Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2021 BNP Paribas Open.

Welcome to California.

The tennis world has convened in the Western state this week for an event that goes by many names. Indian Wells. Officially it’s known as the BNP Paribas Open, because there are always sponsors in our world. Unofficially, it’s the year’s fifth Grand Slam. To some, it’s tennis paradise. On the ATP it’s a Masters 1000 while on the WTA it’s a Premier Mandatory event.

On our end we’re calling this another “kind of a big deal” event on the tennis calendar. But whichever name you use to refer to Indian Wells, odds are you’re just like defending champion Bianca Andreescu and cheesin’ so hard to be back after a two-year wait. At least, we know that’s where we are.

And because this is a “big deal” kind of event, we’re writing a formal draw preview and analysis like we’ve done for other events of this kind. We’ll likely be wrong with most of those picks, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun along the way.

Draw preview and analysis

Women’s draw

All eyes will understandably be on the two young US Open finalists and seeing whether Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez can repeat their historic runs in the California desert. Much to the chagrin of our dear readers, we don’t anticipate this one unfolding in quite the same way. The reasoning is fairly simple: they took the sport by storm and accomplished something that just about no one in history had ever done. Repeating history is just about impossible, even for them.

That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t have an absolute blast over the ensuing 10 days. That starts at the top with Karolina Pliskova and Maria Sakkari, both of whom also enjoyed great (but not excellent) US Open runs. In the second section, we’ve decided to play it not safe but rather recklessly by rolling with Garbine Muguruza and Coco Gauff, two players who are either young (i.e. Gauff) or irregular (i.e. Muguruza).

The lower half of this main draw is probably the most loaded of the two; there are more than a handful of players that we can see emerging unscathed from the two sections. We’re rolling with Simona Halep and Belinda Bencic, but don’t be surprised if we’re wrong.

Quarterfinals: Maria Sakkari over Karolina Pliskova; Garbine Muguruza over Coco Gauff; Simona Halep over Jessica Pegula; Belinda Bencic over Iga Swiatek

Semifinals: Maria Sakkari over Garbine Muguruza; Simona Halep over Belinda Bencic

Final: Simona Halep over Maria Sakkari


Men’s draw

Over on the men’s draw, we’re looking at the first edition of this event without one of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic this century. If it feels like that’s fairly major, it’s because it is. They’re bound to retire sooner than later so we might as well start to get used to their absence.

Plus, Daniil Medvedev should be the favourite regardless of who else is competing in Indian Wells this year. That’s what his US Open win has earned him, not to mention his rampage through the latter half of last season. Joining him in the quarterfinals will be Denis Shapovalov, but truly this is more by default than anything. It’s Medvedev, then everyone else. Likewise, we’re looking at a Casper Ruud-Cameron Norrie in the second section, but they’re mostly there to serve as fodder for the Russian in the semifinals.

Otherwise, the lower half of the draw has Stefanos Tsitsipas as the favourite, but remember that the Greek has been broken since he lost the French Open final. That means that it’s basically a wide open half, so why not have fun with our predictions?

Quarterfinals: Daniil Medvedev over Denis Shapovalov; Casper Ruud over Cameron Norrie; John Isner over Carlos Alcaraz; Stefanos Tsitsipas over Pablo Carreno Busta

Semifinals: Daniil Medvedev over Casper Ruud; John Isner over Stefanos Tsitsipas

Final: Daniil Medvedev over John Isner

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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