The “5th Grand Slam” and arguably the most anticipated Masters 1000 event of the calendar year is upon us. Just days after capturing his 100th career ATP title, Roger Federer is looking to win his 6th BNP Paribas Open. He’s locked in a 5-5 title split with current world #1, Novak Djokovic. After taking some time off, the Serbian is coming in as a red-hot favourite, winning the Australian Open in blistering fashion just over a month ago, he too will be looking to break that 5-5 deadlock.
A plethora of young-guns have been making huge inroads this season thus far. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Borna Coric, Karen Khachanov & Daniil Medvedev are all ranked between 10-14 in the world & have enjoyed various successes over the past 12 months. Adding to that, a perhaps new-look Nick Kyrgios, a career-best Gael Monfils and at least 3 players who won their first career ATP title in February, this tournament is filled with dangerous players.
Draw Analysis – Top Half – 1st Quarter
Starting with the top quarter of the top half (the left side of the draw above), there is a few interesting takeaways here. World #1, Novak Djokovic, is making his return to action at a tournament where he historically enjoyed a lot of success. The previous two years here, he has uncharacteristically stumbled before the quarter finals. The current holder of the previous 3 Grand Slam titles and 2/3 previous Masters 1000 titles will not be deterred by this, I wouldn’t have thought.
What may deter the top seed, is the potential for a 3rd Round clash against the young Australian firecracker, Nick Kyrgios. Kyrgios owns a 2-0 H2H against Djokovic, defeating the Serbian in their most recent encounter, 6-4 7-6 at Indian Wells in 2017. Kyrgios is in red-hot form after producing arguably the best week of his career in Acapulco, culminating in his 5th ATP title & 2nd ATP 500 Series title. Kyrgios defeated 3 top-10 players en route, saving 3 match points against Rafael Nadal in the 2nd round & in true Kyrgios fashion, showed all the emotions. Most importantly though, he was able to stay composed, focused & disciplined. The winner of Herbert-Kohlschreiber have an extremely tough task ahead of them to progress any further than the second round.
Speaking of in-form, the #18 Frenchman, Gael Monfils, may be in the form of his life. Monfils is 12-3 on the year, reaching at least the semi finals of his previous 3 tournaments, 2 of them ATP 500 events, one of which he won. In the previous month he has defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas, David Goffin, Daniil Medvedev, Stan Wawrinka & Marin Cilic. He will play the winner of Reilly Opelka & Leonardo Mayer, with the American just recently claiming his maiden ATP title.
The young Croatian & 11th seed, Borna Coric, is defending a quarter final appearance and will play the winner of Ivo Karlovic & Matt Ebden. In the likelihood that Coric wins that, he will progress to the 3rd round and is projected to play the 17th seed, Nikoloz Basilashvili. The two of them share a 2-2 H2H record, although Coric won the previous two matches quite comfortably in 2018. For Basilashvili however, he will face the winner of Benoit Paire & a qualifier (yet to be named). If he is to face Paire, that should be interesting as the Georgian has yet to beat the streaky Frenchman and is down 0-3 on the H2H record.
A strong showing will be wanted from the 7th seed, Dominic Thiem. The Austrian is 3-4 on the year and has been quite disappointing by his standards. He has enjoyed steady success here and will be motivated with an opportunistic draw.
Draw Analysis – Top Half – 2nd Quarter
The 2nd quarter of the draw (right side of the draw above) is headed up by the 3rd-seeded German, Alexander Zverev, and the draw ceremony wasn’t overly kind to him. A projected run to the final of Klizan – Dimitrov – Raonic – Anderson – Djokovic is pretty brutal for Zverev, on paper. In reality, Martin Klizan hasn’t beaten a player ranked higher than him since October, Grigor Dimitrov hasn’t played in over a month, Milos Raonic has lost 2 out of his previous 3 matches & Kevin Anderson has been forced to withdraw each of the past 3 weeks due to injury. So whilst the names in his path seem tough, the timing couldn’t be better.
