Last week's ATX Open champion Marta Kostyuk was bundled out in the Indian Wells Open first round by last month's Merida Open runner-up Rebecca Peterson on Wednesday.

The Swedish qualifier, who reached her first WTA final in four years in Merida having had her 2022 derailed by injury, triumphed 7-5 5-7 7-5 over the Ukrainian world number 40 in almost three hours.

Kostyuk, ranked 40th in the world, was not helped by 17 double faults across the match, with Peterson progressing to the second round where she will face 22nd seed Zhang Shuai.

Alize Cornet was also a surprise first-round loser, going down 6-2 7-5 to 427th-ranked Evgeniya Rodina in one hour and 42 minutes.

Rodina's prize for her shock victory is a second-round date with 2023 Australian champion and second seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Camila Giorgi, who beat Peterson for the aforementioned Merida Open crown last month, won through with a routine 6-3 6-3 victory over Arantxa Rus. Giorgi will next face third seed Jessica Pegula.

World number 41 Shelby Rogers was pushed for two hours and 22 minutes by Katie Volynets but triumphed 6-4 4-6 6-1. Rogers will take on seventh seed Maria Sakkari in the second round.

China's Wang Xin, making her Indian Wells debut, defeated former world number 12 Elise Mertens 6-3 6-1, while world number 33 Zhu Lin was downed by Lesia Tsurenko 6-4 6-3.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich won 6-3 7-6 (7-5) over veteran Kaia Kanepi, while 53rd-ranked Linda Fruhvirtova fought back after copping a bagel to win 0-6 6-2 6-3 over 52nd-ranked Mayar Sherif.

Jil Teichman set up a second-round clash with Swiss compatriot Belinda Bencic after a 6-1 6-4 victory over Ashlyn Krueger.

Andy Murray expects Russian and Belarusian players to feature at Wimbledon in 2023, though he understands if the ban is upheld.

Last year, players from both nations were prevented from participating following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the ban resulting in Wimbledon being stripped of ranking points.

Additionally, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) was fined £1.4million by the ATP and WTA due to players being excluded.

It is yet to be announced whether the ban will remain in place for this year's competition, though Murray expects there to be no such limitations.

"It's a really difficult one and I do feel for the players who weren't able to play last year – but I also understand the situation and why it's really hard for Wimbledon to make a call on it as well," he told BBC Sport.

"My understanding is that they are going to be allowed to play and I'm not going to be going nuts if that is the case.

"But if Wimbledon went down another route, I would be understanding of that."

Murray's comments came at Indian Wells, where he faces Tomas Etcheverry on Thursday, with the potential of an all-British affair against Dan Evans or Jack Draper in the third round.

Evans and Draper will face off in the second round if the latter beats Leandro Riedi, while Murray would have to defeat Etcheverry and Pablo Carreno Busta to set up a tussle with either of his compatriots.

But Murray insists he is not looking that far ahead.

"To be honest, I don't really care that much. Obviously, I can see why it's interesting, and if Evo [Evans] plays against Jack I'll be interested in the match," he added.

"But I'm not particularly bothered by it and for me it's not going to impact me until the third round. I need to get there and this is not always a tournament where I have played amazingly."

Novak Djokovic's absence from the Indian Wells Open has caused a stir in US politics, and on the tennis court it is hugely significant, too.

Sport was given a jolt three years ago when Indian Wells organisers cancelled the event on the eve of action getting under way, citing one local case of COVID-19.

At that point, on March 8, 2020, there had been more than 500 confirmed cases across the United States, with 21 deaths. Soon enough, events across the globe were being postponed or scrubbed.

Coronavirus travel restrictions prevented the unvaccinated Djokovic from taking part last year, and they will keep him away again this time, despite calls from two Florida senators for the jab requirement to be lifted by President Biden to allow the Serbian into the country.

With the world number one sidelined, Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz look likely challengers for the men's title. There have been surprise champions in recent times, with Cameron Norrie winning in 2021 and Taylor Fritz carrying off the title 12 months ago, so it would be hasty to rule out something similar.

