Tennis News – How much has tennis changed in the 932 days since the last edition of Indian Wells at the start of the 2021 edition?
They say 932 days is a long time in tennis.
OKAY, they or they no, but it is. That’s the number of days Indian Wells went without a professional tennis match before qualifying for the main draw which began on Monday. The 2020 edition of the tournament has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this season’s edition has been moved from March to October due to restrictions put in place earlier this year.
So what has changed in tennis over the past 932 days? Many.
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Perhaps most notably on the men’s side, there won’t be a former champion in the draw, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Juan Martin del Potro all coming out. Thiem was the champion when the tournament was last played in 2019 as he won the first Masters title of his career. He’s yet to win another, but he was part of a change at the top of the game.
While there were few clear suggestions to Indian Wells in 2019 that the era of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer was drawing to a close, they have only won five Masters titles between them since. There were also two new Grand Slam winners, compared to none in the four years leading up to the 2019 edition of Indian Wells. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Thiem and Alexander Zverev all broke through and cemented their places at the top of the game and where there was a strong presence of veterans in the top 10 in 2019, with six players aged 30 or older, now he there are six players aged 25 or under.
And the overall Grand Slam standings have also changed dramatically. When Indian Wells was last played, there was a clear leader – Federer. There are now three co-leaders. Of the three, only Federer has failed to win a Grand Slam in the past 30 months. Nadal went from 17 to 20 with two French Open titles and one US Open title, while Djokovic went from 15 to 20. One remains to be won at the Australian Open in January before Indian Wells is once again organized into its normal March slot in 2022.
A few other notable absentees at Indian Wells this year are Marin Cilic, Borna Coric and Milos Raonic. Cilic and Coric were 10th and 11th seeds in 2019, now the Croatian pair are both outside the world top 40 and will not play this week. Raonic reached the semifinals at Indian Wells two years ago, but is also not competing this time around due to an injury. Will one of the three be able to return to the top 10 or 20 again? It seems unlikely with the young players arriving.
Jannik Sinner was outside the world top 300 in 2019, now he’s knocking on the door of the top 10. Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Tsitsipas and Cameron Norrie at Indian Wells last time, has moved from outside the top 50 to the 11th in the world. Casper Ruud had just entered the top 100 at the start of 2019, he is now No. 10 in the world and won the most titles (5) of all players this year.
Raducanu, Swiatek, Gauff mix
The scenery is also different on the WTA side, although the change hasn’t been so dramatic. Almost all of the top 10 that competed at Indian Wells in 2019 are still near the top of the game, with Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams and Kiki Bertens the biggest cutters. Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka have both improved their positions over the past two years, despite not being at Indian Wells, and, like on the ATP Tour, there has been an injection of youngsters.
20-year-old Iga Swiatek failed to qualify when Indian Wells was last played, now she is ranked No.4 in the world. Sofia Kenin rose from world No.34 to a Top 10 player and Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu both burst onto the scene. Gauff, 17, was still playing widely at the ITF level at the start of 2019, and it wasn’t until the summer that she made her breakthrough at Wimbledon when she beat Venus Williams and made the last 16. Raducanu, 18, competed in ITF tournaments. in China the last time Indian Wells was performed; now she has risen to 22nd in the world after an incredible summer.
Raducanu on the red carpet with Hollywood stars for the James Bond premiere
The top 30 in 2019 also included four players who have now retired: Maria Sharapova, although she did not play at Indian Wells that year due to a shoulder injury, Caroline Wozniacki, Carla Suarez Navarro and Bertens.
One thing that remains the same is Serena Williams’ quest to win a 24th Grand Slam title. In 2018 she lost two major finals and after Indian Wells in 2019 she would lose two more. She hasn’t returned to the final since and appears to be out of play this season as she recovers from the injury that kept her from making the US Open.
Edmund and Konta fall in the standings
Things also look different from a British point of view. Both Katie Boulter and Heather Watson lost in qualifying in 2019 – Boulter did the same this year while Watson is automatically in the main draw – and the top-ranked Briton was Johanna Konta. She was not classified for the tournament and lost to seventh seed Bertens in the third round. Konta has had a difficult 2021 season as she separated from her coach, tested positive for Covid-19, and suffered injuries that impacted her ability to play, leading her to come back down to the 82nd in the world. Raducanu will lead the British charge this year.
Image credit: Getty Images
It was a similar story for the British men as Kyle Edmund moved up from the fourth round as the 22nd seed in 2019, to breaking out of the world top 100. As Edmund fell in the standings, Dan Evans and Norrie moved up. They are both in the top 20 and this week’s results will determine who emerges from Indian Wells as Britain’s No.1.
No towels, no linesmen
What else has changed since Indian Wells’ absence? Unlike 2019, there won’t be any kids running off to look for towels for the players between points. This has been eradicated due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the linesmen are also following the same path. The electronic hotline used at the US Open will also be in place in Indian Wells. There will however be supporters in the stands, as in the last part of the tournament. Indian Wells is one of the largest venues on tour, with a main court seating 16,000 fans, just behind Arthur Ashe in New York among the outdoor tennis stadiums. It has been reported that organizers expect the event to be at 60% capacity over the 11 days.
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