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Six Desert Debutants Ready For Their Inaugural BNP Paribas Open Main Draw
3 Min Read · March 4, 2024

Fresh-faced and ready to fly, desert debutants are already populating the fabled practice courts at the BNP Paribas Open, preparing for their main draw debuts. 


Here are six newbies who could shake up the draw, and potentially follow in the footsteps of Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, who is the last player to win a BNP Paribas Open singles title on main draw debut. 

Before we look at this year’s first-timers, let’s look back and see how a few notable names performed on their Indian Wells main draw debut:

  • 2x champion Serena Williams: Won title in 1999

  • 5x champion Roger Federer: Lost in Round of 64 in 2001

  • 3x champion Rafael Nadal: Lost in Round of 32 in 2004

  • 5x champion Novak Djokovic: Lost in Round of 128 in 2006

  • 1x champion Iga Swiatek: Lost in Round of 16 in 2021

Mirra Andreeva: The rising force 

Over the past 52 weeks,  Mirra Andreeva has made a habit of stunning debuts, and cut her teeth successfully at all four Grand Slams. In 2023, Andreeva set the tone by reaching the third round at Roland Garros, the round of 16 at Wimbledon and the third round at the US Open. This January, she continued the trend by powering into the round of 16 at the Australian Open. 

Now ranked No. 38, the 16-year-old phenom sets her sights on making a splash in the California desert.

Jakub Mensik: The next great Czech? 

Over the last six months, 18-year-old Czech Jakub Mensik has been a revelation on the ATP Tour. After his surprise run to the third round at the 2023 US Open as a qualifier, he became the youngest player in the Top 200. He continued his momentum in 2024, reaching the second round at the Australian Open (also as a qualifier) before earning his first Top 5 win over Andrey Rublev during his stunning run to the Doha final in February. 

Now, he’s the youngest player in the ATP Top 100. The 6’4” Mensik enters this year’s draw at a career-high ranking of No. 81.

Yuan Yue: Ready for the spotlight

Chinese women’s tennis is flourishing these days, with seven women currently populating the WTA’s Top 100. China’s Yue Yuan figures prominently in that septet, and enters this year’s BNP Paribas Open on the heels of her maiden title, claimed on Sunday at the ATX Open in Austin. 

25-year-old Yuan, a Yangzhou, China native, sits at a career-high ranking of No. 49 and owns an impressive 12-5 on the season, having also reached the semifinal at Hobart.

Alex Michelsen: The California kid 

Southern California native Alex Michelsen raised eyebrows across the tennis world last summer when he reached the final on the Newport grass in just his second ATP main draw appearance – he was ranked No. 190 at the time. Fast forward eight months, and the 19-year-old is firmly entrenched in the Top 100. He comes to the Coachella Valley fresh off a quarterfinal appearance at Los Cabos two weeks ago.

McCartney Kessler: A late-blooming Gator 

High-flying Ben Shelton isn’t the only former Florida Gator looking to make a run at Indian Wells this year. Enter three-time NCAA All-American McCartney Kessler, a Wild Card in this year’s draw. The 24-year-old Kessler won her first main draw match at a major at this year’s Australian Open, and the World No. 120 enters the BNP Paribas Open main draw riding a 10-match winning streak at the ITF level, having recently clinched titles at Rome, Georgia and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Matteo Arnaldi: An Italian dynamo 

Blessed with a dynamic, diverse shotmaking arsenal, Italy’s Matteo Arnaldi announced himself to the tour in 2023, with a Top 10 win over Norway’s Casper Ruud in Madrid and a run to the second week at the 2023 US Open. At No. 40, the 23-year-old is now the third highest-ranked Italian in the ATP rankings, and is fresh off earning his second-career Top 10 win (over Taylor Fritz) last week at Acapulco.

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