Indian Wells is here, and it should feature plenty of action in what should be an exciting week and a half of tennis.
The Indian Wells draw is out, and while all attention may readily be drawn to the heavily stacked fourth quarter, there’s much more action to be found across the board. In the first Masters of this already extraordinary 2017, there’s a guarantee of marquee match-ups, a possibility to rekindle old rivalries, and a maybe less-than-outside chance for some arguably fresh faces to make their mark. Here’s the outlook, drawn and quartered:
The top seed here is Andy Murray, the new number one who looks suddenly poised to hold onto the top spot for longer than some would’ve guessed just a few months ago. Though Murray has shown a propensity for lacklustre performances in the desert, in the last half a year he has shown in droves the quality that is common to all good world number ones – quiet consistency. Last week as Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal fell to inspired opponents, Murray kept his head down and the trophy up in Dubai. Look for him to have a good chance at doing the same here.
Also in this quarter are Tsonga and Goffin, two players who’ve both had an excellent start to the season so far, and should like their chances of at least a semifinal spot that isn’t guarded by former Indian Wells champions.
The top seed here is Stan Wawrinka, the unpredictable showstopper who often stops showing up in this part of the season. Stan can be expected to beat the best on any given day, but he tends to suffer when he doesn’t have playing the best to look forward to. It’s likely Wawrinka makes an early exit against a Dolgopolov or a lower tier player, but it’s never outside the realm of possibility for him to win it all.
Also in this quarter are Thiem and Monfils, two players who’ve spent the better part of the last season improving and finding ways to keep on winning. Monfils is steady enough to be a top ten seed, and therefore steady enough to beat anybody. Thiem is fresh off a Rio defense, and should be favored to go deep on the slower hard courts here.
Already out is Nadal’s doubles partner, Bernard Tomic, and struggling is Tomas Berdych – a man whose grip on the top 15 is on the verge of slipping.
The top seed here is Nishikori, as likely to excel on a hard court as he is to injure himself on it. The bigger story close to him, however, is Sam Querrey. On his run to the Acapulco title, Querrey took out Goffin, Thiem, Kyrgios, and most impressively – Nadal. If he can keep up the hard hitting and serving, expect him to make at least the quarters in the beginning of the American swing.
Also in this quarter is the star of the early season who everyone’s waiting to hear from – Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov started this year with a stellar run to his second slam semifinal, staging perhaps the highest quality of the Open with Nadal. With titles at Brisbane and Sofia, he has little to fear and a lot to prove. Can the Bulgarian continue his stellar start to the season and grab his first Masters title?
Fourth Quarter (Group of Death)
The top seed here is Djokovic, also the Indian Wells defending Champion, though that might not mean as much given the quarter is packed with Federer, Nadal, del Potro, Kyrgios, and Zverev too. Some might think the last thing a struggling Novak needs at one of his favorite Masters is a draw this deadly, but it might be just the jolt he needs to get him out of his funk. Should Djokovic make it through this quarter, it’ll stand as a declaration for the rest of the season: watch out.
Alongside Djokovic are this year’s Australian Open champion and runner-up: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That the throwback final of these two legends could be followed up with a fourth rounder here seems almost comical, but there’s nothing funny about spectators being almost guaranteed of these many banner-headline matches so early in the tournament. Both legends open against players they shouldn’t be threatened by, so expect the rematch to be a first attempt at answering the question: was the AO final a fluke or a fix for Federer?
The unluckiest man in the draw might be seen as del Potro, though he claims he relishes the opportunity to play against the big guys. Should he and Djokovic make their third round date, expect a quality face-off. These guys consistently bring the best out of each other.
Finally, we have Kyrgios and Zverev. The latter with a big chance to prove his oft-touted talent, and the former with the tournament of a lifetime. As Kyrgios showed at Acapulco, he loves playing against and showing up for the big stages against the biggest players – but wilts when he feels the stakes are lower. Now he gets a chance to prove just how often he can rise to the occasion, because this is a draw that’s chock full of them. No predictions for this one – just sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Final Indian Wells Predictions
Semifinals: Murray d. Thiem and Dimitrov d. del Potro
Finals Dimitrov d. Murray