One thing’s for sure: A first-time BNP Paribas Open champion will be crowned in 2021. With the Big Three and defending champion Dominic Thiem all relegated to the sidelines, the stage is set for a breakthrough. We take an in-depth look at a half-dozen men’s seeds who could walk away with the trophy:
2021 Titles: ATP Cup, Marseille, Mallorca, Toronto, US Open, Laver Cup
The top seed is coming off the biggest title of his career at the US Open and subsequent team success at the Laver Cup in Boston. The Russian looks to maintain that momentum on US soil and claim his second ATP Masters 1000 trophy of the season. He’ll face former UCLA standout Mackenzie McDonald in the opening round on Saturday. Medvedev owns a 4-0 head-to-head advantage against the Californian, including a pair of wins this year in Melbourne and Cincinnati.
2021 Titles: Monte Carlo, Lyon, Laver Cup
The No. 2-seeded Greek has been at his best at the ATP Masters 1000s in 2021, having advanced to at least the quarterfinals in five of the first six events, with a title in Monte Carlo. Tsitsipas appears to have overcome the #BathroomGate hullabaloo that overshadowed his stay at the US Open. “It’s very dry here. We know that when we come here. That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints,” said the Roland Garros runner-up with a grin.
2021 Titles: Acapulco, Madrid, Olympics, Cincinnati, Laver Cup
Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev looks to improve his 5-4 record in the Southern California desert. The winner of five ATP Masters 1000 titles is in the bottom half of the draw together with Tsitsipas and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini. “The second part of the season for me has been incredible,” said the German, who upended World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to winning the Olympic gold medal, and followed with titles in Cincinnati and at the Laver Cup. He’s 17-1 since Tokyo and primed to surpass his best result at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, a Round of 16 showing in 2016.
2021 Titles: ATP Cup, Rotterdam, Olympics (mixed doubles), Laver Cup
The consensus MVP for Team Europe at the Laver Cup in Boston, the lanky Russian made a quick pivot to the outdoor hard courts with a run to his eighth semifinal of the season in San Diego (l. to Cameron Norrie, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4). Rublev is seeking his first singles title since winning Rotterdam in February, and continues to pursue the first ATP Masters 1000 trophy of his career. He arrives with a 1-2 record at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
2021 Titles: Belgrade, London, Laver Cup
‘The Hammer’ has fast become one of the ATP Tour’s most feared opponents. He broke through to his first major final this summer at Wimbledon, impressing top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the process. “He’s one of the best players in the world,” said the Serb. “He’s just working his way up. With big weapons in his serve and forehand, he can play well, which he has proven, on any surface.”
2021 Titles: Geneva, Bastad, Gstaad, Kitzbuhel, Laver Cup, San Diego
No one owns more titles than the 22-year-old Norwegian in 2021. Ruud is among a talented crop jockeying for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin (Nov. 14-21). Following his maiden hard-court title and his fifth trophy of the season in San Diego last week, he moved into the eighth position in the Race to Turin.