Indian Wells, California

March 8 - 21, 2021


Wide-open ATP qualifying draw packed with intrigue

by Jeff Donaldson

Delray Beach champion Radu Albot leads the charge

Radu Albot might not be a household name in America, but the history-making 29 year old is all the rage back home in Moldova, after he became the first player from his country to win a tour-level title at the Delray Beach Open last month. This week, on the other side of the country, fans at the BNP Paribas Open will get a taste of what the rapidly rising Moldovan has to offer the world of men’s tennis.

The world No. 53, just one off his career-high ranking, begins his quest for the main draw against American Mitchell Krueger. Albot has played in the main draw here twice before, losing by identical 7-6(2), 6-2 scores in both 2017 and 2018 to Jeremy Chardy and Stefanos Tsitsipas, respectively. He could face steady Canadian Peter Polansky or the more unpredictable Lukas Lacko, a former Top 50 player, in the final round of qualifying.

Bernard Tomic and Lukas Rosol’s first-round clash offers the most intriguing viewing in the 48-person qualifying draw, with both having experienced their most noteworthy career successes at Wimbledon. Tomic is a quarterfinalist on the All-England Club’s lawns back in 2011, while Rosol famously upset defending finalist Rafael Nadal in the second round of the tournament in 2012 – but both are most infamously known for their mercurial personalities, which will come to a head in Tuesday’s action.

Young guns Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud represent a new wave of player eager to make their mark at this year in the southern Californian desert.

While Rublev, a former World No. 31, has already made significant strides at the tour-level, his ranking has faltered after an injury layoff. Now ranked just outside the Top 100, the explosive Russian is looking to inject some momentum into his resurgence as he faces Kamil Majchrzak in the first round and possibly Bjorn Fratangelo for a place in the main draw.

Fresh off a run to the semifinals on the slick clay courts of the Brasil Open, Ruud is the finest tennis export from Norway since, well, his father Christian Ruud who peaked at No. 39 back in 1995. Now having cracked the Top 100 following his run in Sao Paulo, the 20-year-old from Oslo is ready to test his mettle on the hard courts of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where he’s slated to face Japan’s Tatsuma Ito in the first round of qualifying.

Other first-rounders to look out for: Delray Beach Open finalist Dan Evans against Ruben Bemelmans and giant-killer Denis Istomin against Nevada-born wild card Evan Song.

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