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Ricky’s picks for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells

The BNP Paribas Open is upon us, and both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have returned to Tennis Paradise after missing last year’s festivities. They headline a loaded ATP field for the first of back-to-back Masters 1000 events, one that features every one of the top 35 players in the current rankings.

This is, as always, the beginning of the Sunshine Double. February was all about quantity. March is all about quality. Last month there were ATP and WTA tournaments all over the world whenever and wherever you could look. This month there are two: Indian Wells and Miami. That’s it. That’s the list. And that’s all a tennis fan needs when the two tournaments are this good.

For now it’s time to focus on Indian Wells. Here is my preview and my picks for the first Masters 1000 event of 2024.

BNP Paribas Open

Where: Palm Springs, California 
Prize money: $9,495,555 
Top seed: Novak Djokovic 
Defending champion: Carlos Alcaraz 

Until Jannik Sinner loses a match this season (he is currently 12-0), it’s hard to justify picking against him. The Italian won both the Australian Open and Rotterdam, taking him to No. 3 in the world. Being in a different half from Djokovic constitutes a good draw, but at the same time things could get difficult for Sinner in the second week. Ben Shelton is a possible fourth-round foe, after which the 22-year-old could meet Andrey Rublev in the QFs and Carlos Alcaraz in the SFs. 

Alcaraz is the defending champion, but he has not won a title since…wait for it…Wimbledon last summer. The two-time major champion may have to raise his level right away because his first opponent could be an in-form Matteo Arnaldi. Alexander Zverev, Alex de Minaur, and Karen Khachanov are also part of Alcaraz’s section.

Of course, the biggest story of the IW draw ceremony was always going to Nadal. Obviously unseeded since he is ranked No. 652 in the word, the 37-year-old ended up landing in the top half of the bracket with Djokovic (in Daniil Medvedev’s quarter). Nadal will kick off his fortnight against Milos Raonic and if he wins will run into Holger Rune. After that, possible opponents include Lorenzo Musetti in the last 32 and Taylor Fritz in the round of 16. Fritz beat Nadal in the 2022 Indian Wells final.

As for Djokovic, is on collision courses with Marseille and Dubai champion Ugo Humbert for the fourth round and with Hubert Hurkacz for the quarterfinals.
First-round matches to watch:
Rafael Nadal vs. Milos Raonic
Matteo Arnaldi vs. Luca Van Assche
Denis Shapovalov vs. Botic van de Zandschulp
Stan Wawrinka vs. Tomas Machac
Gael Monfils vs. Max Purcell

Quarterfinal picks: Hubert Hurkacz over Novak Djokovic, Taylor Fritz over Grigor Dimitrov, Jannik Sinner over Andrey Rublev, and Alex de Minaur over Carlos Alcaraz 

Semifinals: Fritz over Hurkacz and Sinner over De Minaur 

Final: Sinner over Fritz 

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