Kim Clijsters vs. Katerina Siniakova

Clijsters probably hears a lot of stats like this these days: When she won the first of her two Indian Wells titles, in 2003, her opponent was all of 7 years old. Now Clijsters is 38 and Siniakova is 25, and they’ll meet for the first time in Stadium 1 on Thursday afternoon. Clijsters will be the sentimental favorite, and she’s probably still the cleaner ball-striker of the two. Few have ever hit it as well as this four-time Grand Slam champ, and most tennis fans are happy to have a chance to see her back on a tennis court whenever they can. But Siniakova will be the favorite, simply because she has played a full schedule in recent months, and has a WTA ranking (No. 53). Clijsters has played just one match in 2021, a three-set loss to Su-Wei Hsieh in Chicago last week. But the fact that Clijsters was able to take a set from Hsieh tells you that no opponent should take her lightly. Winner: Siniakova

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Expect an extremely pro-Clijsters crowd on Thursday, but Siniakova should ultimately prevail.

Expect an extremely pro-Clijsters crowd on Thursday, but Siniakova should ultimately prevail. 

Amanda Anisimova vs. Kristen Scott

Life comes at you fast, especially when you’re a tennis player. Anisimova is all of 20, but she’ll be the elder American stateswoman in this contest. Scott is a promising 17-year-old prospect, a hard-hitting lefty, and she already has a history with Anisimova: last summer, she had her countrywoman on the ropes for a set, before Anisimova won in three. We’ll see who takes more confidence into this match Scott after showing she can compete with AA; or Anisimova after playing, and losing, her best match of 2021, a three-set thriller against Karolina Pliskova that made us all remember how brilliantly the New Jersey native can belt a tennis ball. Winner: Anisimova

France Tiafoe vs. Benoit Paire

The showmen will come out at night on Thursday, when these two player-entertainers take over the main stadium. Tiafoe and Paire are best-known for their extracurricular antics—Tiafoe for flexing shirtless; Paire for decimating racquets and taking mid-match vacations. But beneath the flash there should be some substance to this contest. Only one ranking spot separates them—Tiafoe is No. 49, Paire No. 50—and each has crowd-pleasing talent to go along with the personality. The Frenchman has a world-class backhand, and the American covers the court like few others. Let’s hope for the best from both. Winner: Tiafoe