It feels weird having Carlos Alcaraz as the top seed in Indian Wells 2023 men’s draw. He’s not number one in the world anymore. He’s not the defending champion at Indian Wells. He’s injured, having suffered a hamstring pull in Rio. He lost to Rafael Nadal here last year in a famously wild and windy match. Yet Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic are not here, and 2022 champ Taylor Fritz hasn’t quite been able to top winning this Masters 1000 event.

So here Carlitos is, topping a still-intriguing men’s draw in the desert.

Among the danger-boys Alcaraz could face in his quarter: Hubert Hurkacz, Tommy Paul and/or Felix Auger Aliassime. So much depends on the hamstring. He withdrew from an exhibition in Las Vegas last week, causing the event to be canceled. That’s playing it safe because Vegas would’ve been a huge paycheck.

On the other half of that side, it gets hot all up in here. Fritz has a tough draw. Holger Rune sits at the bottom of that quarter, and that would be a great potential matchup. They’ve never played. If Rune were to come through and face Alcaraz, that’s another feisty one. They have split their head-to-head on indoor hard courts, so who even knows what would happen out here in Cali. These are some fast, flashy dudes. Circle it and hope it happens.

As a five seed, Daniil Medvedev is the true headliner on the other side, with 3 seed Casper Ruud also in that quarter. I don’t see a problem for Meddy early on, as long as he stays healthy and hydrated. Ruud is off to a poor start in 2023.

Second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas draws “few tools” foe Andrey Rublev in his quarter– not what the Greek wanted to see. Medvedev has directed Rublev to “beat this guy” after Stef made the disparaging remark about the Russian and his skill set. A distraction is not what Tsitsipas needs, plus he’s got Matteo Berrettini, Francis Tiafoe and Cam Norrie all in this quarter. It’s the toughest part of this 2023 Indian Wells draw. Still, Stef is more rested, and this slower hard court gives him time to wind up his backhand.

Players to watch:
QF: Alcaraz, Rune, Medvedev, Tsitsipas
SF: Alcaraz, Medvedev
W: Alcaraz

On the women’s side, world number one and Indian Wells defending champion Iga Swiatek’s draw appears a tad bumpier than usual. Potential opponents in her section include a pair of former U.S. Open champs in Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu.

Both Andreescu and Raducanu have obviously struggled to find the form that brought them a Grand Slam, but style-wise they should be able to hang with Swiatek on a good day. Iga and Emma played once in Stuttgart at the height of Swiatek’s dominance, and the score was only 6-4, 6-4 to the Pole. Because Raducanu takes the ball early, if she doesn’t spray, it presents more of a challenge for Iga. That said, this slow hard court of Indian Wells hasn’t proven to be Emma’s surface yet.

More of a challenge for Swiatek might be Beatrice Haddad Maia who beat her in Canada on hard court last year. Further down the quarter, Danielle Collins and Caroline Garcia lurk as possibilities to come out of this quarter.

Number 4 seed Ons Jabeur has a more favorable draw, and she’ll need it as she returns to the tour after what she called “minor surgery.” Even though she hasn’t played since the Australian Open, Jabeur shouldn’t be troubled until the 3rd round where she could face Italian Martina Trevisan. It gets substantially more complicated later with Victoria Azarenka, Elena Rybakina and 2021 Indian Wells Champion Paula Badosa. Circle Rybakina and Badosa as a potential fun 3rd round tilt of hard-hitting stars.

The player I’m really high on is Jessica Pegula, who doesn’t have anything to worry about until a potential 4th round matchup with Jelena Ostapenko. Even then, I think that’s an unfavorable matchup for Penko– you need patience to play in the desert. Also in this quarter, Maria Sakkari could face grinder Anhelina Kalinina in the 3rd round.

Finally, Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka bookend the last quarter. Aryna might find that the slower courts here and sometimes windy conditions take the bite off her serve. That’s why I like Gauff at Indian Wells. She’s a good mover and premier returner. An intriguing potential all-American 3rd round could be Gauff against Amanda Anisimova.

In addition, Sabalenka has drawn difficulty. She’s got Donna Vekic and one of the most dangerously consistent players on tour in this eighth: Barbora Krejcikova.

Players to watch:
QF: Swiatek, Rybakina, Pegula, Krejcikova
SF: Swiatek, Pegula
W: Pegula


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