Djokovic to play Indian Wells for first time since 2019

Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

After a five-year hiatus due to COVID-19 and US travel restrictions, Novak Djokovic is expected to return to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open.

Also featured in the men's line-up released on Wednesday is three-times Indian Wells champion Rafael Nadal, who missed last month's Australian Open due to a muscle tear but has been included on the entry list for a February 19-24 ATP 250 event in Doha, Qatar.

World No.1 Djokovic, whose last appearance at Indian Wells in 2019 ended with a third-round exit, will be seeking a record sixth title at what is often described as the biggest tournament outside the four grand slam events.

The 2020 BNP Paribas Open was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Djokovic missed the next three editions as the United States did not allow unvaccinated foreigners to enter the country.

Among the other names in the star-studded field are reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz, Australian Open winner Jannik Sinner and Taylor Fritz, who in 2022 became the first American man since Andre Agassi in 2001 to win the Indian Wells title.

On the women's side, world No.1 Iga Swiatek will be joined by 2023 champion Elena Rybakina, Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka and Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.

Naomi Osaka, Indian Wells champion in 2018, and 2019 finalist Angelique Kerber, are expected to return for the first time since 2022 following maternity leave.

This year's tournament runs from March 3-17.