The 2018 BNP Paribas Open is in the books. Juan Martin Del Potro (men’s singles), Naomi Osaka (women’s singles), Barbora Strycova/Su-Wei Hsieh (women’s doubles) and John Isner/Jack Sock (men’s doubles) have been crowned champions, and another year of sizzling tennis in the desert has come to a close. BNPParibasOpen.com looks back on 18 things we learned.
1. Naomi Osaka is fun (and a power player, too): The 2018 BNP Paribas Open was a coming out party for Japanese-Haitian-American Naomi Osaka. Shy, giggly and just plain fun, the 5-foot-11 20-year-old doesn’t necessarily come off as the biggest of players on the court, but she is surely among the WTA Tour’s most powerful hitters. Now coached by Serena Williams’ and Caroline Wozniacki’s old hitting partner, Sacha Bajin, the Indian Wells titlist has got the stuff to climb into the Top 10 sooner than later.
2. Roger Federer hasn’t aged a bit: Flicking backhand winners and all but pirouetting across the court, Roger Federer at 36 is sure resembling Roger Federer at 24. In fact, the timeless Swiss set a new career mark with a 17-0 start to the year, eclipsing his opening run of 2006, when he would grab three of four Slams and finish at 92-5.
3. There’s nothing quite like Venus vs. Serena in primetime: The buzz inside Stadium 1 was positively palpable as Venus and Serena Williams took the court for their all-in-the-family third-round matchup, the 29th time they have met. The reluctant rivalry remains as relevant as ever, as the thirtysomething sisters continue to play world-class tennis.
4. Taylor Fritz has a promising future: He was raised along the Southern California coastline, so it’s no wonder the BNP Paribas Open feels like a home tournament for Taylor Fritz. The 20-year-old captured the first Top-10 win of his career (d. Marin Cilic 4-6, 7-5, 6-4) here last year, and in 2018 reached the Round of 16 with wins over the likes of 27th seed Andrey Rublev and Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. Now aligned with super-coach/commentator Paul Annacone, there are plenty of big results ahead.
5. Dasha is a giant killer: One gets the feeling we’re going to be seeing a whole lot of Daria Kasatkina in the coming years. In reaching the BNP Paribas Open final, the upset-minded Russian defeated four Top-20 opponents at the same tournament for the first time in her career, and since September has beaten all four reigning major champions. She couldn’t summon her best tennis in the final against Naomi Osaka, but she’ll learn from the experience.
6. Moms play some mean tennis: Questions swirled as Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka returned to Indian Wells for the first time since becoming first-time moms. Only six months removed from the complicated birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, Serena showed that she still has that inner fire, collecting a pair of wins to book an all-Williams third-round clash. Wild card Vika showed that she’s still got it, too, taking out Brit Heather Watson in the opening round.
7. Tommy Haas had one heck of a playing career: After climbing to a career-high No. 2, posting eight Top-20 year-end rankings, claiming 15 singles titles and a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics, Tommy Haas, one of the most prolific Germans in the Open Era, announced his retirement in style — alongside Roger Federer at the BNP Paribas Open, an event the 39-year-old now oversees at tournament director.
8. Venus is coming into her own at 37: There was a sharp-edged focus in Venus Williams’ eyes throughout the Indian Wells fortnight, which saw the seven-time Slam champ return to the semis for the first time since 2001. Her resurgent Top-10 stuff was on display for all to see in her 6-3, 6-4 dismissal of her Slam queen sister Serena, and her wins over seeds Anastasija Sevastova and Carla Suarez Navarro. She wants it more than ever.
9. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden is bloomin’ beautiful: The BNP Paribas Open’s Full Bloom campaign was a hit with tennis fans, who marveled at the vibrantly flowering grounds of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
10. There’s a youth movement afoot: Who said the young guns can’t make it in this sport anymore? Amanda Anisimova, all of 16, shocked two-time Slam champ Petra Kvitova to reach, fittingly, the Sweet 16. Fellow wild card Caroline Dolehide, 19, powered through to the third round, stunning 30th seed Dominika Cibulkova. And the BNP Paribas Open final came down to a pair of 20-year-olds — Naomi Osaka and Dasha Kasatkina. On the men’s side, many fans got their first in-person glimpse of 17-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime, who flashed his freakish talent in a first-round win over fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil. Throw in CiCi Bellis (18), Denis Shapovalov (18) and Alex De Minaur (19) and the future of the game is looking splendid.
11. Amanda Anisimova plays above her age: It turns out her US Open junior title was no fluke. The latest “ova” to make her mark on the game, New Jersey-born Amanda Anisimova, just 16, muscled her way to the Round of 16, shocking 2011/2014 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova along the way. The future is here.
12. We didn’t see the real Novak: Five-time champ Novak Djokovic, with his surgically-repaired elbow, returned to the court in Indian Wells, only to suffer a stunning 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 loss to an all-but-unknown Japanese qualifier, Taro Daniel. Said a dejected Nole, “It felt like the first match I ever played on the tour. Very weird.”
13. Delpo is one beloved guy: Outside of Sir Roger, is there a more globally popular player on the ATP World Tour than 2018 BNP Paribas Open titlist Juan Martin Del Potro? The beloved Argentine won us over with his no-quit perseverance, returning to the top of the sport after no fewer than four wrist surgeries. As the gentle giant said in Indian Wells, “Thanks God I’m here and healthy, and I’m playing tennis again. I’m in the Top 10 again. I have so much love from the crowd, from my fans, and I’m doing this because I love it.”
14. The U.S might just have a new go-to doubles duo: It was fitting that John Isner and Jack Sock’s BNP Paribas Open final win should come against one of the most prolific duos in US Davis Cup history. After a combined 61 ties, the Bryan Bros., Bob and Mike, have stepped aside, leaving some big shoes to fill. Will the Isner/Sock combo be the one to take over?
15. 2017 champ Elena Vesnina is a good sport: First we took her trophy, only moments after the biggest singles victory of her career. And as the affable Russian discovered in 2018, we’d come back for more…
16. The stars come out at night (and in the daytime, too): Maybe it’s the Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s proximity to Tinseltown, but A-listers sure do love their tennis. Among those spotted in the stands during the fortnight were: Will Ferrell, Gladys Knight, Sugar Ray Leonard, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Chuck Liddell, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Redfoo, Jared Goff and Blake Bortles.
17. There’s something to be said for first-time partnerships: They were a last-minute addition, signing up just 10 minutes prior to the entry deadline. But the first-time pairing of Barbora Strycova and Su-Wei Hsieh made the most of the opportunity, edging Olympic gold medalists Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in the final, 6-4, 6-4.
18. The BNP Paribas Open is Truly Tennis Paradise: Once a quaint desert tourney, the Indian Wells tour stop — an ATP World Tour Masters 1000/WTA Premier Mandatory event — has become the consensus favorite among the players. The BNP Paribas Open has swept the top tournament honors on both the men’s and women’s tours since 2014. It’s sure to stay that way as BNP Paribas has renewed its presenting sponsorship deal for the next five years through 2023.