Top singles stars often play doubles at the BNP Paribas Open, a popular choice in the first event of a series, with a climate or surface change to adjust to.
There’s a full 32-team doubles field at Indian Wells. And with 32 seeds with first-round byes, most of the singles players don’t start until later in the week – some as late as the first weekend.
Andy Murray played the desert doubles 11 straight times between 2007 and 2017.
The 2019 lineup is no different. In fact, it might be one of the more interesting lineups already – if all the players who’ve committed follow through.
The entry deadline isn’t until Monday. And there are two wild cards to be distributed. So there will be more additions.
But already, you know the team of Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini will pack Stadium 2, where many of the high-profile doubles teams ply their trade.
Still not on board is Rafael Nadal, who has played it 11 times – four of those with Marc Lopez, with titles in 2010 and 2012.
If he plays, it won’t be with Lopez, who already is entered with Feliciano Lopez.
Roger Federer? He also has played it 11 times, going back to 2000. Most recently, he did countryman Michel Lammer a solid and paired up with him for a first-round loss in 2015. That was actually the last time Federer played doubles in an ATP Tour event.
The Swiss (who reached the singles final in 2018) reached the final in 2002 with Max Mirnyi. He also reached final in 2011 and the semis in 2014 with Stan Wawrinka.
Let’s call that possibility … remote. The last time Federer played any (non Hopman Cup mixed) doubles was a loss in a Davis Cup relegation tie against the Netherlands in Sept. 2015, with Marco Chiudinelli.
(Add Gaël Monfils and Adrian Mannarino to this list, as the deadline is now past. But note that the Zverevs, Ryan Harrison-Kei Nishikori and Tiafoe-Paes are not yet in, with only 21 teams claiming direct entry).
Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini
Fognini is an accomplished doubles player, in the top 10 just a few years ago.
Djokovic has played just once this year, reaching the Doha semifinals with brother Marko and losing a 15-13 match tiebreak to eventual champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and David Goffin.
He has played doubles at Indian Wells five times before – most recently in 2017, when he and countryman Viktor Troicki upset top seeds Herbert and Nicolas Mahut before losing in the quarterfinals
Juan Martin del Potro and Maximo Gonzalez
Del Potro, who plans to finally start his 2019 season next week in Delray Beach, is teaming up with a countryman who is a top-40 doubles player (and at a career-high ranking).
He’s also defending his singles title – and 1,000 ranking points.
The two have played together occasionally – notably at the Rio Olympics, where they lost in three sets to gold-medalists Nadal and Lopez.
Like Djokovic, del Potro also has played the doubles at Indian Wells five previous times – with several partners: David Nalbandian, Marin Cilic, Leonardo Mayer, Leander Paes and in 2018, Grigor Dimitrov.
The match with Cilic in 2014 was a notable one, because del Potro was pretty much hitting all one-handed backhands. He was testing out his wrist to see if it could hold up in singles. But he ended up withdrawing from the singles and was out the rest of the season.
Milos Raonic – Jérémy Chardy
Raonic played doubles in a similar situation in Brisbane – to open the new season. He and Robert Lindstedt beat the Bryan brothers in their first match back together before losing in the quarterfinals.
The Canadian played the Indian Wells doubles six straight years from 2011 to 2016 (with Feliciano Lopez, Kevin Anderson, Lopez again, Ernests Gulbis – they defeated Djokovic and Krajinovic before losing to Federer and Wawrinka), Aisam Qureshi and John Isner).
He and Chardy have never played together.
Mischa and Alexander Zverev
This one is up in the air, given both Zverevs seem not to be 100 per cent. Zverev has played just two Davis Cup matches against Hungary since the Australian Open. And Mischa has played just one match this year – a first-round loss to young Aussie Alexei Popyrin in Melbourne.
Both are entered in singles – and together in doubles – in 10 days at the Acapulco tournament.
This would be the third straight year the brother team up in the desert. They also have entered Miami.
Frances Tiafoe / Leander Paes
Tiafoe plays doubles somewhat regularly (10 tournaments in 2018), without any notable success although he and Denis Kudla reached the semifinals in D.C. last summer.
This will be the 20th appearance at this event for Paes, going all the way back to 1996.
Dominic Thiem / Steve Johnson
Thiem was held back a bit by illness and was late getting down to South America for his fave Golden Swing.
But it seems he’s getting right back to his double-time schedule.
The Austrian is in the doubles semi in Buenos Aires this week with his friend Diego Schwartzman. It’s his first doubles event of the season; he played eight in 2018 and lost in the first round of Indian Wells with Philipp Petzschner.
The pair played twice last year, in Rome on Clay and in Halle on grass. They won a tight one to the Zverev brothers in Rome before going down to Pavic and Marach, 16-14 in the match tiebreak. They’re also signed on for Miami.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Wesley Koolhof
Seems an odd pairing, but perhaps the two have some history together.
At a career-best No. 40 this week, Koolhof played the Australian swing with regular partner Marcus Daniell, and had a wild card into Rotterdam with Jürgen Melzer this week.
Tsitsipas played some mixed doubles with countrywoman Maria Sakkari at Hopman Cup, but nothing else so far this season.
He played just about every week though 2017, when he was on the Challenger circuit and in 12 events (11 at the ATP level) in 2018, winning just four matches.
2018 doubles teams
Roberto Bautista-Agut/David Ferrer
John Isner / Jack Sock
Juan Martin del Potro / Grigor Dimitrov
Gilles Muller / Sam Querrey
Dominic Thiem / Philipp Petzschner (WC)
Alexander Zverev / Mischa Zverev
Philipp Kohlschreiber / Lucas Pouille
Plus Diego Schwartzman … Pablo Carreño Busta … Ryan Harrison … Fabio Fognini … Steve Johnson … Fernando Verdasco and Albert Ramos-Viñolas ….
2017 doubles teams
John Isner / Jack Sock
Novak Djokovic / Viktor Troicki
Rafael Nadal / Bernard Tomic (that was an … epic meetup)
Zverev / Zverev
Muller / Querrey
Andy Murray / Dan Evans
del Potro / Paes (WC)
Dimitrov / Stan Wawrinka
Marin Cilic / Nikola Mektic
Steve Johnson / Vasek Pospisil
Roberto Bautista Agut / Fernando Verdasco
Tomas Berdych / Philipp Petzschner
Nick Kyrgios / Nenad Zimonjic (WC)