The absence of the Big Three of Federer/Nadal/Djokovic in Indian Wells for the first time in two decades, coupled with the absence of defending champion Dominic Thiem, means the men’s draw is as wide open as ever in 2021. Take a look at our ATP Tour draw preview below, as we zero in on five players who could win it all.
It took Daniil Medvedev to extinguish Novak Djokovic’s Grand Slam dreams at the US Open. The World No. 2 simply served the Serb off the court in the title tilt, finally prevailing in his third appearance in a major final. The 25-year-old Russian comes to the Southern California desert seeking his fifth title of the year, not to mention team triumphs at both the ATP Cup in Melbourne and Laver Cup in Boston. The top seed heads a BNP Paribas Open quadrant that includes eighth-seed Hubert Hurkacz (fresh off the Metz title), ninth seed Denis Shapovalov, 16th seed Reilly Opelka, 19th seed Aslan Karatsev, and 23rd seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Australian Open semis, ATP Masters 100 Monte Carlo title, Roland Garros final, etc. — the Greek superstar Stefanos Tsitsipas keeps pushing toward the very top of the men’s game. The 24-year-old has yet to advance beyond the second round at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. He’ll try to remedy that in 2021 in a quarter of the draw that features US Open semifinalist Felix Auger-Aliassime, 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, 13th seed Christian Garin, 22nd seed Alex de Minaur, Olympic silver medalist Karen Khachanov, and 25th seed Fabio Fognini.
Olympic gold medalist Sascha Zverev is poised for a breakthrough in the desert, where the 6-foot-6 German has yet to reach the quarterfinals. But it won’t be easy. He finds himself in a talent-packed quadrant that boasts 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby (who took a set off Djokovic in New York), Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini (a power player Djokovic calls ‘The Hammer’), Italians Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego, wildcard and 2009 finalist Andy Murray, Americans Taylor Fritz and John Isner (a finalist here in 2012), fan-favorite Gael Monfils, and 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who only weeks ago broke through to his first major quarterfinal at the US Open.
At 46-16 one of the ATP’s most consistent performers in 2021, it’s surprising that Andrey Rublev has only one title to show for his efforts. The Russian, who’s reached the semis or better in Doha, Dubai, Miami, Monte Carlo, Halle, Cincinnati and San Diego, is due for a deep run at the BNP Paribas Open, his best result being a third-round appearance the last time this event was held, in 2019. There are plenty of dangers lurking in his quarter, including newly minted top-10er Casper Ruud, 11th seed Diego Schwartzman, 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, Brits Daniel Evans and Cameron Norrie, and streaking South African Lloyd Harris, who powred his way into his first major quarterfinal in Flushing Meadows.
It’s all coming together for Casper Ruud in 2021. The Norwegian, 22, captured his tour-leading fifth title of the year on Sunday in San Diego, and is fast growing accustomed to live inside the Top 10. Boosted by his victorious Laver Cup debut, Ruud is seeking his first ATP Masters 1000 crown.