With the 2020 BNP Paribas Open now just a few short weeks away, it’s time to set our sights on the most interesting storylines to watch ahead of this year’s tournament. From unheralded newcomers orchestrating career-defining breakthroughs to living icons cementing their legendary status; Tennis Paradise has consistently created some of the sport’s most notable moments. Now, to help get us ready for the upcoming 2020 tournament, set to take place on March 9 – 22, 2020, let’s take a look at five of this year’s most intriguing storylines to watch:
On both the WTA and ATP Tour, 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for the next generation of tennis stars. On the women’s side, the 2019 WTA season delighted with a slew of first-time title winners and historic rises by brilliant newcomers. From Bianca Andreescu’s dream season to Coco Gauff’s improbable emergence into the game’s spotlight, the future of the women’s sport is arguably as bright as it’s ever been. As for the men, while the ‘Big Three’ of modern men’s tennis continues to assert their dominance over the ATP Tour year after year, there is a hungry, talented and patient contingent of rising stars ready to be heralded as the game’s next generation of tennis disruptors. Let’s check out a few of our newcomers to watch this year in Tennis Paradise:
Coco Gauff (United States; Age 15): Coco Gauff announced herself to the sports world in 2019 after an incredible run to the Wimbledon fourth round as a qualifier – and followed it up by making the third round at the US Open. In October, the American became the youngest WTA title winner since 2004 at 15 years, six months. Gauff makes her BNP Paribas Open debut in 2020 with aspirations to climb in the rankings and establish herself at the top of the sport.
Amanda Anisimova (United States; Age 18): At just 18 years old, Amanda Anisimova has achieved incredible results for her young age. In 2019, she won her first main draw Grand Slam match at the Australian Open and backed it up with two more victories to reach the Round of 16. She then secured her maiden WTA title at Bogota in the lead-up to Roland Garros, where the American showed her potential by reaching the semifinals.
Iga Swiatek (Poland, Age 18): Entering 2019 ranked No. 174, Iga Swiatek broke into the upper echelons of the game and into the WTA Top 100 after making her first Tour-level final at Lugano in April. After featured wins over Grand Slam Champion Caroline Wozniacki and Caroline Garcia later in the year in Toronto and Cincinnati respectively, Swiatek broke the WTA Top 50 and reached a career-high ranking of No. 49.
Dayana Yastremska (Ukraine; Age 19): In her second Top 100 season on tour, Dayana Yastremska put the world on notice by securing her second and third WTA titles at Hua-Hin and Strasbourg. A Round of 16 appearance at Wimbledon – along with a strong Asian swing – allowed the Ukrainian to qualify for the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, where she went 1-1, helping her finish the season at a career-high ranking of No. 22.
Andrey Rublev (Russia; Age 22): The surging Russian registered one of the more impressive second halves of the 2019 ATP Tour season by securing a title in his hometown of Moscow and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 22. Top 10 wins over Dominic Thiem (Hamburg), Roger Federer (Cincinnati) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (US Open) led Rublev to a career-best 38 match wins on the year.
Christian Garin (Chile; Age 23): In a season that started out with Cristian Garin earning his first ATP Tour-level win in six years, he quickly found form and put together a stealthy impressive season at the age of 23. The Chilean secured two titles in 2019 – saving five match points en route to the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships crown over Nicolas Jarry – and followed it up weeks later by saving two match points against Alexander Zverev to capture the Munich title.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada; Age 19): Age is but a number when discussing the amazing skill set and accomplishments rising Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime owns entering the 2020 BNP Paribas Open. But since we are talking about age, it’s worthwhile to note that Auger-Aliassime became the youngest semifinalist in the 35-year history of the Miami Open in March of 2019; then in May became the youngest player to break the ATP Tour Top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt did so in December of 1999.
Hubert Hurkacz (Poland; Age 22): The 2020 BNP Paribas Open welcomes back the talented 22-year-old Pole, who looks to build on a quarterfinal appearance in desert from a year ago – a run that included impressive wins over Kei Nishikori and Denis Shapovalov. Hurkacz’s season, however, was highlighted by his maiden tour-level triumph at Winston Salem.
Roger. Novak. Serena.
These three former BNP Paribas Open champions, who also happen to be three of the most legendary figures in the sport’s history, will be looking to break the men’s and women’s records for most individual titles in Tennis Paradise at the 2020 tournament. On the men’s side, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic hold five titles a piece, having collectively dominated the ATP Tour field for the better part of two decades. The Swiss Maestro won his inaugural title in the desert in 2004 with a dominant, straight set victory over Tim Henman and immediately followed it up with back-to-back repeat triumphs in 2005 and 2006. Federer returned to the winner’s circle in 2012 with a victory over American John Isner in the final, before lifting the trophy once more in 2017 with a straight set downing of fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka. If he’s able to claim a record-setting sixth title this year, it will simply be another feather in the cap of the undisputed greatest tennis player of all time.
Chasing the “goat” is Djokovic, who staked his claim in the desert for the first time in 2008. After winning his second title in 2011, the Serb went on to put together his own three-peat by claiming consecutive trophies in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Will the opportunity to hold a record over Federer give Djokovic the extra motivation he needs to triumph this year in Tennis Paradise? Only time will tell.
For Serena Williams, a two-time BNP Paribas Open champion (1999, 2001), this year’s tournament affords her the chance to solidify herself as the greatest women’s player in Indian Wells history. For now, her two desert titles place her in a tie with a host of fellow competitors from past and present; including Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and others. If Serena is able to raise the trophy this March, it will be her first in Indian Wells in almost 20 years. What a scene it would be on Stadium 1, if she was able to separate herself from the field once again with a record-breaking third BNP Paribas Open victory.
