For players competing on the ATP Challenger Tour, the opportunity to test their talents at an ATP Tour venue is often a dream come true. When that venue is the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it is even more special.
There are currently five facilities that host tour-level and Challenger tournaments – Indian Wells, Shanghai, Chengdu, Zhuhai and Pune – but only one features both events in consecutive weeks. The beginning of the 2019 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 season is just a few days away, as players begin to descend on Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open. And with unique conditions in the California desert, this week’s Oracle Challenger Series Indian Wells provides the perfect preparation for those hoping to extend their stay.
The Coachella Valley is already buzzing with world-class tennis, boasting five Top 100 players including World No. 27 Kyle Edmund. Russian star Andrey Rublev and last week’s Delray Beach finalist Daniel Evans are also in the field and will feature in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Into the QFs without dropping a set… @AndreyRublev97!
The 🇷🇺 secures his place in the last eight @OracleChallngrs Indian Wells pic.twitter.com/Zegf5qnRpr
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) February 28, 2019
“Playing more matches is important, so I decided to come here,” said Rublev, who is seeking a Top 100 return after struggling with a back injury last year. “I played the Masters 1000 three or four times and I always lost first round. I even came here a week earlier but it never helped. But now I’m playing real matches at the Challenger and feeling all the emotions here, so I’m better prepared. I just really love the Indian Wells atmosphere and it’s my favourite trip of the year.
“It’s a Challenger, but it’s a really tough one. Yesterday, Istomin played Evans and that could be the second round of an ATP Tour event. There are so many good players and it’s good to play with them at this tournament.”
The tournament is particularly special for top seed Kyle Edmund, who is targeting a return to form in his comeback from a knee injury. The British No. 1 secured his first match wins of 2019 in defeating Tommy Robredo and Lukas Rosol to open his Indian Wells campaign. Now into the quarter-finals, the 24-year-old is hoping a deep Challenger run can kick-start his season.
“I’d only played two matches at the start of the year and did a physical block since,” said Edmund. “But you can only play matches if you win and it’s not easy here. With two tournaments at the same venue and being slightly different conditions in the desert, it makes sense to come here and try to basically start the year. So far, I’m happy with how I’m progressing.
“Especially for the guys playing the Masters 1000 event or even the qualies, it makes sense to come here early. Throughout the year we’re constantly traveling and always moving from one tournament to the next every week. To be in the same place for two to three weeks is great.”
While both Edmund and Rublev are looking to rediscover their elite level, Lloyd Harris is putting the rest of the tour on notice as he continues his ascent. One spot off his career-high ATP Ranking, the World No. 99 is coming off a title run at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Launceston, Australia, which propelled him to the Top 100 for the first time.
South Africa’s newest star is gearing up for his first appearance in qualifying of an ATP Masters 1000 event. But first, he has his sights set on a fourth Challenger crown.
“I thought it would be really good preparation to get used to the courts and I think it was a good decision,” Harris added. “By next week I will have had a week and a half here. And this doesn’t feel like a Challenger to be honest. I just played a couple ATP 250s and this feels no different. Both my matches here have been incredibly tough.”
A strong quarter-final slate is on tap for Friday, featuring Edmund, Rublev, Harris and Evans, along with Jason Jung, Alex Bolt, Yannick Maden and Salvatore Caruso.