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What Makes Indian Wells in October Different? The Race to Year-End Championships Are in Play

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday September 30, 2021

One thing that will set the 2021 version of Indian Wells apart from previous and future iterations is the fact that the races to the year-end championships are very much in play. It’s already on the mind of top players as they resume their seasons after the US Open.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek, currently sixth in the race, says it is her main goal to reach the WTA Finals, which will be held in Guadalajara from November 8 to 15.

Tennis Express

"For sure my biggest goal is playing in Guadalajara, so we are going to prepare myself to be in the peak of form and shape to play the best there,” she said, adding that she plans to train for peak performance at Indian Wells this year.

“First Indian Wells is also going to be an important and this one as well. Basically every tournament is important because we have this race and I know that many girls are playing even three tournaments before the finals. We just have to be careful and play smart because everybody is tired, but also we want to get as many points as possible, so I think every match is important for me. For sure the past two weeks were more like rest than practicing so, I think we are going to kick off with more intensity before Indian Wells and then before the finals."

WTA Race to Guadalajara Standings, as of Sep 27

1. Barty, 6411 points
2. Sabelanka, 4669 points
3. Krejcikova, 4398 points
4. Pliskova, 3972 points
5. Sakkari, 3147 points
6. Swiatek, 3106 points
7. Osaka, 2771 points
8. Muguruza, 2671 points
9. Jabeur, 2435 points
10. Pavlyuchenkova, 2384 points

Ons Jabeur, who reached the quarterfinals of the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic on Thursday, is also gunning for a spot in the prestigious year-end championships.

"Usually I'm super tired at the end of the year, it's hard to find the motivation, you gave it all the whole year,” she told reporters on Thursday. “I had a big goal, it's stressing a lot and I know so many players are hungry to go there, so many rules that we should be aware of because of the race.”

Jabeur is currently ninth in the race, but could be in a qualifying position if either Ashleigh Barty or Naomi Osaka (or both) elect not to play.

She knows it is not a guarantee, however. With 1000 points on the line at Indian Wells, and more points on avail at Moscow and Tenerife, Spain in the following week, there is plenty of time to move up and down the rankings.

“Even if you are eight, you are not sure to qualify,” she said. “It's very tough but I think I made my peace with it. I'm going to give it all and if it comes I'm happy with it and if not, maybe it's a sign that I need time to take off the court and to take out of my body to be ready for next year." Jabeur, who owns a 42-16 record on the season, is aware that the competition will be fierce in the California desert, where main draw action begins next week.

“So many players are hungry to win. I think, what I told them, is that everything is going to be played at Indian Wells. The big game is going to be there, whoever is going top play well, maybe they are going to qualify in Guadalajara."

The ATP has a bit more time before its Race to Turin is settled, with another Masters 1000 in Paris in early November, and several more 500-level events in Europe from mid-October to early November.

But qualification will be on the minds of players on the outside looking in at the race, as well as those on the inside looking out.

Here are the current standings as of Sep 27:

1. Novak Djokovic, 8370 points
2. Daniil Medvedev, 6380 points
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas, 5470 points
4. Alexander Zverev, 4915 points
5. Andrey Rublev, 4030 points
6. Matteo Berrettini, 3995 points
7. Rafael Nadal, 2985 points
8. Hubert Hurkacz, 2755 points
9. Casper Ruud, 2675 points
10. Felix Auger-Aliassime 2320 points