The length between the Australian Open and French Open is the longest between any two Grand Slams, but there are five Masters 1000 events that help bridge that gap. The first of those, the Indian Wells Masters, should be highly entertaining.
Early-round coverage of the tournament will be on the Tennis Channel, while ESPN will broadcast most of the singles quarters, semis and finals action (full schedule and TV listings can be found here). If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch all of the action live on your computer, phone or streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
DirecTV Now: ESPN is included in all of DirecTV Now’s four main channel packages, while Tennis Channel is included in the “Just Right,” “Go Big” and “Gotta Have It” bundles. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, and you can then watch either channel live on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Coverage on ESPN: If you’re only looking to watch the matches that are broadcast on ESPN, Hulu With Live TV and Sling TV both include ESPN in their live-TV channel packages. They don’t include the Tennis Channel.
On the men’s side, with Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka all out, and with Novak Djokovic still a question mark due to his health, Roger Federer is the clear favorite. Of course, he would be the favorite no matter what, as he’s 12-0 to start the year and has risen back to No. 1 in the world, but the gap is even wider with many other stars either sidelined or less than 100 percent.
That said, this is a Masters 1000 event, so there are still plenty of intriguing names. Marin Cilic has only advanced as far as the quarterfinals here once (2016), and he’s in a tough quarter with Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin Del Potro and John Isner, but he can’t be overlooked after advancing to the final in Australia and pushing Fed-Ex to five sets. Sascha Zverev has had a shaky start to the season with losses to Hyeon Chung, Andreas Seppi and Del Potro, but the 20-year-old’s talent is clear. Nick Kyrgios is always difficult to predict, but he beat Djokovic here last year, and he’s in the quarter of Grigor Dimitrov, who’s fresh off a loss to Malek Jaziri in Dubai. Dominic Thiem is 2-1 in his career against Federer and could thus could make a very compelling quarterfinal matchup for the No. 1.
It would ultimately be surprising if Federer pick up his sixth Indian Wells title, but it should still be a fun ride to get there.
Over on the women’s side, all eyes will be on Serena Williams, the new mother who will be making her first appearance in a tournament since the 2017 Australian Open. Not only will it be fascinating to see how the 23-time Grand Slam champion fares in her anticipated return, but there’s also a potential third-round matchup against sister Venus.
While Serena is the most intriguing, though, she’s not the favorite. At least not yet. Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, who are both former Indian Wells champions and who met in the Australian Open final, are the top two seeds, and it’s hard not to like the way Petra Kvitova is playing after her titles in St. Petersburg and Doha, which included wins over Elina Svitolina, Wozniacki and Garbine Muguruza.
Put it all together, and it’s going to be an entertaining slate of tennis in California.