With half of the last 16 players left at the BNP Paribas Open being 23 or younger, it's obvious the WTA Rising Stars are here - wtatennis.com contributor Mark Hodgkinson breaks it down.
WTA Staff

The Californian desert, a part of the world loved by Baby Boomers and known for its retirement communities, has probably never felt so youthful.

It was the New York Times that once described the Californian city of Palm Springs as "a retirement oasis in the desert that has long beckoned those who want to spin out their golden years playing golf and sitting by the pool in the arid sunshine". But, thanks to the lure of Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the desert has also long attracted ambitious young athletes striving to elevate themselves.

And this year, there was a whole gang of them who went deep into the draw. If this year's tournament has been about dealing with the past, with Serena Williams ending her boycott, it's also been about the future: significantly, exactly half of the women who progressed into the last 16 of the BNP Paribas Open were aged 23 or younger. And that figure would have been even higher if Madison Keys - an American who is widely spoken of as one of the future stars of the sport, and who appeared in her first Grand Slam semifinal at this year's Australian Open - had defeated Jelena Jankovic in their third round encounter. But, even without Keys, there was still plenty of young talent left in the draw as you scanned from top to bottom the names of those who reached the last 16: Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Heather Watson, Eugenie Bouchard, Belinda Bencic and Caroline Garcia.

"The women's game is as healthy as it's been in a long time," said Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst. "Obviously, to have Serena doing what she's doing, and finally you're seeing young players who have got some gumption, who've got some real attitude that they can compete with the best."

For at least a couple of that octet, their time in Indian Wells has given them career highs. For Bencic, beating Caroline Wozniacki brought a first victory over a Top 5 opponent: "It's all I was dreaming for and wishing for when I was a small kid. It's unreal I beat a Top 5 player." Watson, meanwhile, achieved her first win over a Top 10 opponent when she found a way past Agnieszka Radwanska. Garcia had a noteworthy victory over Ana Ivanovic, while Stephens certainly made an impression on the tournament when she won the opening set of her fourth round match with Williams before losing in three. There's certainly no shortage of gifted young players coming through - consider how, to make the last 16, Pliskova had to beat another emerging talent in Garbiñe Muguruza.

Even before this tournament began, the tennis youth had pushed themselves up the Road To Singapore leaderboard, with Halep in third place, behind only Williams and Sharapova, in the qualifying competition for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, while Pliskova was in fourth spot, and Keys just outside the eight places in ninth spot. Last year's season finale saw Halep and Bouchard make their first appearances; will they be returning to Singapore and will we see others making their debuts at the tournament? Winning matches in Indian Wells isn't going to do the likes of Pliskova, who was already high up the chart, any harm. And there are a fair number of observers who wouldn't be that surprised if Keys were to qualify for Singapore very soon - if not this year, then perhaps next.

Of all the tennis youth in the women's game, it's Keys who is generating the most conversations. Jankovic, a former World No.1, spoke of the power in Keys' game. "I mean, it was like bombs or bullets constantly coming at me for two and a half hours. I mean her ball is so strong, it's such a heavy ball. I think she's probably, maybe with Serena, probably the hardest hitting player out there in this moment. I mean, she hits the ball at such a high pace, it's unbelievable." Chris Evert, an ESPN analyst, is also a Keys enthusiast: "She's got it all. She has got natural ease and power in her shots."

Still, to borrow McEnroe's phrase, Keys is not the only Bright Young Thing with a racket who has "got some gumption". There are a few of those.

Mark Hodgkinson is the author of 'Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players' (Bloomsbury, May 2015).