This article is part of our Tennis Picks series.
The BNP Paribas Open will begin Wednesday, March 8 from Indian Wells, California. This will be the first ATP Masters 1000 and second WTA 1000 on the 2023 calendar, sliding in just below the Grand Slams in importance. Indian Wells is the first half of the sunshine double, with another Masters 1000 to follow from Miami just days after the conclusion of the BNP Paribas Open. Most healthy top players will be taking part in this tournament, though there are some notable absences in both the men's and women's draws.
This tournament functionally feels like a Grand Slam, as both the men and women will be playing a grueling seven-round schedule on the hard courts of Indian Wells. The 32 seeds in both draws get byes directly into the second round, though, so the BNP Paribas Open draws are 96 players each rather than the 128 we see at Grand Slams. Additionally, all matches will be best-of-three sets, which is par for the course in the WTA game but different from the best-of-five format in men's Grand Slams.
The men's draw will be substantially depleted. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was unable to gain entry to the United States due to COVID vaccine-related entry restrictions, and he will be joined on the sidelines by fellow all-time great Rafael Nadal (hip). Other notable players who have withdrawn include Nick Kyrgios (knee), Marin Cilic (knee), Sebastian Korda (wrist), David Goffin (knee) and Jenson Brooksby (illness). World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz (hamstring) will attempt to make his return after pulling out of Acapulco last week. The women's draw will be without up-and-comer Qinwen Zheng (abdomen) and former world No. 2 Anett Kontaveit (back).
While Indian Wells title odds have yet to be revealed on major mobile sportsbooks such as DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook, you will be able to wager on individual matches, and it's only a matter of time until Indian Wells futures become available as well. We offer exclusive sign-up bonuses for various sportsbooks, including those that will launch in Massachusetts on Friday.
Indian Wells Picks: Men's Tournament
Carlos Alcaraz - Assuming he's healthy, Alcaraz will be the player to beat here. The reigning US Open champion is the top seed in Djokovic's absence, and he has a 3-0 career head-to-head edge over No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. With two Masters 1000 titles under his belt -- including one on the hard courts of Miami last year -- the 19-year-old Spaniard is already tied with Tsitsipas for the fourth-most Masters 1000 titles among players in the 2023 BNP Paribas Open draw.
In the Mix
Daniil Medvedev - Medvedev's the hottest player on the ATP Tour at the moment, as he just capped a run of three consecutive titles by handing Djokovic his first loss of the season in Dubai. Outside of Medvedev, the only Grand Slam champions in this draw will be a far past his prime Andy Murray, Dominic Thiem, who has been a shadow of his former self since a wrist injury, and the possibly injured Alcaraz. In addition to his 2021 US Open title, Medvedev has made three other Grand Slam finals, all on hard courts. He also has four Masters 1000 titles, though the world No. 6 has been surprisingly ineffective at Indian Wells in his career, with a 6-5 record and no quarterfinal appearances.
Stefanos Tsitsipas - Fresh off a run to the final of the Australian Open, Tsitsipas will look to keep flexing his hard-court muscles. The world No. 3 has posted his best results on clay, with both of his Masters 1000 titles coming in Monte Carlo, but he's no slouch on hard courts. Tsitsipas has made three Australian Open semifinals to go with his run to the final in 2023, and unlike the Aussie Open, there's no Djokovic here to stand in his way. The 24-year-old from Athens, Greece is just 5-4 in his career at Indian Wells, though.
Taylor Fritz - Fritz comes in rocking a career-high No. 5 ranking, bolstered by his title here last year. The 2022 Indian Wells title remains Fritz's lone career triumph at a Masters 1000, but this is basically the home tournament for the 25-year-old Califnornia native. Fritz grew up attending this tournament regularly and broke through with a semifinal run in 2021 before beating Nadal to claim the title in 2022. He could get an early test in his first match, as a possible second-round opponent for Fritz is Australian Open quarterfinalist Ben Shelton. Get the popcorn ready for that all-American clash.
Alexander Zverev - Zverev is actually the most successful Masters 1000 player in the men's singles draw outside of Murray, with five such titles under his belt. He seems to put too much pressure on himself in Grand Slams, but Zverev has produced some of his best tennis at the Masters 1000 level. The former world No. 2 is finally getting into a groove in his recovery from torn ankle ligaments that cut his 2022 season short at the French Open just as he achieved that ranking. Zverev managed to string together three consecutive wins in Dubai before falling to Andrey Rublev in the semifinals last week, so this is a good time to buy low on the No. 12 seed.
Casper Ruud - Ruud is an obligatory inclusion here, as we're talking about the No. 3 seed, who reached a pair of Grand Slam finals last year, including one on the hard courts of the US Open. While clay is probably his best surface, Ruud complemented his trip to the US Open championship match with hard-court finals at the Masters 1000 in Miami and the year-end ATP Finals. He has struggled to begin 2023, though, and one can't help but wonder if we'll look back on 2022 as the pinnacle of Ruud's career as some younger players begin to surpass the 24-year-old Norwegian.
