Indian Wells' recent WTA champs have signaled where the game is going

Indian Wells' recent WTA champs have signaled where the game is going

The desert tournament is filled with top names, but Indian Wells seems to have a way of telling the world who the next star is.

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells demands much of its champions—no wonder, then, that five different women have won the 96-player event over the past five years. Before the WTA Premier Mandatory tournament begins this year in the desert, take a walk down memory lane at its champion's roll.

5. Simona Halep came roaring into her 2015 season. The Romanian won her opening tournament in Shenzhen, reached the Australian Open quarterfinals and defeated two Top 10 opponents in Dubai to take the title. Although fatigue may have been a factor by Indian Wells, Halep was hungry for even more. She showcased tremendous grit as she fought her way through four three-setters to ultimately be crowned champion.

4. No one saw No. 13 seed Victoria Azeranka coming at Indian Wells in 2016. The Belarusian captured the Brisbane crown in January, but fell to Dominika Cibulkova in Acapulco the week before Indian Wells. However, the then-world No. 15 rallied her way to victory in the desert, capped with a 6-4, 6-4 win over good friend Serena Williams in the final. 

3. Elena Vesnina's 2017 season didn't get off to a quick start. Instead, she had to bob and weave until she had the opportunity to land her power punch. Knocking out then-world No. 2 Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams and, finishing off Indian Wells with a three-set win against Svetlana Kuznetsova, gave the Russian her third career singles title.

2. Naomi Osaka was flying under the radar in 2018, with a No. 44 next to her name. That soon changed. The Japanese would serve up a bagel for Simona Halep in the semifinals before overpowering Daria Kasatkina, 6-2, 6-3, to hold her first WTA title on one of tennis' biggest stages. It would be only the beginning for the now two-time major champion. 

1. Bianca Andreescu was battling her way through qualifying rounds to start her 2019 season. But by the end of March, the world saw exactly what the young Canadian was capable of. She was feisty and aggressive, and her passion for the game shined through at last year's event. Andreescu fell to the ground in shock after claiming the final point against Angelique Kerber. In September, the 19-year-old would fall to the ground once more and would rise as a Grand Slam champion.