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Indian Wells Masters: Rafael Nadal the man to beat

Roger Federer will not be at the tournament as he is still recovering from knee surgery
Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal
File Photo

Agencies   |   Indian Wells   |   Published 10.03.22, 01:22 AM

Rafael Nadal will be the man to beat at the Indian Wells Masters while Naomi Osaka will look to begin her ascent back to the top of the tennis world at the tournament that launched her career.

Nadal’s season was cut short last year due to a foot injury but the Spaniard has come roaring out of the gates in 2022, winning January’s Australian Open for a men’s record 21st grand slam title.

He followed that up by winning his fourth title in Acapulco last month and has not lost in 15 matches this season.

“Rafa Nadal is now 35-years-old and he’s never had a start to the season like this one,” Indian Wells tournament director and former player Tommy Haas said on a recent podcast. “He’s the guy to beat here, there’s no doubt about it.”

Roger Federer will not be at the tournament as he is still recovering from knee surgery, while a cadre of emerging stars will be eager to topple Nadal. Chief among them is Daniil Medvedev, who enters a tournament as the world No.1 for the first time, and big-serving Andrey Rublev, who won a title in Dubai last month.

Both players are from Russia but they will not compete under the name or flag of their country, a decision handed down by tennis authorities following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Osaka in ‘better space’

On the women’s side, opportunity knocks for Osaka, who as a 20-year-old announced herself with a triumph at the WTA 1000 event in 2018. From there she won four grand slams, became the world’s highest-paid female athlete and sparked a conversation about mental health in sports.

But time away from the court after last year’s US Open has caused her world ranking to plummet and the former world No.1 is now No. 78 and unseeded at the tournament.

“I’ve heard she’s in a wonderful place, a much better space than she was last year, and that she’s excited to get back out and competing,” three-time grand slam champion Lindsay Davenport said.

Novak’s position

Indian Wells organisers said on Tuesday that world No.2 Novak Djokovic had been placed in the tournament’s draw but it was unclear if the Serbian would be permitted to enter the US. The 20-time Grand Slam winner has refused to obtain a Covid-19 vaccine and previously said he was prepared to miss tournaments as a consequence.

“Novak Djokovic is on the tournament entry list, and therefore is placed into the draw today. We are currently in communication with his team,” Indian Wells organisers wrote on Twitter.

“However, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approval to enter the country.”

Ramkumar out

Ramkumar Ramanathan’s winless run against Liam Broady continued as he suffered his fourth straight defeat against the Briton to bow out of the Indian Wells Masters’ qualifying event. Ranked 170, Ramkumar lost 2-6, 6-3, 4-6.

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