In the women's event, there has not been a successful title defence since Martina Navratilova won in 1990 and 1991. That can partly be attributed to Serena and Venus Williams boycotting for over a decade at the peak of their powers after complaining of facing racial abuse, and in their absence no player stepped up to dominate.

Iga Swiatek triumphed in Indian Wells and Miami last season, racking up the 'Sunshine Double', and she starts as a strong favourite again, but defeat in the recent Dubai final to Barbora Krejcikova showed the 21-year-old rankings leader will not have everything her way this season.

First-round action gets under way on Wednesday, after two days of qualifying, and here Stats Perform, with Opta data, looks at what lies ahead.

After Norrie and Fritz, could there be another shock men's winner?

Djokovic has won a joint-record five Indian Wells titles, but he last featured in 2019, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in round three.

Rafael Nadal is also absent this time with a hip injury, and with Roger Federer retired this will be the second Indian Wells main draw since 2000, after 2021, to feature none of the ATP Big Three.

The Big Three was a Big Four at one point, though, and Andy Murray will be competing. It is one of the two Masters 1000 tournaments Murray has never won, along with Monte Carlo, having triumphed at the other seven. Murray has the most match wins at Indian Wells among all men competing this time, having 28 to his name, two more than John Isner who sits next on the list.

No ATP player has a better win percentage at Indian Wells than Djokovic (84.7 per cent), who has won 50 of his 59 matches, while the now-retired Federer has appeared in the most finals (nine), also winning five times, so there is no doubt the field is missing its long-time classiest acts.

Fritz last year became the first men's champion aged under 25 years old since Djokovic in 2011, and he was also the first American to take the men's title since Andre Agassi beat Pete Sampras in the 2001 final.

Medvedev has won three consecutive tournaments in the lead-up this year, tearing to titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai, but the Russian has a disappointing record at Indian Wells, having yet to reach the quarter-finals in five visits.

Just four players this century, including Alcaraz last year, have reached the semi-final stage before turning 20, with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray the other three. Alcaraz is still only 19 but a shade older than Boris Becker when he was a 19-year-old champion in 1987, the youngest men's winner.

Who else might come through? It feels like a free-for-all and Felix Auger-Aliassime will be hoping for a breakthrough tournament, with the Canadian being the only member of the current ATP top 10 to have never reached a final at ATP 1000 level. It has to happen sooner rather than later, surely.

Swiatek bids to lift curse of women's champions

Ever since Navratilova's two in a row, being a back-to-back champion at Indian Wells has been beyond all singles players on the WTA side.

Indeed, the only players to reach the final the year after their title run have been Lindsay Davenport (champion 1997, runner-up 1998) and Ana Ivanovic (champion 2008, runner-up 2009).

Nine women have won twice at Indian Wells, but none have managed three or more titles. The nine are: Steffi Graf, Mary Joe Fernandez, Navratilova, Daniela Hantuchova, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, Davenport and Maria Sharapova.

A Swiatek victory would make it a club of 10, but there is a club of one when it comes to players who have captured two titles without dropping a set in either trophy run. Sharapova is the only player to pull off that feat, with her 2006 and 2013 glory runs.

Among all women, Davenport has reached the most finals (six) and won the most matches (47), with Azarenka having the most wins among active WTA players (34).

Navratilova remains the oldest champion, having won aged 34 in 1991, while Martina Hingis and Serena Williams won as 17-year-olds in 1998 and 1999.

Shocks can happen: Bianca Andreescu took the title as a wildcard in 2019, while Jenny Byrne reached the final as a qualifier in 1989, the first year the women's event was staged.

If there is to be a teenage women's finalist this time, maybe it will be Coco Gauff. The American turns 19 midway through the tournament, on March 13, and has yet to reach a WTA 1000 final, although she got to the French Open title match last year, where Swiatek inflicted a heavy defeat.

Perhaps Aryna Sabalenka can reprise her Australian Open form, having won a first major in Melbourne. But Sabalenka's record in Indian Wells is a rough one, with the Belarusian yet to go past the fourth round.

