The BNP Paribas Open returns to its traditional place in the calendar this week, kicking off a busy month of hard-court tennis across America on the Hologic WTA Tour. The 1000-level event features nine of the Top 10, along with 2018 champion Naomi Osaka, who returns to this event for the first time since 2019. 

Here's what you need to know ahead of the two-week tournament in the California desert. 

When does the tournament start?

Qualifying begins on Monday, March 7, with main draw play beginning on Wednesday, March 9. Day sessions begin at 11:00 a.m. PT and night sessions begin at 6:00 p.m.

Each half of the draw will continue to alternate days into the second week until Tuesday, March 15, when all eight Round of 16 singles matches will be played. The quarterfinals will be played across Wednesday and Thursday, with the singles semifinals scheduled for Friday night. 

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The BNP Paribas Open is played on outdoor hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and features a 96-player singles and 32-team doubles field. The tournament uses Penn Tour Regular Duty balls. 

When are the finals? 

The doubles final will be played on Saturday, March 19 at 11:00 a.m.

The singles final will be played on Sunday, March 20 at 1:00 p.m.

Who are the top seeds?

1. Barbora Krejcikova
2. Aryna Sabalenka
3. Iga Swiatek
4. Anett Kontaveit
5. Paula Badosa
6. Maria Sakkari
7. Karolina Pliskova
8. Garbiñe Muguruza
9. Ons Jabeur
10. Jelena Ostapenko
11. Emma Raducanu
12. Elina Svitolina
13. Victoria Azarenka
14. Jessica Pegula
15. Angelique Kerber
16. Coco Gauff
Also seeded in the draw are Monterrey champion Leylah Fernandez, Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, former champion Simona Halep and Australian Open semifinalist Madison Keys. The top 32 seeds receive a bye into the second round. 

World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Camila Giorgi withdrew prior to the draw. Top seed Barbora Krejcikova withdrew after the draw due to an elbow injury.

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Who are the defending champions?

Paula Badosa captured the biggest title of her career last fall, defeating Victoria Azarenka 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(2) in the final to win her first WTA 1000 title. 

Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-Wei took home the doubles title, defeating Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina 7-6(1), 6-3. 

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What does the draw look like?

For a full draw analysis, click here.

What is the prize money and ranking points on offer?

The total financial commitment at Indian Wells is $9,260,028.

Champion: $1,231,245/1,000 points
Finalist: $646,110/650 points
Semifinalist: $343,985/390 points
Quarterfinalist: $179,940/215 points
Fourth Round: $94,575/120 points
Third Round: $54,400/65 points
Second Round: $30,130/35 points
First Round: $18,200/10 points

Points earned at the fall edition of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open will remain on a player's ranking for the full 52-week cycle. They will not drop until October.

Key storylines

Swiatek, Kontaveit, and Ostapenko are the hot hands: After Barty's dominance Down Under, No.4 Swiatek, No.5 Kontaveit, and No.12 Ostapenko have taken home the tour's biggest prizes since. Swiatek led the way by defeating three Top 10 players in succession - Sabalenka, Sakkari, and Kontaveit - to win her first WTA 1000 on a hard court and second overall. Before that, it was Ostapenko ousting four major champions - Kenin, Kvitova, Swiatek, and Halep - en route to the WTA 500 title in Dubai. Through it all, Kontaveit was the only player to make two finals in February, going on a nine-match win streak to win St. Petersburg and make the final in Doha. 

All three women made the Round of 16 or better at Indian Wells last fall, with Ostapenko booking her best run yet in the California desert by making the semifinals. 

Osaka makes her much-anticipated return: The 2018 champion makes her return to Indian Wells for the first time since 2019. Now ranked No.78, the former No.1 looks ready to work her way back up the rankings after a solid start to the season in Australia, making the semifinals of the Melbourne Summer Set 1. Osaka held match points on Amanda Anisimova in the third round of the Australian Open before falling. 

Badosa's first title defense: Five months after she became the first Spanish woman to win Indian Wells, the 24-year-old returns to try to defend a title for the first time in her career. After a strong start to the season in Australia, where she won her third career title, in Sydney, and made her first Round of 16 at the Australian Open, Badosa went only 1-2 through the Middle East swing, taking losses to Elena Gabriela Ruse and Clara Tauson.  

Recent WTA 250s mint dangerous floaters: Monterrey champion Fernandez and runner-up Camila Osorio will be ones to watch, but keep an eye on Guadalajara champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Marie Bouzkova, both of whom showed resurgent form. Lyon champion Zhang Shuai, runner-up Dayana Yastremska and semifinalist Caroline Garcia also played well on the indoor courts. Zhang captured her first title since 2017.