Holger Rune - Speaking of those younger players, Rune's rapidly ascending the rankings and is seeded No. 7 here. The 19-year-old Dane closed out his 2022 season with a triumph at the Paris Masters, beating Djokovic in the final on indoor hard courts. He's still learning to master the elements outdoors, but Rune is a superb talent capable of beating anyone in this Djokovic-less field.
Jannik Sinner - Sinner's overshadowed by Alcaraz and Rune, but he's only 21 years old and has already made the quarterfinals at each of the four Grand Slams. His lone Masters 1000 final to date came on the hard courts of Miami in 2021, and Sinner's in a nice groove at the moment, having gone 10-2 in his last three events, with losses to Tsitsipas and Medvedev. He withdrew from Marseille a couple weeks ago due to an illness but has since recovered.
Cameron Norrie - Norrie was the surprising Indian Wells champion in 2021, when this tournament was played in October. He has since backed up that result by becoming a borderline top-10 mainstay and reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2022. Seeded 10th at the 2023 edition of this tournament, the lefty will be looking to replicate his title run from 2021.
Indian Wells Picks: Women's Tournament
Iga Swiatek - Swiatek won this title last year as part of her 37-match winning streak. She's still the player to beat on the WTA Tour and has a hard-court title under her belt at the Qatar Open in 2023. The world No. 1 won three hard-court WTA 1000 titles during her winning streak in 2022, and she took home two Grand Slam titles that year as well.
In the Mix
Aryna Sabalenka - Sabalenka captured her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, and she also has four career WTA 1000 titles under her belt. Having largely solved the serving issues that held her back in 2022, the world No. 2 is off to a 13-1 start in 2023.
Caroline Garcia - Garcia has suffered some tough losses in 2023, but she caught fire in the second half of 2022. The world No. 5 won four titles from June onward, including a WTA 1000 in Cincinnati and the WTA Finals, both of which were on hard courts. Garcia also flashed her hard court bonafides with a run to the US Open semifinals, and her aggressive game style leaves opponents with little time to react, regardless of whose serve it is.
Elena Rybakina - Rybakina won Wimbledon last year and made the final of the Australian Open this year, so she's a legitimate title contender at every big tournament, at least on faster surfaces. The No. 10 seed is arguably the best server on the WTA Tour, and while her success at the WTA 1000 level has been limited thus far, that could change as soon as this tournament, assuming she's over the back injury that's troubled her in recent weeks.
Barbora Krejcikova - Krejcikova's coming off a title at the first WTA 1000 event of 2023, beating Swiatek in the championship match on the hard courts of Dubai after also defeating Sabalenka and world No. 3 Jessica Pegula. While it's doubtful that Krejcikova will be able to replicate that outstanding effort here, the 2021 French Open champion should nonetheless be viewed as a legitimate title contender at this tournament.
Coco Gauff - Gauff won a hard-court title in Auckland to begin 2023, and the 18-year-old American is seeded sixth here. She's still searching for her first Masters 1000 title, but it's likely just a matter of time until the 2022 French Open finalist starts to contend in most big tournaments she enters. While clay has been Gauff's best surface in her young career, two of her three career titles on the WTA Tour have come on hard courts.
Victoria Azarenka - Azarenka's a two-time champion at this event, and she came agonizingly close to becoming the only three-time Indian Wells women's singles champion in 2021, losing the final to Paula Badosa in a third-set tiebreak. Coming off a semifinal effort at this year's Australian Open, the 33-year-old Azarenka's still a force to be reckoned with at every major hard court event she enters. The No. 14 seed is a two-time Grand Slam champion and has 10 Masters 1000 titles to boot, with all of those titles coming on hard courts.
Donna Vekic - Vekic has been one of the top players on the WTA Tour so far in 2023. She made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open before losing to eventual champion Sabalenka, and Vekic just claimed a WTA 500 title in Monterrey last week, beating Garcia in the final. After battling injuries in recent years, Vekic is playing the best tennis of her career and is 14-2 in 2023. Unfortunately for the No. 29 seed, the draw makers didn't do her any favors here, as she's on a collision course with Sabalenka in the third round.
Paula Badosa - Badosa followed up her title here in 2021 with a semifinal showing in 2022. The former world No. 2 has dropped out of the top 20, but perhaps playing at what has been arguably her best tournament over the years will get the 25-year-old Spaniard going. A potential third-round clash with Rybakina could mean an early exit, but it could also provide a much-needed confidence boost for Badosa if she finds a way to pull that one out.
Picks to Win the BNP Paribas Open
Alcaraz is a special talent, and without Djokovic or Nadal to knock him down a peg here, look for the 19-year-old Spaniard to get back to the winning ways he showed prior to his recent string of injuries. With a straightforward early draw, Alcaraz will have an opportunity to play his way into this tournament and regain confidence in his body. An Alcaraz-Medvedev final with a Masters 1000 title on the line sure would be a sweet setup for their first hard-court encounter.
With Swiatek struggling by her lofty standards, the women's draw is pretty wide open at the moment. It may take Swiatek until the clay-court swing to regain her swagger, and Sabalenka could be facing a Vekic-Krejcikova-Gauff gauntlet just to reach the semifinals here, so the conditions are ripe for a surprise women's champion at the 2023 BNP Paribas Open. Azarenka always seems to play well here, and her early draw is less daunting compared to some of the top contenders.