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Five Things to Watch, Wednesday, March 6: Round 1 Begins In The Desert
2 Min Read · March 6, 2024

Wednesday marks opening day of main draw action at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open. With so many singles matches around the grounds — 32 in both draws — there sure is plenty of action for fans.

Here are five things to watch on Day 1.


Venus & Her Fellow Slam Winners

Venus Williams is back on Tour for the first time since late August at the US Open and back at Indian Wells for the first time since her quarterfinal appearance in 2019. The 43-year-old wild card, hit hard by a knee injury last campaign, starts against qualifier Nao Hibino.

Williams also met a qualifier in 2019 in Christina McHale, followed by fellow Grand Slam winners Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber. The passing years now see Kerber competing on tour as a mom — up against Petra Martic on Wednesday — while Kvitova is pregnant.

Another of the tour’s moms and a former No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki, contests her first match in the desert since 2019, too, against Chinese baseliner Zhu Lin. Thirteen years ago, Wozniacki won the title after wins over Victoria Azarenka (retirement), Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli in her last three matches.

Andy Murray is an additional member of the Grand Slam and former No. 1 club. By his own admission, the 36-year-old isn’t playing his best tennis and said last week he might only have months remaining in his career. But for the time being, Murray meets his challenge in qualifier David Goffin in the first round.

Giron & The California Contingent

Marcos Giron could be playing the best tennis of his career. The 30-year-old from Thousand Oaks close to Los Angeles reached his second career final in Dallas last month and backed it up with a semifinal in Delray Beach. Among his scalps were Frances Tiafoe and Top 20 Frenchman Adrian Mannarino — twice. His efforts landed him a spot back inside the Top 50. Giron will lock horns with Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round.

The former UCLA star has fond memories of Indian Wells, breaking through in 2019 as a qualifier ranked 217. But since then, he hasn’t reached the third round — losing to Tiafoe last year in round two. The winner of their round one match-up faces…Australian Open winner Jannik Sinner.

Wild card Brandon Nakashima — who beat Giron in his hometown tournament at San Diego in 2022 for his maiden ATP title — also takes to the court against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta. Eubanks, who narrowly missed a seeding, entered Indian Wells with a 2-4 ATP record this year.

A third Californian, Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek near Oakland, comes up against teen Mirra Andreeva. Like Nakashima, Volynets is a wild card. Three-time Grand Slam finalist Ons Jabeur awaits the victor.

A Fast-Rising Czech

For a few years, Czech women have amassed big titles or made big finals on the tennis tour. Think Kvitova, Marketa Vondrousova, Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Pliskova — among others.

But the men are coming on.

Jiri Lehecka sits inside the Top 35, Tomas Machac has seen his ranking climb about 70 places since last March and Jakub Mensik recently cracked the Top 100. All three are 23 or younger, with Mensik the youngest of the bunch at only 18. His ascent has been even more spectacular than Machac’s — soaring about 300 spots from 12 months ago. The big server beat Murray and Andrey Rublev on the way to his first ATP final last month in Doha. In his Indian Wells debut, Mensik will meet Seongchan Hong, who is also making his Indian Wells debut.

A New Title Winner

Jordan Thompson is one of tennis’ newest title winners — and no one can say he didn’t work hard for his trophy in Los Cabos in Mexico.

The Australian’s path went something like this. Thompson upended Alex Michelsen in the quarterfinals after trailing by a set and 4-1 and saving three match points. Then Thompson edged Alexander Zverev in more than three-and-a-half hours. He came back the next day to beat Casper Ruud in the final, before teaming with Max Purcell to win his doubles semifinal…and then the final.

Did we mention that Thompson beat Rafael Nadal at the start of the year? Thompson starts his Indian Wells campaign against qualifier Juncheng Shang on Wednesday.

A Former College Standout

McCartney Kessler ended last year ranked 231. Now, Kessler is up to 123 after tallying her second and third professional titles last month on the ITF World Tennis Tour. Kessler beat fellow American Liv Hovde in the final in Rome, Georgia and triumphed in Puerta Vallerta as a lucky loser — after Hovde won their qualifying tussle.

Such is tennis, eh?

A wild card in Indian Wells competing in just her third top-tier main draw, the 24-year-old plays a qualifier Nuria Parrizas Diaz on Wednesday. Kessler was a three-time All American at the University of Florida — where brother McClain played under Ben Shelton’s dad, Bryan.

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