The women’s main draw is out for the 2021 BNP Paribas Open – the first-ever fall edition of the tournament. Blockbuster matches are on tap from Round 1 with stars like Sloane Stephens, Kim Clijsters and Amanda Anisimova playing their first matches on Wednesday or Thursday.
Throughout 2021, the WTA Tour has been extremely exciting, with a solid list of stalwarts making deep runs at the big events and emerging champions taking the tennis world by storm. As the event progresses in Tennis Paradise, however, the contenders in the desert will begin to emerge. Here are five WTA players who have a great shot at navigating tricky draws and taking home the Baccarat trophy.
Big-serving Czech Karolina Pliskova has had a career resurgence in 2021 and enters the BNP Paribas Open as the top seed. The former World No.1 reached the final at Wimbledon and quarterfinal at the US Open this year, securing her place in the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. She could open her BNP Paribas Open campaign against China’s Zheng Saisai or American wild card Caty McNally, who she defeated in the first round in Flushing Meadows last month. Looming in her quarter, however, are defending champion Bianca Andreescu and newly-minted Top 10-er Maria Sakkari. Pliskova is a favorite this year, but her road to her first title in the desert will not be easy.
The only previous time Iga Swiatek played at the BNP Paribas Open in 2019, she fell in the second round of qualifying and was ranked No.125 in the world. Now, she enters Indian Wells playing the main draw as a Grand Slam champion and World No.4. The fan-favorite from Poland’s game style is crafty and exciting, and her quarter of the draw is loaded with potential tantalizing match-ups. Olympic Gold Medalist Belinda Bencic, World No.13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and fast-rising Elena Rybakina are all looming – looking to break through in the desert.
In her first appearance in the desert, American teen phenom Coco Gauff is hoping to make her debut a dazzling one. As the No.15 seed, she is poised to make some noise in the thrilling atmosphere at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Her first match will come against a qualifier or former World No.4 Caroline Garcia, a tough ask for the young star. Adding to her tough quarter are potential matches against titans of the game including Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, and former World No.1s Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza. She loves the big stage and the BNP Paribas Open is certainly one of the biggest – so make sure to keep your eyes on Coco.
The British teenager shocked the tennis world by winning the 2021 US Open title without dropping a set, becoming the only qualifier to have ever won a Grand Slam title. Because the entry deadline for the main draw was before the US Open and she was ranked 150, she enters the BNP Paribas Open draw as a wild card but seeded No.17. Her opening match will be against Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Maria Camila Osario Serrano – two players who would love to upset the newest Grand Slam Champion. Should she win that, however, that could set up a mouth-watering third round against 2015 BNP Paribas Open Champion Simona Halep.
The runner-up at the 2021 US Open, Leylah Fernandez plays an aggressive game that is ideal in the quick desert conditions. The Canadian is making her first appearance at the BNP Paribas Open as the No. 23 seed and could face a tough first opponent in former World No.11 Alize Cornet. Time will tell if she can replicate her recent past success from Flushing Meadows.