Andy Murray has spoken of his excitement at appearing at Indian Wells but also expressed his disappointment that the other three members of the original 'Big Four' are missing this year.
The Brit will be competing at the prestigious tournament, often billed as the 'fifth Grand Slam', for the first time since 2017 but Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are all absent through injuries and requiring recuperation.
Indian Wells is one of only two Masters events that the world No. 121 has not previously won, and he has been handed a brutal draw. The 34-year-old will open his tournament against Adrian Mannarino of France, but could then meet Spain's rising star Carlos Alcaraz in the second round and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev after that.
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Murray, who received a wildcard into the ATP Masters 1000 event, also has Italian stars Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner in his quarter of the draw, but that has not diminished his dreams of having a positive run in the Californian desert.
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"Yeah, I mean, obviously with everyone getting older, there's going to be times where those guys are missing, missing events," Murray said. "I've obviously had my fair share of misses the last few years, like we were saying, [it's been] four years since I've last been here.
It's unfortunate with Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer) being injured, and I think Novak (Djokovic), probably rightfully, is taking a break after the run that he's had this year and just missing out at the US Open.
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"But I'm happy myself to be here. It's a shame for the tournament that they're not here. Certainly a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have expected to be the only one playing.
"Obviously here in the desert, the very sort of light air, thin air, the ball travels very quickly through there and also the balls were very light as well," Murray explained.
"That's a bit different this year, which is good. The balls are pretty, pretty heavy and are travelling through the air a little bit slower, so they're easier to control. I wish it had been like that in previous years, but conditions this year are a little bit more to how I like them.
"But yeah, traditionally when I've been playing here, this has been the tournament that I struggle with because of the conditions."
Murray will not the only Brit appearing at Indian Wells with US Open champion Emma Raducanu headlining the night session on Friday. Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie are also in action at the event.
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"I'm ready for the next challenge," Raducanu said in her pre-tournament interview. "I had such a great time in New York and an amazing experience.
"It started to sink in gradually, but I think I still will need time for it to fully sink in. But yeah, it's a great place here and I can't wait to get started.
"I think the form that I had in New York was a gradual build up of so many weeks of tennis, and I think that definitely helped that playing a lot of matches. But yeah, we'll see what the future holds."
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