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Mar 6, 2017

  • Greg GarberSenior Writer Close
      Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.

In most of the players' minds, Indian Wells is the biggest and best non-major tournament of the year.

This is the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 of the season, and it has the loaded field we've come to expect.

For the first time since the Australian Open, all the top names will be in one venue for the 10-day event, which starts Thursday.

Here's a look at what to expect in the men's draw. (Women's preview can be found here.)

Storylines: It's like a Grand Slam without all the riffraff of a 128-player draw. Listen to analyst Justin Gimelstob, who will be breaking it down for Tennis Channel's coverage.

"Look at the storylines," he said. "Murray? Does he double down on No. 1? Does Djokovic come back? Rafa and Roger? The next generation — [Dominic] Thiem and [Nick] Kyrgios. You literally have everything.

"It's a great month of tennis, Indian Wells and Miami, and everyone's going to be there. There are a lot of good things going on."

Of note: American Sam Querrey, whose ranking moved to No. 26 from No. 40 in winning the title in Mexico, flew home Sunday and planned to drive Monday to Indian Wells. In 10 previous appearances, he's reached the fourth round twice. "I'm going in with a ton of confidence," he said. "Hopefully, I can keep it going."

Also, Roger Federer will return to the court after a second-round loss in Dubai. Against 116th-ranked qualifier Evgeny Donskoy, Federer failed to convert two match points and then blew a 5-1 lead in the third-set tiebreaker.

Top men's seeds

No. 1 Andy Murray: It hadn't been a great start to the 2017 season — until Murray ripped through the field in Dubai, winning the title in a 6-3, 6-2 final over Fernando Verdasco. In the quarterfinals against Philipp Kohlschreiber, Murray saved seven match points in the second set, winning the dramatic tiebreaker by the outsized score of 20-18.

No. 2 Novak Djokovic: Acapulco was another disappointing effort for Djokovic, who went out in the quarters to Nick Kyrgios in straight sets. He hasn't been the same player since winning Roland Garros last June.

No. 3 Stan Wawrinka: The 31-year-old Swiss comes in with zero momentum after losing his first match last week in Dubai, where he was the defending champion.

No. 4 Milos Raonic: He reached the final at Delray Beach a week ago but couldn't play the final because of a hamstring tear. Raonic reached the final a year ago, falling to Djokovic.

No. 5 Kei Nishikori: He took Federer to five sets in the fourth round of the Australian Open and lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final of the Argentina Open. Nishikori was a quarterfinalist a year ago at Indian Wells.

No. 6 Rafael Nadal: He reached the Acapulco final without losing a set but fell in straight sets to American Sam Querrey. Rafa is a three-time champion at Indian Wells but hasn't been to a final since 2013.

No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The 31-year-old Frenchman is coming off back-to-back titles, in Rotterdam and Marseille, and has fashioned a superb 17-3 record to start 2017. Still, as the tournament approaches, the expectant father wasn't sure he would play.

No. 8 Marin Cilic: The 2014 US Open winner is 3-4 so far this year. He reached the quarterfinals at Rotterdam, losing there to Tsonga. He was an Indian Wells quarterfinalist a year ago.

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