The curious coincidence that links four shock winners of Indian Wells
Since 1990, four men have won Indian Wells while ranked outside the top 25 in the world. Curiously, they all have one other strange thing in common.
All four men were not only ranked outside the top 25, but were ranked exactly 26th. Join Tennishead for a look at how each man reached their Indian Wells destiny and where they went from there.
Jim Courier – 1991
A 20-year-old Courier entered the 1991 season ranked 23rd in the world. The young American had one career title to his name, the 1989 Swiss Indoors in Basel.
At the first Major of the year, the Australian Open, the American star equalled his previous best Slam result by reaching the fourth round. There he fell to world number one and two-time champion in Melbourne Stefan Edberg.
Courier had reached the semi-finals of Indian Wells in 1990, his best result at a Masters Series tournament. Unseeded that time around, the world number 26 came into the 1991 tournament seeded 16th.
In the opening round, Courier faced world number 77 Guillaume Raoux of France, a wildcard. Despite being forced to a decided, he dispatched Raoux to advance to the second round. There, the American faced another wildcard in Byron Black.
The Zimbabwean, ranked 458th in the world at the time, upset world number 71 Marian Vajda in the first round to meet Courier. The seed made short work of Black in the opening set, 6-1, before closing it out in straight sets with a second set tiebreak win.
Next came a real test for Courier as he took on Andre Agassi. Agassi was world number four, the second seed, and runner-up the previous year.
After falling behind to surrender the first set 6-2, Courier rallied to recover and win the match 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, his second win from six meetings with Agassi.
Come the quarter-finals, the American was up against seventh seed Emilio Sanchez. Courier dismissed the Spaniard with relative ease, 6-2, 6-2, to equal his semi-final run of 1990.
World number 23 Michael Stich lay in wait there, a man Courier had lost to earlier that season in Adelaide, Australia. However, the German was no match for him this time, as Courier booked his place in the final with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The final was between Courier and Guy Forget. The Frenchman was enjoying a career-high ranking of fifth in the world. He had made it to the final without dropping a set, including against world number one and defending Indian Wells champion Stefan Edberg in the semi-finals.
And Forget continued that streak of sets to begin the championship match, bettering Courier 6-4 in the opener. But the American quickly broke the run, levelling the match by clinching the second set 6-3.
Forget won the third by with the same score as the first, 6-4, before Courier did likewise in the fourth, 6-3. The match required a deciding fifth set. The match was close-fought until the end, as the deciding set further needed a deciding tiebreak.
Courier eventually triumphed 7-4 there to secure his second career title and biggest to date. He then jumped to a new-career-high ranking of 18th in the world, before going on to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ by winning the Miami Opening immediately following Indian Wells.
Not three months on from his maiden Masters success, Courier would claim his first Slam title, defeating Andre Agassi in the 1991 Roland Garros final.
Courier would reach six more Slam finals, winning four including that first Roland Garros crown. He won Indian Wells again in 1993 before never advancing past the third round for the rest of his career.
Finally, Courier eventually reached the top of the ATP rankings in February 1992. He went on to have three runs in the number one position, totalling 55 weeks.
Alex Corretja – 2000
While Courier enjoyed his greatest successes following his breakthrough at Indian Wells, Corretja experienced the reverse.
By 2000, the Spaniard had already reached his first of two Slam finals, losing the 1998 Roland Garros final to compatriot Carlos Moya. Furthermore, Corretja had won the 1998 Masters Cup (ATP Finals today) and the 1997 Rome Masters, plus three more Masters finals.
His career-high ranking of world number two came in February 1999. Entering 2000, Corretja was ranked 28th in the world, improving slightly to 26th just prior to Indian Wells. In five previous appearance, the 26-year-old had never been beyond the second round.
Corretja first faced world number 38 Karol Kucera of Slovakia, dismissing him 6-2, 6-2. Next came a first seeded opponent, Pat Rafter. The Australian was ranked 13th, seeded 15th, and was a two-time Slam champion, winning back-to-back US Open titles in 1997 and 1998.
