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Ricky’s picks for Day 2 of the Indian Wells Masters, including Shapovalov vs. Van de Zandschulp

Rafael Nadal headlines the Thursday schedule at the BNP Paribas Open, as he begins yet another comeback to tennis. Milos Raonic is Nadal’s opening opponent. First-round action is also wrapping up with a showdown between Botic van de Zandschulp and Denis Shapovalov.

Here are my previews and picks for the two matchups.

(PR) Milos Raonic vs. (PR) Rafael Nadal

The Indian Wells Masters marks Nadal’s second event of the season. His first one started off well enough, as the 22-time major champion’s comeback from almost 12 months away from the game saw him reach the Brisbane quarterfinals before losing to Jordan Thompson. However, Nadal sustained a minor hip injury and missed both the Australian Open and the entire month of February. The 37-year-old made an appearance in Las Vegas last weekend and his “Netflix Slam” singles match against Carlos Alcaraz was–despite being an exhibition–rather encouraging.

Like Nadal, Raonic also used a protected ranking to gain direct entry in Indian Wells. The head-to-head series stands at 8-2 to Nadal, although Raonic won their only previous meeting at this Masters 1000 event (4-6, 7-6(10), 7-5 in the 2015 quarterfinals). Raonic, 33, has struggled physically throughout his career and has played sparingly in recent years. Even at 37 and coming off a long layoff, Nadal is the more reliable player from a physical standpoint in this match. Barring an incredible serving display by Raonic, the former world No. 1 should advance.

Pick: Nadal in 2

Botic van de Zandschulp vs. (PR) Denis Shapovalov

Van de Zandschulp and Shapovalov are potential third-round adversaries for Nadal, and whoever wins on Thursday will have a good chance to get there because a slumping Lorenzo Musetti awaits on Saturday. That’s easier said than done, though, both BVDZ and Shapo are also lacking confidence these days. Van de Zandschulp’s is 4-7 in 2024 campaign and down at No. 82 in the world. Shapovalov, who is coming back from injury and outside the top 100 (131st), is a disastrous 1-6 this year.

Some good news for Shapovalov is that since his first match of the year he has lost in straight sets on just one occasion–and that was in a pair of tiebreakers against Gael Monfils on the indoor hard courts of Rotterdam. The lefty has at least been competitive basically every time he has taken the court, and a matchup with Van de Zandschulp is among the best draws he could have received in the desert. The Dutchman has really been in poor form ever since he blew the Munich final against Holger Rune last spring. This is a nice opportunity for Shapovalov to find some winning form.

Pick: Shapovalov in 3

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