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Ricky’s picks for the Indian Wells women’s draw, including Gauff and Azarenka

Iga Swiatek is the world No. 1 and won the Sunshine Double last year–back-to-back 1000-point titles in Indian Wells and Miami. For good reason, Swiatek is a considerable favorite to triumph once again at the BNP Paribas Open.

The top-seeded Pole has been dominant at times in the early stages this season, but she lost to Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open fourth round and is coming off a 6-4, 6-2 setback at the hands of Barbora Krejcikova in the Dubai final. Swiatek can’t be considered an absolute lock to triumph in the desert.

If she does falter, here are three other contenders who could lift the trophy.

Coco Gauff

Gauff has not yet won a Grand Slam or a Premier 1000-point tournament. She’s not exactly overdue at 18 years old, but considering she’s been thought of as a contender for a while now it’s time for her to get going. That time could be now. Gauff may not be on fire at the moment, but she on the side of the draw opposite Swiatek and she is at least playing well to take advantage of conditions in Indian Wells that are perfect for her game.

Victoria Azarenka

At 33 years old, Azarenka actually isn’t that far past her prime. In fact, she just made it to the Australian Open semifinals. She also finished runner-up in Indian Wells only two years ago (17 months, to be exact, since it was in the fall in 2021). Moreover, Azarenka is a two-time champion of this tournament. She is in a relatively soft quarter of the bracket and would not run into Swiatek until the semifinals. The Belarusian is 50/1 to win the BNP Paribas title, which is absolutely outrageous. She should be among the favorites.

Maria Sakkari

As featured on Break Point, Sakkari made an impressive run to the Indian Wells final last season before succumbing to Swiatek. Can the Greek go all the way this time? Why not? She recorded back-to-back semifinal performances in Linz and Doha last month and has a favorable Indian Wells draw opposite Swiatek (also would not face Gauff until the semifinals).

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.