A three-set encounter saw Corretja prevail 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-2 to see him reach the third round at Indian Wells for the very first time. In his next two matches, Corretja overcame Fabrice Santoro and sixth seed Magnus Norman.
Another seed fell by the wayside in the semi-finals, this time being eighth seeded Ecuadorian Nicolas Lapentti. Corretja defeated the South American 6-3, 6-4 to set a meeting with 10th seed Thomas Enqvist in the final.
En route to the final, Enqvist had himself conquered two-time champion Pete Sampras and defending champion Mark Philippoussis successively in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
Such battles apparently were too much for the Swede, as Corretja cruised to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win for his second Masters title.
Moving forward, the Spaniard would reach one more Slam final at the 2001 French Open, but never again at Masters level. His ranking peaked at sixth in the world in July of 2000.
Ivan Ljubicic – 2010
Like with Corretja, it seemed in 2010 like the best days of Ivan Ljubicic’s career were behind the Croat. He had achieved his career-high ranking of world number three in May of 2006.
Prior to that, he had reached three Masters finals at Madrid and Paris in 2005 and Miami in 2006.
Ljubicic won the Davis Cup in 2005, plus Olympic bronze in singles at the 2004 Athens Olympics. His best Slam results both came in 2006, reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals and French Open semi-finals.
The 30-year-old was seeded 20th entering Indian Wells. Ljubicic had reached the quarter-finals at the event three of the previous four years, arguably his most consistent Masters event in that time.
After a first round bye, Ljubicic took on 17-year-old American wildcard Ryan Harrison. He ousted the teenage world number 284 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) to advance. He then overcame Argentine qualifier Brian Dabul 6-2, 6-3 to set a meeting with world number two Novak Djokovic.
Ljubicic had lost to the Serb just weeks prior at the Dubai Open, and only had one win in six meetings with him. But the Croat was primed for this encounter, overcoming the 2008 champion 7-5, 6-3.
In the quarter-finals, Ljubicic lost the opening set to 21st seed Juan Monaco before rallying to victory 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
The 20th seed then took on third seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. After again falling a set behind, Ljubicic eventually triumphed 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) to reach his first Indian Wells final.
There, the Croatian faced seventh seed Andy Roddick. The American led the head-to-head 7-3, ensuring a tough battle for Ljubicic.
He won the match in straight sets, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5), an excellent birthday present after turning 31 two days before. This was Ljubicic’s first and last Masters 1000 title, the Croat going on to retire in April 2012.
Cameron Norrie – 2021
Norrie’s ranking of 26th in the world entering the 2021 tournament was a career-high for the Brit.
He had never previously been beyond the third round of a Masters 1000 event. Moreover, he had never won a main draw match at Indian Wells.
To start 2021, Norrie was ranked 74 in the world, had reached just one ATP tour final (in 2019) and did not have a title to his name at tour level.
The Brit proceeded to reach five finals in 2021, including winning his maiden title in Los Cabos, Mexico.
As the 21st seed at Indian Wells, Norrie received a bye to the second round. There he defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 5-7, 6-0 to get his campaign underway.
Next, the 26-year-old took on 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, defeating the Spaniard in three sets also.
Next came American Tommy Paul, the man who had upset fourth seed Andrey Rublev in the previous round. Again Norrie claimed victory, again in three sets.
In the quarter-finals, the Brit really hit his stride. Norrie played with precision to defeat 11th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2. No previous meeting between the two men had not gone to a deciding set.
Next came 2017 Cincinnati Masters champion and former world number three Grigor Dimitrov. Norrie was once again in control, overcoming the Bulgarian 6-2, 6-4 to face Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final.
His Georgian opponent had himself ousted 24th seed Karen Khachanov plus second seed and Roland Garros runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the final.
Basilashvili struck first to claim the opening set 6-3. But, from late in the second Norrie took the match away from him.
The Brit broke to love to level the match 6-4 in the second set. From there, Norrie won six of the seven remaining games to capture his maiden Masters 1000 title. He then leapt to a career-high ranking of 16th in the world.
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