Returning from an Australian Open semi-final exit, Novak Djokovic is set to grace the Indian Wells Masters next month, marking his return after a five-year absence from the tournament. The world No. 1 last played in California on March 4, 2019, exiting the tournament in the third round with a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Philipp Kolschreiber.
It was clear that Djokovic was not warmed up for the game, so he unexpectedly lost 2-0. Indian Wells was a stumbling block for Djokovic, often referred to as the "fifth Grand Slam". This is because every tournament not won is a failure for Djokovic.
He has a rich history in the tournament, winning titles in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016, while in 2007 he was runner-up. However, the past few years have been challenging as Djokovic has faced travel restrictions to the US due to not having been vaccinated against COVID-19, causing him to skip the so-called "Sunshine Double" - a mini US tour that includes Indian Wells.
This year the circumstances have changed, and Djokovic will participate in the tournament for the 15th time in his great career, presenting an opportunity to extend his reign on the ATP rankings, which is already a record.
Skipping the Dubai tournament in February will cost Djokovic just 180 points, making him likely to start March as the leader in the ATP rankings. The absence of defense points in Indian Wells and Miami is a significant advantage for Djokovic, giving him the opportunity to collect more points and strengthen his position.
Heading into the Masters in Indian Wells, Djokovic faces the chance to make it 1,100. career victory. This is yet another success in an illustrious career to be achieved by securing the title in California. Alternatively, if he fails in Indian Wells, the quest for his landmark 1,100th victory will continue at the Miami Open from March 20-31.
Looking ahead, Djokovic's trip to the French Open includes defending a modest 315 points heading into Roland Garros. With no previous defense commitments in Indian Wells and Miami, Djokovic has a golden opportunity to make significant moves in the ATP rankings and strengthen his position as number one in the world before Roland Garros.