Strap in for a thrill ride. They all want to stop Swiatek, but if any player can defy history it might just be the Pole.

Donna Vekic stamped her red-hot start to 2023 with her first title of the season, defeating world number five Caroline Garcia 6-4 3-6 7-5 in the Monterrey Open final on Sunday.

Vekic, 26, has now won 14 of her past 16 matches dating back to New Year's Eve, and she dropped only two sets through her five matches in Mexico this week. She also made the 2023 Australian Open quarter-finals, losing to eventual winner Aryna Sabalenka.

The Croatian grabbed the early break to control the first frame, and when serving for the set, Vekic showed grit to fight back from a 40-0 deficit and save three break points en route to securing the opener.

She kept her momentum rolling into the second, breaking and consolidating to jump ahead 2-0, but the response from France's Garcia showed why she was the WTA Finals champion last season, rattling off five games in a row.

But Vekic showed no signs of slowing down, and Garcia was forced to save eight break points to keep the third set level, before the dam finally broke at 6-5 to prevent a tiebreaker.

It was the fourth title of Vekic's career, but only her second since 2017, having snapped a four-year drought at the 2021 Courmayeur Ladies Open.

Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk lifted her first WTA singles trophy after defeating Russia's Varvara Gracheva 6-3 7-5 in Sunday's ATX Open final.

Kostyuk only needed to beat one seeded opponent en route to the title, eliminating fourth seed Danielle Collins in the semi-final to set up a showdown against the 22-year-old ranked 88th in the world.

In an incredibly back-and-forth first set, eight of the nine games went against serve, including five consecutive breaks to begin the match, with the 20-year-old Kostyuk's lone hold good enough to take the lead.

With both players competing in their first final at this level, the nerves were apparent, as they combined for eight double faults in the opening set and another six in the second.

It was Gracheva pulling ahead 5-3 as she tried to force a decider, but after saving a set point, Kostyuk broke back to make it 5-5, and rattled off the final four games of the match to claim the title.

Coming into the tournament ranked 52nd in the world, Kostyuk will surpass her career-best mark of 45th when the next set of rankings are released.

Marta Kostyuk is through to her first WTA singles decider after defeating Danielle Collins 6-4 6-3 in Saturday's ATX Open semi-final.

Ukraine's Kostyuk prevailed in a closely contested battle against the highest seed remaining in the field, taking the only break of the first set after saving four Collins break points the game prior.

The two women traded breaks to begin the second set, but the 20-year-old Kostyuk was too strong down the stretch, winning five of the final six games.

It will also be the first WTA-level final for her opponent, with unseeded 22-year-old Russian Varvara Gracheva overcoming American Katie Volynets 6-4 5-7 6-4.

The two-and-a-half-hour clash was tight all the way through, with Gracheva only narrowly edging the total point count 101-94.

Meanwhile, down south of the border at the Monterrey Open, world number five Caroline Garcia won her semi-final against Elise Mertens 6-3 6-4.

The reigning WTA Finals champion will have a chance to collect the 12th singles title of her career, and her first of the season, when she meets Croatia's Donna Vekic in the final.

Vekic, the third seed, emerged the 7-5 6-2 victor against China's Zhu Lin, continuing a red-hot run of form that has seen her win 13 of her past 15 matches dating back to New Year's Eve.

Caroline Garcia is now three wins away from her first title of 2023 after defeating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3 6-2 in Thursday's second round of the Monterrey Open.

France's Garcia, the world number five and top overall seed, needed just 63 minutes to see off her Spanish challenger. She controlled the contest with her serve, taking the ace count eight to two while winning 75 per cent of her total service points (33-of-44).

She will now face Egypt's Mayar Sherif in the quarter-final after the seventh seed survived a tough 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 test from China's Wang Xinyu.

Fourth seed Elise Mertens emerged the 6-3 3-6 6-2 victor against Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse, while rising 22-year-old Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3) against Germany's Tatjana Maria.

