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Ricky’s preview and picks for Day 1 in Indian Wells, including Isner vs. Nakashima

Main-draw action at the Indian Wells Masters gets underway on Wednesday, when an all-American affair pits John Isner against Brandon Nakashima. Gael Monfils begins his comeback to tennis facing Jordan Thompson.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

John Isner vs. Brandon Nakashima

Isner and Nakashima will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers when they clash in round one of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday afternoon. Nakashima leads the head-to-head series 2-1 following a trio of hard-court encounters in the summer of 2021; he prevailed 7-5, 6-4 in Los Cabos, lost 7-6(8), 7-5 in the Atlanta title match, and won 7-6(7), 7-6(6), 6-3 in the opening round of the U.S. Open.

Although Isner is 37 years old now, the situation favors him this time around. He recently advanced to the final in Dallas (lost to Yibing Wu in a third-set tiebreaker) and conditions in Indian Wells are absolutely perfect for his game. Meanwhile, Nakashima is a disappointing 1-3 so far this season and just got blown out 6-2, 6-0 by Mackenzie McDonald in the Acapulco second round. Unless the 21-year-old somehow finds his game in a hurry, it will likely be a swift exit for him from the desert.

Pick: Isner in 2

Jordan Thompson vs. (PR) Gael Monfils

Monfils is playing for the first time since suffering a foot injury at the Montreal Masters last August. The 36-year-old Frenchman had been out since the middle of the clay-court swing even before taking the court in Montreal, so since Indian Wells last spring (lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the fourth round) he has played a grand total of seven matches.

Up first for Monfils on Wednesday is Thompson in what will surprisingly be a first-ever meeting. Thompson is only 1-4 at the ATP level in 2023, but he is coming off a Challenger title on the indoor hard courts of Rome, Georgia. Even if the 87th-ranked Aussie wasn’t playing well, we would still be a heavy favorite in this match given the circumstances. Monfils is extremely inconsistent even when he is healthy and in good form, so there is no reason to be confident in his chances after missing seven months.

Pick: Thompson in 2

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