The Indian Wells men’s draw was released on Tuesday afternoon and is headlined by Roger Federer, who will be contesting his first event since he returned to the world No. 1 ranking two weeks ago.
Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic is the No. 2 seed in the absence of the second-ranked Rafael Nadal, who has pulled out of both Indian Wells and Miami with a hip injury.
Here are some of the main talking points surrounding the men’s draw, which gets underway on Thursday.
FED’S THE FAVOURITE
This is the first time since 2010 that Federer is seeded No. 1 at Indian Wells, where has been crowned champion five times.
The Swiss is the current title holder and heads into the tournament with a clean 12-0 win-loss record for the season. It’s March and Federer hasn’t lost a match yet.
He’s going for title number three of 2018 and shares a half of the draw with third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov. Federer’s quarter includes No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem and young guns Denis Shapovalov and Chung Hyeon.
He is the outright favourite for the title and has a very manageable draw.
Novak Djokovic appears to have made a swift recovery from the elbow surgery he had early last month and is in Indian Wells ready to play.
The Serb is seeded No. 10 and has landed in the same quarter as freshly-crowned Acapulco champion Juan Martin del Potro and Cilic.
Djokovic opens his campaign against one of two qualifiers and the first seed he could meet is 22nd-seeded Kei Nishikori in the third round.
It’s a tricky draw for Djokovic to navigate and will be a real test for his elbow. He too is a five-time Indian Wells champion. Can he make it six?
Novak Djokovic has won here five (FIVE!) times. Here’s his path to the title:
1R – Bye
2R – Qualifier
3R – Nishikori
4R – Del Potro
QF – Cilic
SF – Zverev (Sock)
F – Federer (Dimitrov) #BNPPO18 pic.twitter.com/vJxkrtNQQe
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 6, 2018
THE TOP SPOT
Even though Nadal isn’t here, Federer could still lose the No. 1 ranking since he is defending 1000 points as last year’s winner. Nadal lost in the fourth round in the 2017 edition and will drop just 90 points this fortnight. Federer will need to reach at least the semi-finals to hold onto the summit.
Besides Nadal (hip) and the still recovering Andy Murray (hip), the list of tournament withdrawals includes David Goffin (eye), Richard Gasquet (knee), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee) and Stan Wawrinka (knee).
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS (BY SEED)
Roger Federer (SUI)  v Dominic Thiem (AUT) 
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)  v Kevin Anderson (RSA) 
Jack Sock (USA)  v Alexander Zverev (GER) 
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)  v Marin Cilic (CRO) 
INDIAN WELLS, CA — The tennis tour heads to the California desert this fortnight where Serena Williams will be making her long-awaited return from maternity leave.
Russia’s Elena Vesnina is the defending champion and is seeded 24 in the draw while last year’s runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova will be playing her first tournament since last October having been sidelined with a left wrist surgery.
Indian Wells really is a tennis paradise and the players, fans, and journalists just love coming back here each season.
With 1,000 ranking points awarded to the winner, along with a $1,340860 cheque, the stakes are high and the field is class.
These are some of the main talking points surrounding the women’s draw these next two weeks.
THE COMEBACK QUEENS
Serena, Victoria Azarenka and Kuznetsova will all be making their returns to the circuit at Indian Wells this week.
Serena, a champion here in 1999 and 2001, will be playing her first WTA tournament since January 2017. The American 23-time Grand Slam champion had her first child last September and made her first competitive appearance playing a doubles match alongside her sister Venus in Fed Cup last month.
She played the Tie Break Tens exhibition event in New York on Monday where she beat Marion Bartoli in a 10-point tiebreak before losing to Zhang Shuai.
The 36-year-old Serena faces Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas in her first round and if she wins, she takes on No. 29 seed Kiki Bertens in her second match. If she gets past both, a possible third round against the eighth-seeded Venus awaits.
Azarenka, an Indian Wells champion in 2012 and 2016, will be playing her first tournament since Wimbledon last year, and just her third since having her baby boy Leo in December 2016.
The Belarusian saw her return from maternity leave cut short due to a custody dispute with the father of her child that prevents her from leaving the state of California with Leo and has only played two events (Mallorca and Wimbledon) in the last 21 months.
The two-time Grand Slam winner begins her Indian Wells campaign against Great Britain’s Heather Watson. If she gets past her, Azarenka plays reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Kuznetsova, who spent a few weeks preparing for her return to tennis in Dubai, is contesting her first event since Beijing last fall. She went under the knife to fix two injuries in her left wrist and as the No. 19 seed, plays her first match against either Aryna Sabalenka or Varvara Lepchenko.
