Four Australians have successfully qualified for a depleted Indian Wells Masters, the unofficial fifth tennis major, set to go ahead in California without a number of key players.

Thanasi Kokkinakis led the charge on Tuesday, defeating 22-year-old Italian Matteo Arnaldi 6-4 6-4 to join compatriots Alex de Minaur, Jason Kubler and Jordan Thompson in the main draw.

Kokkinakis, the world No.94 who has now qualified for the second year in a row, will face American wildcard Brandon Holt in the opening round.

Aleskandar Vukic qualified by beating Italian Roberto Marcora in straight sets, 6-3 6-1, and fellow Sydneysider Rinky Hijikata was a 6-3 6-3 winner over American Tennys Sandgren.

Vukic will now take on three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka, while Hijikara will face Sweden’s Mikael Ymer.

Kimberly Birrell is also through after beating Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-1 2-6 6-3.

The world No.115 is the only Australian woman in this year’s draw and will t ake on Romanian Sorana Cirstea first up.

Alexei Popyrin, though, fell short, losing 6-4 4-6 6-1 to Japan’s Taro Daniel, but received the lucky loser spot in the draw and will take on China’s Zhang Zhizhen in round one starting Wednesday.

American star Taylor Fritz looks in good stead to retain his crown with both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal missing.

Djokovic, a five-time Indian Wells champion, withdrew after being embroiled in a visa row earlier this week due to being unable to secure a vaccination exemption for entry into the United States.

Nadal is still suffering from a hip injury suffered at the Australian Open in January.

Last year Fritz achieved the unexpected, overcoming an ankle injury to beat Nadal in straight sets in the final, despite his coaches advising him not to play at all.

Aussie Nick Kyrgios, the world No.22 who hasn’t played an ATP tour match since October, will also sit out due to an ongoing knee injury.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek will look to become the first woman to go bac k-to-back, but will need to get past Australian Open winner and second seed Aryna Sabalenka, world No.3 Ons Jabeur and fourth-ranked Jessica Pegula.

Source: AAP