s the biggest hard-court tournament of the spring, the upcoming event at Indian Wells is turning into a comeback mecca for tennis. Last night, Novak Djokovic became the latest big name to appear in the draw.
Late on Monday night, the women’s draw confirmed the entries of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, who had not played a match on the tour since January and July 2017 respectively.
Then it was the turn of the men, and of Djokovic. The 12-time slam champion did participate in the recent Australian Open, but his four matches there remain his only contribution to the tour since Wimbledon. He also needed a “small medical intervention” – in his own words – on his troublesome right elbow in February, which left him with bandaging all the way down to his hand.
But Djokovic has been practising again in recent days and he will probably return to the fray at the weekend, depending on the schedule. He is the 10th seed and will thus enjoy a first-round bye, while two qualifiers fight for the right to face him.
The lesson from Djokovic’s strong performances in Melbourne six weeks ago is that he doesn’t need much match-time to find his form. He looked commanding there on his way to the fourth round, before his painful elbow combined with an inspired performance from South Korea’s Hyeon Chung to undo him.
But while Djokovic may have declared himself fit to resume, Indian Wells is still suffering from a plethora of high-profile withdrawals on the men’s side. Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Goffin have all joined Andy Murray on the absent list.
Kyle Edmund in action
Kyle Edmund returns to the tour at Indian Wells CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
At least the new British No 1 Kyle Edmund appears ready to resume action after sitting out the last month of tournaments with a heavy bout of ’flu. Edmund, whose most recent match was his Australian Open semi-final against Marin Cilic, is seeded in Indian Wells for the first time, at No 21 in the list. He will thus receive a first-round bye, followed by a challenging opening match against either Denis Istomin or Peter Gojowczyk.