North of the border in Austin's ATX Open, Danielle Collins ripped off a 67-minute 6-1 6-1 drubbing of Caty McNally to advance to the quarter-final.

Collins will meet Russia's Anna Kalinskaya next after the 24-year-old's convincing 6-3 6-1 victory over veteran CoCo Vandeweghe.

Eighth seed Marta Kostyuk is one of only three seeded competitors remaining after storming home in a 6-3 3-6 6-0 battle with Madison Brengle, and Germany's Anna-Lena Friedsam won the longest match of the day in a 7-5 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (10-8) three-hour war of attrition against 18-year-old Russian Erika Andreeva.

Fifth seed Sloane Stephens moved into the quarter-finals of the ATX Open as one of only three seeds remaining after a straight-sets win over Heather Watson on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old American triumphed 6-4 6-4 over Watson in one hour and 27 minutes in Austin.

The 2017 US Open champion firmed into favouritism in Austin with third seed Anastasia Potapova knocked out by USA's Katie Volynets in a thrilling three-set encounter.

Volynets came from a set down and also 5-0 down in the third frame, needing two hours and 19 minutes to get past Potapova, winning 5-7 6-2 7-5.

Potapova's exit follows top seed Magda Linette's first-round defeat, while second seed Zhang Shuai withdrew due to illness on Tuesday.

Stephens has seven career WTA titles to her name, the last coming in February last year at the Abierto Zapopan in Mexico.

Varvara Gracheva defeated Anna Blinkova 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-1, while American wild card and Texas local Peyton Stearns beat Mirjam Bjorklund 6-3 7-5.

At the Monterrey Open in Mexico, third seed Donna Vekic progressed to the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Emma Navarro.

Fifth seed Zhu Lin accounted for Rebecca Marino in three sets, while Ysaline Bonaventure also needed three frames to beat Kamilla Rakhimova.

Top seed and 2023 Australian Open semi-finalist Magda Linette was bundled out of the ATX Open in the first round on Tuesday after a three-set loss to Varvara Gracheva.

Gracheva, ranked 88th in the world, needed two hours and 31 minutes to get past Linette 6-3 4-6 6-4 in Austin.

The Pole had led 2-0 in the third set before Gracheva hit back with three breaks in the final frame to run away with a shock victory.

Linette's early exit followed that of second seed Zhang Shuai who withdrew from the tournament on Tuesday due to illness.

Fifth seed Sloane Stephens had no such troubles, progressing into the second round with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Taylor Townsend.

Fourth seed Danielle Collins won 6-7 (7-9) 6-2 6-4 over Magdalena Frech in two hours and 32 minutes, while third seed Anastasia Potapova eased past Elizabeth Mandlik 6-2 6-0.

Top seed Caroline Garcia cruised into the second round at the Monterrey Open in Mexico on Tuesday, winning 6-3 6-4 over Slovenia's Kaja Juvan.

Third seed Donna Vekic survived an early scare to win by virtue of a walkover at 2-6 5-0 against Lesia Tsurenko who retired for the second straight tournament.

Fourth seed Elise Mertens was too strong for Diana Shnaider 6-0 6-4, while seeds Mayar Sherif and Elisabetta Cocciaretto also progressed.

Sixth seed Katerina Siniakova, who made last week's Mexican Open semi-finals, was eliminated after a controversial call on match point in a third-set tie-break, losing to Kamilla Rakhimova 7-6 (8-6) 2-6 7-6 (7-5).

Last week's Mexican Open champion Camila Giorgi was knocked out 6-4 7-5 by Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Second seed Marie Bouzkova suffered a shock first-round exit at the Monterrey Open losing in straight sets to world number 100 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Monday.

The Slovakian triumphed 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 46 minutes over the Czech who was a runner-up at this event in 2020.

Schmiedlova will take on American qualifier Caroline Dolehide in the second round after she knocked off Jule Niemeier 6-1 6-0.

Dolehide's dominance was impressive given she is ranked 206th in the world compared to 2022 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Niemeier at 69th.