Adding to the fact that Grigor Dimitrov has not played a competitive match since late January, he has failed to progress beyond the third round in Indian Wells in his career. Dimitrov has fallen in the third round on 4 separate occasions and has lost in 3 sets every year since 2014. The top-ranked Bulgarian will await the winner of Jan-Lennard Struff & John Millman.
The 3rd-youngest player in the Top 100, Alex de Minaur, will play the winner of Jeremy Chardy & a qualifier, whilst Milos Raonic will go against the winner of an intriguing first round matchup between the young Italian, Matteo Berrettini & American veteran, Sam Querrey. Berrettini has shown promising signs to start the season and he is capable of claiming a scalp, yet struggles with inconsistency. Querrey has enjoyed moderate success this season, beating players he should beat (rankings-wise), but coming up short on a few occasions.
Fresh to the top 10, Stefanos Tsitsipas, will be looking to continue his hot start to the calendar year. Making two finals from the most recent two tournaments he has entered, including a gritty 3-set win over Monfils this past week in Dubai, shows the lack of consistency that often troubles young players making their breakthrough, is not quite as apparent here.
The match to determine who plays him is arguably the most anticipated first round match here. Both young players who are enjoying break-out years themselves, Felix Auger-Aliassime & Cameron Norrie have been making a ton of noise in recent months. Norrie is 8-5 on the season & made the semi finals of the ATP 500 event in Acapulco this past week. Whilst, Auger-Aliassime is 6-2 in his previous two tournaments, succumbing to another break-out star, Laslo Djere, on both occasions.
Laslo Djere received a wild card entry into the BNP Paribas Open and gets the 30th seed. He’ll play the winner of Ivashka-Andreozzi & potentially look to take advantage of an under-done 5th seed, Kevin Anderson.
Draw Analysis – Bottom Half – 3rd Quarter
At the top of the bottom half & 3rd quarter of the draw (left side of the draw above) is Kei Nishikori. The 6th seed, I feel, has quietly gone about a very successful start to the season. He’s 12-3 on the year, has won a title & made solid runs at both the Australian Open & Rotterdam. Lining up to play Nishikori in the second round is the winner of Tennys Sandgren & Adrian Mannarino. Sandgren is currently stuck in a disappointing 4-game losing streak whilst Mannarino has lost 9 of his past 11 matches on tour.
Denis Shapovalov is someone who will be looking to make a bit of a run here. The young Canadian left-hander has been fairly inconsistent this season, bowing out in the quarter finals of two separate tournaments, which is his best result among the five tournaments he has entered. He is projected to come up against the 10th-seeded Croatian, Marin Cilic in the third round, somebody who could also use a rise in form.
There is now quite the opportunity for a fourth round appearance & 90 ATP rankings points here for the following players: Fabio Fognini, Marius Copil, Nicolas Jarry, Frances Tiafoe & Kyle Edmund. Fognini is in the midst of a 4-game losing skid, Copil is yet to make it past the 1st round in both of his appearances, Jarry has lost his previous 6 ATP Tour level matches, Tiafoe has lost 3 of his past 4 matches (all to lower-ranked opponents) & Edmund had not won a match all year until this most recent week, where he won the Indian Wells Challenger.
I say a fourth round appearance, because that is as far as I expect those group of players to go. A fresh & firing Roger Federer will more than likely be waiting. Federer won his 100th(!!) ATP title last week in Dubai and has been drawn a very favourable draw. He has not lost before the quarter finals at Indian Wells since 2010 & has made the semi finals or better here 12 of the past 14 years he has entered. A potential matchup against fellow Swiss tennis superstar, Stan Wawrinka, should not even bat an eyelid. Federer & Wawrinka have played each other 16 times on a hard court… Federer has won all of them.
