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Ricky’s Preview And Picks For The BNP Paribas Tennis Open In Indian Wells

Photo by @BNPParibasOpen via Twitter

By Ricky Dimon

 

All too many top players missed last year’s BNP Paribas Open, and Novak Djokovic might as well have been absent. This time, though, the majority of the world’s best are on hand in the desert—minus defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro. Thus begins the annual spring Masters 1000 swing through California and Florida, starting with an Indian Wells tournament that features Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the same side of the bracket.

 

BNP Paribas Open

Where: Indian Wells, Calif.
Surface: Hard
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
2018 champion: Juan Martin Del Potro (not playing)

Djokovic skipped the February swing, meaning he has not played a match since winning a third consecutive major at the Aussie Open. The top-ranked Serb hit a low point during the 2018 Indian Wells-Miami “Sunshine Double” last year, but he storms into March this season as the obvious best player in the world. He will kick off his fortnight against either Bjorn Fratangelo or Elias Ymer before possibly running into Acapulco champion Nick Kyrgios in third round. An in-form Gael Monfils is a possible foe in round four, while Dominic Thiem and Borna Coric are potential QF opponents.

Alexander Zverev has not quite gotten going as he tries to build on his 2018 Nitto ATP Finals victory, but he at least managed to reach the Acapulco final this past week. Zverev awaits either his brother or Martin Klizan in his Indian Wells opener, while Milos Raonic and an on-fire Stefanos Tsitsipas loom large in the German’s section.

On the other side, Federer’s IW draw appears to be a friendly one aside from a likely all-Swiss affair with Stan Wawrinka in round three. Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic are potential semifinal foes; neither one is playing especially great tennis these days.

Is a Federer-Nadal SF showdown in the cards? Federer’s bid for a third straight Aussie Open title was a disappointing one, but he restored order with a title last week in Dubai. Nadal has also been solid but unspectacular in this season. The world No. 2 returned from his latest injury woes with a runner-up performance in Melbourne and a second-round exit from Acapulco (lost to Kyrgios after leading 6-3 in a final-set tiebreaker). Nadal’s path through IW could include an in-form Daniil Medvedev in round four and John Isner in the quarterfinals.

First-round matchups to watch include Wawrinka vs. Daniel Evans, Cameron Norrie vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Steve Johnson vs. Taylor Fritz, Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert, John Millman vs. Jan-Lennard Struff, and Tomas Berdych vs. Feliciano Lopez.

 

Seeds who are vulnerable in their opening matches:

(12) Karen Khachanov: Khachanov has been dreadful so far in 2019 and Berdych is perhaps the most dangerous unseeded player in the field.

(22) Kyle Edmund: Edmund captured the Indian Wells Challenger title last week, but the jury remains out on his form and Frances Tiafoe would be a tough second-round opponent.

(26) Grigor Dimitrov: Both Millman and Struff wield upset potential against Dimitrov, who has not been the same since triumphing at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals.

(28) Lucas Pouille: A struggling Pouille awaits either Donald Young (who beat him back-to-back in Indian Wells and Miami two years ago) or Hubert Hurkacz (who just upset Nishikori in Dubai).

(29) Marton Fucsovics: Don’t mind the seed; in reality Fucsovics would be an underdog against Wawrinka in the second round.

(30) Laslo Djere: Djere wouldn’t have even made the main draw without his shocking title in Rio de Janeiro. He could come back to Earth now that he is no longer playing on clay.

(31) Nick Kyrgios: Is Kyrgios satisfied with his Acapulco trophy, or will he remain motivated? Either way, Kohlschreiber or Herbert could be tough.

(32) Guido Pella: Pella is coming off his first career title on the red clay of Sao Paulo. Making a quick turnaround to hard courts may be a problem both physically and mentally.

 

Quarterfinal picks: Novak Djokovic over Nikoloz Basilashvili, Stefanos Tsitsipas over Alexander Zverev, Roger Federer over Denis Shapovalov, and Daniil Medvedev over Tomas Berdych

Semifinal picks: Djokovic over Tsitsipas and Federer over Medvedev

Final pick: Djokovic over Federer

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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