Fifth seed Zhu Lin got past Hungary's Anna Bondar 6-4 7-6 (7-4), setting up a second-round clash with Canada's Rebecca Marino after she beat local wildcard Fernanda Contreras Gomez 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4).

Belgium's Ysaline Bonaventure triumphed in two hours and 20 minutes over Greek qualifier Despina Papamichail 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-1.

British qualifier Heather Watson toppled Danka Kovinic 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 in the first round of the ATX Open in Austin.

Seventh seed Alycia Parks was eliminated 6-4 4-6 6-4 by Swedish wild card Mirjam Bjorklund.

Novak Djokovic is amassing such a dossier of evidence that no sober judge would dispute his claims, but debate still rages as to who is the greatest men's tennis player of all time.

The 35-year-old has now racked up 378 weeks at number one on the singles rankings, not only improving his record among the men but also this week going past Steffi Graf, the leader on the women's tour.

Djokovic has won 10 of the last 16 grand slams he has contested, all since turning 30, and has moved level with Rafael Nadal on 22 singles majors, the most ever captured by a man.

His stockpiling of Masters 1000 titles is bordering on being greedy, with a record 38 tucked away, and although he turns 36 in May there is no sign of Djokovic slowing down.

Tommy Haas snatched three wins from nine encounters with Djokovic, while the Serbian was going up through the gears early in his career.

Haas told Stats Perform he sees Djokovic as a player who wants to "end that debate" over who is the greatest, but there are good grounds to reason the man from Belgrade has already done enough.

 

Djokovic's compelling case

With plenty of miles left in his legs, Djokovic has already reached 33 grand slam finals (W22 L11), the most by any man. It puts him level with Serena Williams (W23 L10) and one behind Chris Evert (W18 L16), who is perhaps a surprising leader in this field.

Given his form in the past 12 months, it would be astonishing if Djokovic does not reach more slam finals this year.

He has also won 38 Masters titles – the next rung down from the grand slams – and is not just the only singles player to have won every one of these nine tournaments, he has won each one at least twice.

Djokovic's six end-of-season ATP Finals titles puts him level with Federer.

Adding together grand slams, ATP Finals crowns and Masters 1000 wins, Djokovic has 66 of these so-called 'Big Titles', seven more than Nadal, who sits second on the list. It bears pointing out the Masters events only began in 1990, so this puts players of the modern era at an advantage, but the domination of these events by the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer mirrors their unprecedented grand slam supremacy.

Djokovic has an 83.5 per cent career win-loss record (W 1,043, L 206), the best of all players with at least 200 matches on tour during the Open Era (since 1968).

In the slams, his win-loss record of 341-47 gives Djokovic an 87.9 per cent winning record, just a shade behind Nadal's 88 per cent, and ahead of Federer (86 per cent).

Djokovic is rapidly closing in on overtaking Nadal's win percentage, having powered through his last 14 matches at the majors, triumphing at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

These winning percentages at the slams by the Big Three are not the absolute highest of all time, but considering Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have regularly had to play one another over the past two decades, that is easily explained.

Only Bjorn Borg (71.1 per cent) has a higher win percentage against top-10 players than Djokovic's 69.4 per cent, but Borg's career was relatively brief, stepping off the tour in his mid-20s, with Djokovic a model of sustained excellence.

Djokovic is playing in Dubai this week, seeking more trophy success.

The expert's view

"He's the ultimate competitive warrior out there," says Tommy Haas. "He doesn't leave a stone unturned, does everything that he possibly can to be the best that he can be."

Haas is now tournament director at the Indian Wells Masters – aka the BNP Paribas Open – and he had better results than most against Djokovic, scoring wins on grass in Halle and Wimbledon in 2009 before repeating the trick on hard court in Miami four years later.

Djokovic, it can be argued, is a better player at 35 than he was at 25, and he is certainly more dominant. The man who feeds off his inner "wolf energy" has lost none of his bite.

