Serena Williams is not on the entry list for the rescheduled BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells as she recovers from injury, but Naomi Osaka has been included.
Williams, who turns 40 later this month, has not played since having to withdraw from her first-round match at Wimbledon due to injury. She missed the ongoing US Open and her return date is unclear.
She would qualify for Indian Wells through her ranking but is not on the entry list for the tournament which runs from October 4-17 this year after being postponed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Williams boycotted Indian Wells for 14 years after she and her sister Venus said they felt an “undercurrent of racism” when playing there in 2001. She returned in 2015 and lost in the final to Victoria Azarenka the following year. Her last appearance at the tournament was in 2019 when she was beaten in the second round by Garbine Muguruza.
Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty, the top-ranked men’s and women’s players in the world, are set to compete, along with Osaka, who said she was taking a break from tennis after losing in the third round of the US Open to Leylah Fernandez.
Holding back tears in her post-match press conference, the world No 3 said: "This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match. Sorry. I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while.”
Andy Murray is not on the entry list as he has dropped down the rankings, but could get a wildcard. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will not be playing as they recover from injury and world No 4 Dominic Thiem is also not on the entry list. Thiem missed out on the defence of his US Open trophy as he is still recovering from a wrist injury suffered in late June.
Whether Djokovic, Barty and Osaka all play remains to be seen, but it would be a huge boost for the tournament, which has not been played in its usual March spot for the last two years. In 2020 it was cancelled and this year it has been moved back into autumn, but will be at full capacity. It is the penultimate Masters event of the season on the ATP Tour before the Paris Masters in November.
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Former champion Bianca Andreescu said that she hopes to play Indian Wells after suffering a groin injury at the US Open.
Andreescu, who won in the desert in 2019, lost to Maria Sakkari in an epic last-16 clash in New York, and said afterwards: “I just need to take some days off and hopefully it'll be good… I'm looking forward to [Indian Wells]. I'll probably play Chicago before that. I think it's like, back to back, Chicago and Indian Wells.”
Three teenagers will make their debuts at the tournament: 17-year-old Coco Gauff, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez.
Djokovic will be seeking a record sixth title at Indian Wells while Barty has won five titles this year, including Wimbledon.
World No 2 Daniil Medvedev, French Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev are on the men’s entry list, while women’s world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka is set to play along with Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Iga Swiatek.
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