Draw Analysis – Bottom Half – 4th Quarter
Bringing in the fourth & final quarter of the draw (right side of the draw above) is top-ranked American, John Isner. A slow start to the year for the big-serving Isner, has been somewhat rectified recently after stringing together solid performances in his previous 3 tournaments. Coming so-close to defeating the eventual champion, Nick Kyrgios, in Acapulco, Isner was beaten by some pure-brilliance in the third-set tiebreak (see below).
Potential 3rd round opponent for Isner is the red-hot Argentine, Guido Pella. Pella has been simply phenomenal since the Australian Open. An 11-3 record since Melbourne, including his first ever ATP title in Sao Paulo last week, he has been in career-best form. The big question mark & challenge facing him however, is the sudden switch to hard court. He has played on four consecutive clay-court tournaments & has notoriously struggled on a hard court.
Pablo Carreno Busta has enjoyed success at the BNP Paribas Open, reaching the 4th round (2018) & semi finals (2017) recently, and will face the winner of Robin Haase & a qualifier. Projected to meet Carreno Busta in the third round is the big-hitting Russian, Karen Khachanov. Khachanov has been disappointing this year to say the least. After ending the season in 2018 with a Masters 1000 title in Paris, he has gone 4-5 this year and is currently on the end of a 4-match losing streak at ATP level. There are no guarantees he will break that duck, with a good chance he will see Czech veteran, Tomas Berdych, in the third round. Berdych has to get past Feliciano Lopez first, a matchup that sees the Spaniard actually lead the H2H 8-6, albeit the pair have not seen each other on a hard court since 2014.
No stranger to in-form tennis this year is another young Russian, this one by the name of Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev is up to a career-high ranking of 15 in the world and has 14 wins & a title on the season to go against just 4 losses. A disappointing 3 & 3 loss to Ricardas Berankis last week in Dubai, I highly suspect, is a one-off. A first-up win won’t be easy here at Indian Wells, as the Russian could potentially face another player who is up to a career-high ranking, Mackenzie McDonald.
Last but not least, the bottom of the draw features the World #2, Rafael Nadal. Nadal suffered a shock, 3-set loss to Nick Kyrgios in his last outing, whilst blowing a 6-3 lead & 3 match points in the third set tiebreak. He’s received a favourable draw here, however. He owns a 10-0 H2H record against all potential players he would see by the third round, including a comfortable 6-0 against the 25th-seeded, Diego Schwartzman.
On Upset Alert we have a few names to look out for. As just previously talked about, Mackenzie McDonald has been in solid form & I’d expect him to beat the higher-ranked, Joao Sousa. Whilst not an upset to many, I believe Stan Wawrinka will get through to the third round, beating a qualifier & Marton Fucsovics on the way. Young American, Frances Tiafoe, is someone who has proven himself on the big stage just recently in Melbourne, and has been drawn a dream first-3-match scenario here, so it would not shock me if he was to progress to the fourth round. Benoit Paire is another name who on any-given-day can beat a higher ranked opponent, and a potential second round match against Nikoloz Basilashvili could see just that.
One To Watch
Our One To Watch in Indian Wells is Daniil Medvedev. A potential fourth round match against Rafael Nadal is obviously a huge danger & the Russian would likely go in as a heavy underdog. Nadal has produced some mixed results over his previous 4 attempts at the BNP Paribas Open & there aren’t many better/in-form players on tour right now that Medvedev.
Whilst an obvious prediction would be for Djokovic or Federer, I’m going to have a bit of fun with this one. I’m going to predict that Alexander Zverev will be the 2019 Indian Wells Champion. Whilst struggling previously at this tournament, Zverev has really left his mark on a number of Masters 1000 tournaments in the past two years. As mentioned above, his projected path on paper doesn’t seem too friendly, however there could not be a better time to face a number of those players. Quarter finals and above would definitely be a huge test with projected matchups, but at this level, the German has shown he is more than capable & up to the task.