TOP SPOT ON THE LINE
Simona Halep will extend her stay at summit of the rankings this fortnight at Indian Wells to a total of 19 weeks. Second-ranked Caroline Wozniacki has a chance of unseating Halep after the tournament. The Dane reached the semi-finals here last year (defending 215 points) while Halep lost in the third round (defending 65 points).
These are the possible scenarios:
– Wozniacki will have to at least reach the final to have a chance of dethroning Halep.
– If Halep wins her first match, Wozniacki would have to claim the title to unseat her.
– Halep would guarantee keeping the No. 1 ranking if she reaches the final.
Wozniacki has a tricky potential opener in her second round (has a bye in the first) with freshly-crowned Acapulco champion Lesia Tsurenko being one of her possible opponents.
Halep has either a qualifier or Kristyna Pliskova.
THE LOADED SECTION
While the entire draw features plenty of mouth-watering encounters, there is one particular part that stands out the most, with Maria Sharapova, Garbine Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Naomi Osaka and Eugenie Bouchard all bunched up in one section.
Sharapova and Osaka square off in the first round in the day session on Wednesday with the winner taking on the 31st-seeded Radwanska. The winner of that clash could play No. 3 seed Muguruza in the third round. But the Spaniard might first have to move past Canadian wildcard Bouchard, who opens against a qualifier.
STAR-STUDDED DOUBLES FIELD
The doubles draw is usually fun here at Indian Wells but this year, there’s even more incentive for players to play both singles and doubles. The tournament is offering a $1 million bonus to any player who wins both the singles and doubles titles.
The feat has only been accomplished six times in tournament history – Roscoe Tanner in 1978, (w/Raymond Moore), Boris Becker in 1988 (w/Guy Forget), Jim Courier in 1991 (w/Javier Sanchez), Lindsay Davenport in 1997 (w/Natasha Zvereva) and 2000 (w/Corina Morariu), and Vera Zvonareva in 2009 (w/Victoria Azarenka).
Some intriguing women’s doubles teams this fortnight include Halep and Irina-Camelia Begu (who practiced together on centre court on Tuesday), Belarusian duo Azarenka and Sabalenka, Latvian pair Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova, Czech twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova, Russians Daria Kasatkina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Ninth-seeded Petra Kvitova is on a 13-match winning streak heading into Indian Wells. The Czech two-time Wimbledon champion has won titles in St. Petersburg and Doha along with two Fed Cup matches in between last month.
She is 14-2 in 2018, a record that includes a 6-0 mark against top-10 opponents.
She is in the same quarter as Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova and plays either Yulia Putintseva or Alison van Uytvanck in the second round.
Kvitova will be looking to extend her streak this fortnight, in her first appearance at Indian Wells since 2016. Her best showing here is making the quarters in 2013 and 2016.
This time last year, the @BNPPARIBASOPEN made me a special sign…
Today I got to stand in its place with my team.
Courage. Belief. POJD ❤️ pic.twitter.com/w7SFw4tXOC
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) March 6, 2018
PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS (BY SEED)
Simona Halep (ROU)  v Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 
Garbine Muguruza (ESP)  v Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 
Venus Williams (USA)  v Elina Svitolina (UKR) 
Caroline Garcia (FRA)  v Carolina Wozniacki (DEN) 
Kyle Edmund says he is humbled at having become the British number one, a position he took up on Monday as the latest ATP rankings were released.
Andy Murray‘s nine-month absence due to injury has allowed rising star Edmund to take up the domestic crown, becoming only the 12th player in the Open Era to be British No. 1.
“It is humbling to become the British number one,” Edmund said on Sunday night, adding that he achieved the milestone “perhaps unwittingly, as Andy has dropped down in rankings due to his injury”.
“Proud as I am, I would have been much happier had Andy stayed healthy and occupied his place at the very top where he belongs.
“I wish Andy a speedy recovery and I hope to battle it out with him in a more legitimate fashion in years to come.”
British tennis has not had a serious battle for supremacy since the days of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in the early 2000s, as Murray has reigned ever since his rise to prominence, but Edmund’s emergence raises the prospects of a true rivalry – and perhaps one with a partisan flavour, considering Edmund’s status a true blue Englishman and Murray’s Scottish roots.
Edmund, who has been out for the past fortnight himself with a flu, added, “I’ll continue to work hard and represent Great Britain as best as I can. A bad dose of the flu virus kept me out in Buenos Aires and in Rio but I am back on track and excited to get back to it. I’m ready to play in Indian Wells [which starts on Monday] and Miami [19 March].”
The latest rankings sees Edmund move up one place to 24th, while Murray has slipped to 29th, his lowest ranking in eight years. However, the Scot has beaten his counterpart on the two occasions they’ve met on the ATP tour.