This year’s Indian Wells event is missing a number of the world's top players, but organisers have still found a way to make sure they’re not forgotten.
Outside stadium two at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is a pristine grass wall with life-size cutouts of those missing from the tournament and the words “We miss you” in cursive.
The cutouts include women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty, four-time major winner Naomi Osaka and 23-time Grand Slam champion, Serena Williams.
20-time major winners Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are also present on the wall, alongside 2019 Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem.
While there are inevitably injuries that prevent players from competing at every tournament, the reality is that the majority of these top stars chose to withdraw for other reasons.
Osaka recently announced she was taking an indefinite break from tennis, having struggled with her mental health all year. The 23-year-old admitted she was suffering from depression and missed both the French Open and Wimbledon –– which has seen her drop out of the world’s top 10.
Meanwhile, Barty has enjoyed a far more successful year –– extending her lead at the top of the rankings and winning her second major at Wimbledon. A hectic schedule meant she had not been back to Australia in more than six months, however, and so the 25-year-old has decided to take some time to return home.
Williams, who turned 40 last Sunday, has been struggling with injuries of late and was forced to withdraw from the US Open with a hamstring injury. Yet, even before then, the US star had carefully plotted her schedule around the Grand Slams as she chases a record-equalling 24th major title.
Given Indian Wells this year is taking place after the four Slams have been completed, it’s unlikely the former world number one would’ve been seen anyway –– especially when you consider she’s already won the tournament twice before.
Despite the absence of some of the sport’s leading names, the competition has still thrown up some thrilling drama.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu was knocked out in the second round, while world number 115 Beatriz Haddad Maia defeated top seed Karolína Plíšková in straight sets in the third round.
Just four players remain in the women’s singles draw, with none of the top 10 seeds making it to this stage.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka faces Jeļena Ostapenko in the first semi-final.
Ostapenko last won a WTA title in June at the Eastbourne International, while Azarenka is yet to reach a final this year.
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur faces Spain’s Paula Badosa in the other semi. Jabeur has won 48 matches on the tour this year and is the first Arab player to ever reach the top 10 of the rankings.
Badosa has been in fine form herself though and has already beaten Coco Gauff, Barbora Krejčíková and Angelique Kerber en route to this stage.News Now - Sport News