Fans at the BNP Paribas Open are some of the most informed and passionate in the world, who appreciate all aspects of the sport. Therefore, year-after-year, doubles and its stars are a very popular draw for the crowds in the desert. Most notably, the SoCal-native Bryan Brothers (Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan), the greatest team to have ever played the game, have become one of the biggest attractions at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. After competing for 14-straight years (1999-2012) without winning the title, their breakthrough finally came in 2013 as they lifted their first BNP Paribas Open trophy as hometown favorites in front of a raucous crowd. They would continue their hot streak in the desert in 2014, winning the title yet again. The upcoming 2020 tournament is extra special for the duo, as this year marks the last time the Bryan Brothers will compete in the BNP Paribas Open, having announced that they will retire after the 2020 US Open. While there’s no doubt that fans in the desert will be pulling for them to complete their career in Tennis Paradise with a fairytale ending, a host of top-flight singles and doubles players will surely present a stiff challenge in 2020.
The doubles draws at the BNP Paribas Open routinely feature unique player combos including top singles players looking to make the most of their two-week visit to Tennis Paradise. Incredible duos such as Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini, Taylor Fritz and Nick Kyrgios, Eugenie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens and Ashleigh Barty and Caroline Garcia have thrilled fans with exhilarating high stakes matches. Now in 2020, will the Bryan Brothers capture their third title, or will one of the aforementioned unconventional duos steal the spotlight?
Amazingly, 2001 is the last year an American player claimed the BNP Paribas Open title on either the men’s or women’s side. That year, Andre Agassi and Serena Williams lifted the trophies after each putting together masterful performances and continuing to solidify the United States as a global tennis powerhouse. While the Americans dominated the field from 1990 – 2001 (winning 16 of the total possible 24 titles during that period), they have been unable to reclaim their former glory. Thankfully, a host of rising prospects and established veterans look poised to once again put the United States on top in Tennis Paradise in 2020.
For the men, a plethora of top-100 ranked players including John Isner, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka have their sights set on the gold this year in the desert. Isner, the highest ranked American man at World No. 18, is considered one of the best servers in ATP Tour history who also possesses championship experience with a Masters 1000 title at the 2018 Miami Open. Fritz has experienced success at the BNP Paribas Open in years past, including his first career victory over a top ten ranked player with a win over then World No. 6 Marin Cilic in 2017, which he immediately followed up with a fourth-round appearance in 2018. Opelka, a two-time BNP Paribas Open wild card recipient due to his performance at the Oracle Challenger Series, had the best season of his career in 2019 including his maiden ATP Tour level title at the New York Open.
On the women’s side, three players in the WTA top-15 give the Americans a significant opportunity to claim the title in 2020. World No. 7 Sofia Kenin is off to a scorching start to the season, as she recently won the 2020 Australian Open to become the youngest American to win a Grand Slam women’s singles title since Serena Williams achieved the feat in 2002. Speaking of Serena, the current World No. 9 is searching for her record-setting third career BNP Paribas Open title. While she hasn’t lifted the trophy in the desert in over 20 years, the 23-time Major singles champion looks ready to reassert herself at the top of the women’s game this March. Madison Keys, the World No. 12, is another American awaiting her first career signature moment. While she already holds five WTA titles, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open presents the perfect opportunity for Keys to lift her first Premier Mandatory trophy and reaffirm the American women at the top of the sport.
Tennis, like other sports, is a taxing and unforgiving endeavor at the elite professional level that unfortunately has forced several of the game’s top players to sit out for extended periods of time due to injuries. The good news for fans in Tennis Paradise, is that a few of tennis’ most notable names are set to return to the courts at the 2020 BNP Paribas Open.
Undoubtedly the most significant scheduled return is 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen. The Canadian teenage phenom famously set the tennis world ablaze last season, with her maiden Premier Mandatory title in Indian Wells as well as unprecedented run to the US Open title less than six months later. After arriving in the desert last March as an unheralded 18-year-old wild card recipient, she ripped through a loaded women’s draw with upset victories over No. 35 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 20 Garbine Muguruza, No. 18 Qiang Wang, No. 6 Elina Svitolina and No. 8 Angelique Kerber. With her injuries healed, Andreescu will look to return to top form by becoming a back-to-back BNP Paribas Open champion.
Fans in Tennis Paradise are more than familiar with Victoria Azarenka, as the two-time tournament champion has been thrilling crowds in the desert for years. Unfortunately, her 2019 season did not go as planned, as she was forced to sit out for a majority of the second half of the year. After reaching her first WTA singles final in three years at the Monterrey Open in April, Azarenka was forced to pull out of the title match against Garbine Muguruza due to a leg injury. As her bad luck continued with a lingering shoulder injury, the Belarusian has not played a single match since the 2019 US Open. Finally looking to make her return, Azarenka will go for gold with a record-setting third tournament title on the line.
Moving over to the men’s side, two former top-5 players will look to reassert themselves at the top of the ATP Tour rankings. Kei Nishikori, who has a career-high ranking of World No. 4, has been sidelined with an ongoing elbow injury since the 2019 US Open. The 11-time ATP Tour titlist and greatest Japanese men’s tennis player of all time will be searching for his first BNP Paribas Open title this March. Former World No. 5 and two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson is also set to return, continuing his comeback campaign following extensive layoffs in 2019 due to a right knee injury. The South African native, who has accumulated six career ATP Tour singles titles, will look to add another accolade to his trophy case when he returns to Tennis Paradise in 2020.