"He's spoken about it himself many times, the sort of upbringing that he had, the experiences that he had to go through just to put so much grit in him, so much fire and fighting power. And you see it. The guy is an absolute beast out there," Haas said.

"There's no doubt in my mind that in his mind he wants to become the greatest of all time and win the most slams and end that debate and I think that's that's what he's looking to do.

"We're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves now but let's just say he does have the most slams. He's won every Masters series there is, maybe the most of all of them as well. Longest number one, most slams and then I think there is no room to argue."

Is winning enough to define greatness?

Yes. It has to be. In hand-to-hand combat, whether in war or something as relatively frivolous at tennis, it's all about getting the better of the enemy. Then it's about continuing to do so, and if it's easy on the eye, all well and good.

Roger Federer played the most sumptuous tennis that made him a bigger draw than anyone, and the Swiss great was also a sensational winner to boot, and a charmer, but Djokovic is picking off his records one by one.

Does this make Djokovic the most popular tennis player of all time? No, he rarely exhibits the warmth of personality that Federer brought, the crowd-pleasing flourishes are in shorter supply, and he brings some of the bad press and occasional crowd antipathy on himself.

But winning is the priority for Djokovic, and nobody does it better.

Haas says: "Really, can you say does he have the prettiest game or the best shot selection or this and that? Without Roger and without Rafa he would have been pushed to become that good of a player? Maybe not. And you have to always look at every generation pushing each other and all that stuff.

"And the debates can go on and on. Bjorn Borg retired when he was 26 years old, he won 11 slams. What if he would have played 10 more years? Yeah, he probably could have had 20."

But Djokovic has 22 and is hurtling towards Margaret Court's 24 slams, the most by a woman. There is no doubt he believes he can go beyond that, and keep going.

Shingo Kunieda won 28 wheelchair singles majors, and Djokovic might even get up towards that number.

For now, the number that matters is number one. Whether you like him or not, the man they call Nole is hurtling into history as the champion supreme.

Camila Giorgi claimed her first WTA title since 2021 as she overcame Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson in three sets to secure the Merida Open crown on Sunday.

World number 68 Giorgi triumphed 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-2 over Peterson in a see-sawing decider that lasted two hours and 25 minutes in Mexico.

Giorgi seemed in strife when she trailed 2-0 in the third set after losing a lopsided second frame, but hit back emphatically by reeling off the final six games.

The victory was Giorgi's fourth WTA title and first since winning the Canadian Open in 2021, helping her return to the top-50 when the next rankings are released on Monday.

The Italian had qualified for her 10th career WTA final without dropping a set, including a 6-0 6-0 double bagel rout of second seed Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals.

Peterson had enjoyed a resurgent tournament after an injury-hit 2022 season, but was unable to claim her first WTA title since 2019.

Emma Raducanu has withdrawn from the inaugural Austin Open after contracting tonsillitis.

The 20-year-old has not played since her defeat in the Australian Open to Coco Gauff in January.

The Briton shot to tennis stardom with victory at the 2021 US Open, setting a record for the fewest majors played (two) before winning a title.

But a frustrating run of injuries and poor form across 2022, which also included numerous coaching changes, has seen her plummet to number 81 in the WTA Rankings and fail to reach the third round of a slam since her famous triumph.

"I'm sorry to have to withdraw from the ATX Open," Raducanu said on Sunday,

"I am currently suffering from tonsillitis and am unable to compete this week. Thank you to the tournament for the great hospitality here in Austin."

Italian Camila Giorgi knocked out another seed on her way to clinching a spot in the Merida Open final where she will face Sweden's Rebecca Peterson.

Giorgi triumphed 7-5 7-6 (7-2) over fourth seed Katerina Siniakova in two hours and 12 minutes in Saturday's semi-final in Akron.

The Italian world number 68 had routed second seed Sloane Stephens 6-0 6-0 on Friday to earn her spot in the last four.

Swedish qualifier Peterson secured her final berth with a 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 over American Caty McNally.

The topsy-turvy match lasted almost three hours, with Peterson fighting back from 4-0 down in the third set by winning the final six games for victory.

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