second round in Auckland, before losing in the second round at the Australian Open before catching tonsilitis.
Raducanu will face Danka Kovinić in the first round which promises to be a tough test for the British #1, not least because she lost their only previous meeting. Clearly, Raducanu has the ability to go deep into the draw in Indian Wells, but considering her lack of match practice, this isn’t an easy start. Never say never, but another triumphant fortnight on US soil doesn’t look particularly likely.
Cameron Norrie has won here before, in 2021, the same year Raducanu made her run at the US Open. That is the only Masters final the Briton has played in to date, but there have been some other fine results for Norrie since, not least reaching the last four at Wimbledon. He also arrives in the desert in good form, having made three finals already so far this final, winning one of them.
In the first, the Spaniard bested him in straight sets, but just a week later in Rio, Norrie claimed his first trophy of the year by defeating world #2 Carlos Alcaraz in three sets. Norrie is seeded here and, after a first-round bye, will face a qualifier in the first round. Norrie may not exactly be one of the hot favourites, but he has considerably more than an outside chance chance to regain the title he won in 2021.
Andy Murray needs no introduction. He arrives fresh, or as fresh as a player with a metal hip in his mid-30s can be, from his run to the final in Doha, but his record in Indian Wells leaves a little to be desired. By his very high standards that is. He has won 14 Masters titles, at seven of the nine events, but Indian Wells and Monte Carlo have so far eluded.
But win the title or not, it is good to see Murray competing. It is impossible to say how much longer he will be on the tour, with it not so very long ago that he was being paid tribute to in ‘retirement’ as he headed into retirement at the Australian Open in 2019. Realistically, Murray’s chances of winning here are slim to the point of vanishing, but it will be great to see him play regardless.
Jack Draper is beginning to make a name for himself. The young gun made the quarterfinals at the Canadian Open last season, his best showing to date at a Masters event, one of several impressive results last season. Draper will face a qualifier in the first round, and on paper will be the favourite to progress to the second round.
That said, qualifiers should never be taken for granted, as they are generally used to the court speed and the unusual desert air having won two matches to reach the main draw. If Draper does win, however, fans of British tennis will have divided loyalties, with Dan Evans waiting in the round of 64. Murray, meanwhile, is also in the same half of the draw.
Evans is seeded here so, like his compatriot Norrie, has received a first-round bye. The 32-year-old Briton has found Masters events largely disappointing, though he has twice made the semifinals (Monte Carlo in 2021 and in Montreal last season). Aside from that, however, he has never gone beyond the third round. Consistent results have kept Evans in the top 40, but time is running out for him to really cement his legacy, with his only silverware the Murray River Open he won two years ago in Melbourne.
Main photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports