What's at stake at Indian Wells 2022?

Nadal's undefeated start to 2022 is on the line while Badosa searches for a repeat.

Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells 2022©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

The world’s best players are back at Indian Wells, just five months after competing there last fall.

The prestigious tournament was rescheduled from its usual March time slot in to 2021, and was moved to October, where Paula Badosa and Cameron Norrie were crowned champions.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake these two weeks in sunny California.

Nadal looks to extend undefeated run

Rafael Nadal takes his perfect 15-0 record this season into Indian Wells, where he hopes to clinch a fourth title from four events contested in 2022.

The three-time Indian Wells champion missed last year’s tournament while dealing with a chronic foot injury and has since made an incredible return to tennis, lifting a record 21st Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open and sweeping everything and everyone that has come his way.

This is the best season start of Nadal’s storied career and the 13-time Roland-Garros winner is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 35.

“My serve has been working well since the beginning of the year, which is important in this stage of my career without a doubt,” Nadal told reporters on Thursday.

“And I have been brave enough to play with the right determination the moment that I needed to. In general terms, when you have a start like this, I have been playing more or less well from all the parts of my game that I want.

“I am just working to try to keep improving things, but generally I can be happy with the level of tennis and the level of intensity and attitude on court.”

The Spaniard is seeded No.4 and begins his Indian Wells journey against American world No.38 Sebastian Korda, whom he practiced with earlier this week.

Badosa chases rare double

After becoming the first Spanish woman to triumph at Indian Wells last October, Paula Badosa is looking to become just the second WTA player to defend her title in the California desert, after Martina Navratilova, who clinched back-to-back crowns in 1990 and 1991.

Badosa, who rose to a career-high No.4 in the world last month, has started this season with a 9-4 win-loss record, which has included a title run in Sydney and a fourth round appearance at the Australian Open.

The 24-year-old was ranked 70 in the world this time last year and admits there are new added pressures that have come as a consequence of her sensational rise these past 12 months.

“I think if there is a player that comes here and says that she’s not stressed, she’s lying, don’t believe her,” she said with a laugh during her pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday.

But the Catalonian has a plan to manage the expectations as the title holder at Indian Wells.

“I try to trick myself and say I won it in October, so I'm not quite defending it. So it's not that much pressure,” said Badosa.

“But still, I know it's a big title. I just want to play match by match. I want to get my best tennis on court, to enjoy competing. That's a little bit the key of last year, I was enjoying every minute on court. I was fighting for every ball until the last one and that's what made me win so many matches and made me get to world No.4.”

Badosa is seeded fifth at Indian Wells and opens her campaign against Czech world No.42 Tereza Martincova.

On the ATP side, Cameron Norrie, who last year became the first British champion in the 45-year history of the tournament, begins his title defence against Spain's Pedro Martinez.

Medvedev debuts top ranking

Daniil Medvedev will be competing in his first tournament as the world No.1, having dethroned Novak Djokovic less than two weeks ago following his runner-up showing in Acapulco.

Medvedev is the first player since 2004 outside the ‘Big Four’ to top the ATP rankings and he’ll have to reach at least the quarter-finals at Indian Wells to prevent Djokovic – who isn’t competing this month – from reclaiming the top spot.

The Russian has not had much success in the tournament in the past, with his best Indian Wells result coming last October, when he made the last-16 stage. He has however won the most hard-court titles on tour since 2018, with 12 to his name.

Medvedev has a bye in the first round and begins against Czech qualifier Tomas Machac.

Barty, Krejcikova withdraw

The top two women in the rankings are missing the action at Indian Wells this week. World No.1 Ashleigh Barty conceded her body has not recovered yet since she claimed a historic Australian Open title in January, while No.2 Barbora Krejcikova pulled out citing an elbow injury.

In their absence, Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek headline the WTA field and both have a chance to finish the fortnight in the No.2 spot.

Swiatek, who faces Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina in her opener on Friday, will be looking to translate her success from one desert to another as she triumphed at the WTA 1000 in Doha less than two weeks ago, sweeping three top-10 players along the way.

Rublev on a roll

Nadal is not the only player on a streak. Andrey Rublev arrives to Indian Wells having won his last two consecutive tournaments in Marseille and Dubai, extending his winning run to nine matches in a row.

The Russian world No.7 is 14-2 this season and will be seeking an 11th career title this fortnight. Rublev has never made it past the third round in the California desert.

Other in-form players in the men’s draw include recent Rotterdam champion Felix Auger-Aliassime and Rio de Janeiro winner Carlos Alcaraz.