The usual suspects are here: Olympic gold medalists Nikola Mektic / Mate Pavic and Barbora Krejcikova / Katerina Siniakova; plus power pairings like Elise Mertens / Su-Wei Hsieh and Rajeev Ram / Joe Salisbury, who only weeks ago claimed the title at the 2021 US Open. But the BNP Paribas Open always seems to produce some surprise partnerships, too, often featuring players we’re not used to seeing on the doubles court. Here are five teams to keep an eye on in the desert:
The future of the sport will be on display when wunderkinds Coco Gauff (17) and Leylah Fernandez (19) take the court together for the first time in women’s doubles. Both players posted breakthrough performance this summer at the 2021 US Open: Fernandez reaching the all-teenage women’s singles final (l. to Emma Raducanu 6-4, 6-3), and Gauff reaching the women’s doubles final with Caty McNally, aka McCoco (l. to Sam Stosur / Shuai Zhang, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3).
There’ll be a whole lot of talent on the court when pals Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz team up in doubles. Last year, the duo captured the title at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris, and earlier this year reached the final in Halle. In singles, Auger-Aliassime powered through to his first major semifinal at the 2021 US Open, while Hurkacz captured his third title of the year in Metz.
It’s not all that often that you see 2015 BNP Paribas Open single titlist Simona Halep on the doubles court. In fact, coming into Indian Wells, the former No. 1 has played just six doubles matches in 2021. But after returning from calf, shoulder and adductor injuries, the Romanian — who has dropped to No. 17 in the rankings — is looking for more court time as the year winds down. She’ll team with countrywoman Elena-Gabriela Ruse.
Matteo Berrettini broke new ground this summer at the All England Club, where the 25-year-old reached his first major final (l. to Novak Djokovic, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3). But his success hasn’t been limited to the singles court. Berrettini also helped lead Italy to the ATP Cup final, pairing with countryman Fabio Fognini in doubles in the process. At the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, he will join forces with Jannik Sinner, another fast-rising Italian who last week successfully defended his singles title in Sofia.
The all-American tandem of John Isner and Jack Sock triumphed on these same courts in 2018, and have also flashed their form from Laver Cup to Shanghai. The vets return to the court in the California desert eyeing a second title. Sock has battled injuries of late, most recently pushing fourth-ranked Alexander Zverev to a fourth set in the third round of the 2021 US Open before retiring with an ailing right leg.