BY RICHARD OSBORN
1. You'd be hard pressed to find a more star-studded men's doubles draw, which kicks off play on Friday at the BNP Paribas Open. There's sure to be a Davis Cup-like atmosphere on the grounds of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden as Brits Andy Murray and Daniel Evans team up to take on Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez. Lopez has twice triumphed here, teaming with countryman Rafael Nadal on both occasions (2010, 2012). Serbia's Novak Djokovic/Viktor Troicki will go head-to-head with Rohan Bopanna/Pablo Cuevas, while the potent duo of Stan Wawrinka/Grigor Dimitrov will challenge Max Mirnyi/Treat Huey. The surprise pairing of 14-time Slam champ Nadal and enigmatic Aussie Bernard Tomic is set to meet Pablo Carreno Busta/Joao Sousa, and Tomas Berdych/Philipp Petzchner battle the all-Spanish tandem of Fernando Verdasco/Roberto Bautista Agut.
2. As the sport becomes more physically demanding, the average age of the WTA's top performers has been on the rise (see: Serena Williams, 35 years old). Friday's order of play will include several over-30 players who are enjoying later-career success. Two-time BNP Paribas Open runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova, 31, will meet Sweden's Johanna Larsson in a second-round matchup; a day after turning 35, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (fresh off a run to the Australian Open semis) will take on American wildcard Kayla Day; and 34-year-old Roberta Vinci of Italy, who famously shocked the calendar-year-Grand-Slam seeking Serena Williams at the US Open in 2015, meets American Madison Brengle.
3. He's still a work in progress, but American young gun Taylor Fritz appears to have all the right stuff. If you haven't seen him strike a tennis ball in person, do yourself a favor and catch him in Indian Wells. The wildcard entrant exploded onto the scene in 2015, winning the US Open junior title and reeling off California Challenger titles in back-to-back weeks in Sacramento and Fairfield. When he's on his game, the native of Rancho Santa Fe is downright Sampras-esque. While the newly married 19-year-old has struggled a bit in 2017, he's got the foundation to go far. Just ask fellow American Jack Sock, who was pushed by Fritz over five grueling sets at the 2016 US Open.
4. World No. 3 and ace machine Karolina Pliskova will open her 2017 BNP Paribas Open campaign against reigning Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig. She has never lost to the Puerto Rican in three previous encounters, the most recent coming last year in the Nottingham semifinals. The Czech, who was shuffled to the top of the women's draw upon Serena Williams' withdrawal due to a knee injury, reached her first Grand Slam final last year at the US Open, where she fell to top-ranked Angelique Kerber in three sets.
5. Singer-songwriter Colleen Orender will take to the Village Stage from 5-7 p.m. for a performance in the style of Adele, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones and Amy Winehouse, followed by an appearance in Stadium 1, as she sings both the National Anthem and America the Beautiful to open the annual Salute to Heroes ceremony recognizing veterans, military personnel and first responders. Salute to Heroes will follow the first evening match on Stadium 1.