Indian Wells: Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer are ready for their title defence at the BNP Paribas Open, even though a second consecutive title won't be enough for both to reclaim their world No. 1 ranking.
The women's main draw, which gets underway on Wednesday with the top 32 seeds getting a first-round bye, has lost a bit of its sheen this year with current No. 1 Serena Williams skipping the event, along with sister Venus and China's Li Na who is battling the ankle injury she suffered while losing the Australian Open final against Azarenka.
World No. 3 Maria Sharapova comes into the tournament seeded second followed by Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska and Germany's Angelique Kerber. World No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who won the tournament in 2011, is also in the top quarter of the draw.
But a successful title defence will still won't be enough for Azarenka and Federer to reclaim their world No. 1 ranking.
Among the men, defending champion Federer is seeded second behind world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who goes into the tournament as the favourite to lift the trophy. But the Swiss ace's World No. 2 rank faces a major threat from Andy Murray, who beat Federer in the semis at Australian Open.
If Murray goes on to lift the trophy, he will be guaranteed of moving to No. 2, and in case the Scot ends up as the runner-up, Federer will have to make it to the semi-finals to stay No. 2.
One of the major attractions in the men's draw is definitely going to be the Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who has made a successful comeback to the Tour by winning two of the three clay-court tournaments since returning from a seven-month injury layoff. But the hard-court tournament will put his troublesome left knee through its first real test since recovery.