Taylor Fritz took a bold step for American tennis in the California Desert in 2022, battling past Rafael Nadal in the men’s singles final to become the first American – male or female – to claim an Indian Wells singles title since Andre Agassi and Serena Williams took home hardware in 2001.
As another exciting edition of the BNP Paribas Open kicks off this week, we wonder: was Fritz’s triumph the beginning of an exciting upswing for the Americans in Tennis Paradise?
Here’s a look at a few potential home country candidates poised for a breakthrough…
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open (best result): 2-2 (Third Round 2021, 2022)
With a Grand Slam final and a Top 5 ranking on her list of achievements before her 19th birthday, it’s not any secret that Coco Gauff has the potential for a breakout every time she takes the court. Gauff, who celebrates her 19th birthday on Monday March 13, has the potential to make the celebration last all the way to Sunday’s final, on March 19.
Gauff was just 17 years old and ranked 17 last year at Indian Wells. 52 weeks later she has solidified her status as a Top 10 player (currently No.6) and a bona fide contender for the biggest titles in the world.
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open (best result): 4-6 (Third Round, 2021)
Frances Tiafoe – aka Big Foe – hit the big time on home soil last September, when he took out Rafael Nadal at the US Open and parlayed that upset to a run to the last four. Six months later the American has yet to produce a fitting follow-up. Like Gauff, Tiafoe has never been beyond the third round at Indian Wells, but the World No.15 has enough big-stage chops to change that in a heartbeat…
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open (best result): 4-4 (quarterfinal 2021)
Mrs. Consistency. The moniker suits Jessica Pegula, the first American woman to make the quarterfinals or better at five consecutive hard-court WTA 1000 events, perfectly. But the World No.3, a quarterfinalist at Indian Wells in 2021, surely craves a bigger piece of the limelight – a career-best run in Tennis Paradise would certainly satisfy that request.
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open (best result): 5-2 (Round of 16, 2021)
Now a card-carrying member of the ATP’s Top-20, and fresh off a run to the last four at the Australian Open, Tommy Paul is starting to flourish on tennis’ biggest stages. His coach, Brad Stine, says that Paul has benefited from watching players like Fritz and Tiafoe have their breakthroughs.
“Tommy’s beaten Taylor a ton of times over the history of their careers, through the juniors and into the pros,” Stine said. “I think it inspires all the rest of the guys that have grown up and known those guys and seen them on a regular basis and obviously have enormous respect for them as players but at the same time say: ‘You know, I’ve beaten that guy three, four or five, six times. You kind of create that same mentality: if he can be doing this, there’s no reason why I can’t be doing this.’”
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open: Making debut
Ben Shelton, the son of former ATP World No. 55 Bryan Shelton, has made a seamless transition onto the pro tour. In January, in his second main draw appearance at a major, the former NCAA men’s singles champion stormed into the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Ranked at a career-high 41, Shelton and his booming serve appear to be ticketed for stardom. He’ll make his BNP Paribas debut this week with the high expectations that come with it.
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open: 0-1
Lately it has been difficult to ignore the rapid ascent of 22-year-old Alycia Parks. The rocket-serving American has won 16 of her last 20 matches across all levels, and taken her ranking from 134 to 55.
Parks is averaging more aces per match (9.8) than any other WTA player this season. Most impressively, Parks claimed her first WTA title at Lyon in February, earning her first Top 10 triumph over Caroline Garcia in the final.
— OptaAce (@OptaAce) March 6, 2023
Career Record at BNP Paribas Open (best result): 1-2 (Round 2, 2022)
Another NCAA standout, Ohio State standout JJ Wolf is coming into his own on the ATP Tour. Wolf reached the second week at the Australian Open in January. Blessed with one of the most wicked serves in the sport, Wolf can be unbreakable at times. He’s 8-5 on the season and comes in ranked 44 in the world, just five spots off his career-high.