The first Masters 1000 event of the 2014 ATP World Tour season kicks off on Thursday in Indian Wells, California. The event has always been popular with fans and players alike. The BNP Paribas Open has led the way for other Masters tournaments and backed by the money of Larry Ellison, continues to improve the facilities at the site. 2014 sees the introduction of a second stadium with 8,000 capacity. Rafael Nadal showed that his comeback wasn’t just limited to the clay last year, winning the event in his first hard court tournament since returning from injury.
See the Full Draw: ATP Indian Wells 2014 Draw
Each of the 32 seeds get a first round bye with Nadal leading the field as World No.1. He will play either Radek Stepanek or Denis Istomin in round two. He is a combined 9-0 against the pair (6-0 Stepanek, 3-0 Istomin) with neither player likely having enough to take advantage if the Spaniard has a rare off day. Stepanek took a set off eventual winner Roger Federer in his last outing in Dubai before falling in three. Alexandr Dolgopolov could meet Nadal for the second time in three matches if he can defeat an American in round two. Dolgopolov saw off three outstanding clay players on his way to the Rio de Janeiro final before losing to Nadal in three. The Ukranian faces the winner of Jack Sock and Tim Smyczek. Smyczek leads the head to head 2-1 but they have not met in a main draw match at ATP level.
Fognini was one of the players defeated by an inspired Dolgopolov in Brazil, winning just two games. Since his rise up the rankings, he has still struggled on hard but should fancy his chances against either Ryan Harrison or Andrey Golubev. Harrison has struggled to win on the main tour for the past year but has round one wins in his last two tournaments. Gael Monfils is the other seed in the section and will be favoured for a third meeting with Nadal in 2014. Monfils had only lost to Nadal this year prior to Rotterdam. Lukasz Kubot is 3-1 against opponent Sergiy Stakhovsky, with the winner going on to face Monfils.
A big serving third round clash between Milos Raonic and Jerzy Janowicz is on the cards if both seeds can win their second round matches. Raonic plays the winner of Benjamin Becker and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in his first match since the Australian Open. Becker is 2-1 against the Frenchman. Meanwhile Janowicz will face either Federico Delbonis or Alejandro Falla. Delbonis won his first title in Sao Paolo last week but his hard court form leaves a lot to be desired. He lost his only meeting to Falla on the clay of Madrid in 2011.
Andy Murray can help set up the eagerly awaited Murray-Nadal clash by making the quarter finals – the first since 2011. He plays either Lukas Rosol or a qualifier that could include Dominic Thiem, Dusan Lajovic and Peter Polansky. Rosol ended a four match losing streak in Dubai by making the quarter finals but will find it tough should he meet Murray. Fellow Czech Jiri Vesely resides in the same section with he and Igor Sijsling facing off for the right to play Pablo Andujar. The Spaniard’s record on hard was 4-11 last year so Sijsling and Vesely have a great opportunity to make the third round.
Now World No.3, Stanislas Wawrinka plays his first tournament since winning the Australian Open and ending the run of titles by the big four. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the increased expectations. Ivo Karlovic or Alex Bogomolov will be waiting in round two for Wawrinka and the big serving Croatian could catch Wawrinka cold. Andreas Seppi and Sam Querrey are both hideously out of form and could provide an opportunity for a qualifier to cause a shock in the other part of this section.
Seeds Kevin Anderson and Mikhail Youzhny know what nationality player they will be facing with each playing the winner of a clash between two countrymen. Anderson has made back to back finals although has gone 0-2 in that stretch but hopes to keep his good form going against either Matthew Ebden or Lleyton Hewitt. Meanwhile, Youzhny faces an American in Michael Russell or Donald Young. Youzhny withdrew in Dubai but should make it safely to round three if fit. Russell and Young have met 11 times with the veteran Russell leading 7-4.
Roger Federer rounds off the top half of the draw in terms of seeds and can meet Wawrinka for the first time since he was overtaken as Swiss No.1. A qualifier is up in round two for the four times champion while Dmitry Tursunov seems the likely third round opponent for Federer. Tursunov could also play a qualifier if they can see off the slumping Juan Monaco. Federer is 3-0 against Tursunov but last faced him in 2008.
For two clay veterans like Santiago Giraldo and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, six career meetings seems perfectly reasonable but bizarrely the majority of them have come on hard court. Giraldo leads the head to head 5-1 and won all four of their hard court matches. The winner faces Tommy Haas who retired last week while the other seed in this section also has injury doubts. Kei Nishikori retired in the first set in Delray Beach. Nishikori will play either Jeremy Chardy or Rhyne Williams if fit enough to compete.
The recent reshuffle at the top of the rankings that saw members of the big four fall out of the top four at different points last year led to some draws being deemed soft but in the end many of these went as seedings projected. Tomas Berdych‘s quarter will be seen as the “weak” quarter but in reality it is tough to see his quarter putting an early end to his impressive 2014 form. Berdych will begin against either wildcard Steve Johnson or Roberto Bautista-Agut. Bautista-Agut actually has a win over Berdych in Chennai but lost in straight sets in their meeting in late 2013. A German is a likely opponent in round three with Florian Mayer awaiting either Daniel Brands or Jarkko Nieminen. However, Brands is 0-5 since losing to Gael Monfils in Doha.
Grigor Dimitrov and Ernests Gulbis could face each other for the second time in as many tournaments if they make the third round. Dimitrov came from a set down in Acapulco, a tournament he eventually won by defeating Kevin Anderson in the final. Dimitrov opens against Robin Haase or a qualifier while Gulbis plays Oleksandr Nedovyesov or Joao Sousa. Nedovyesov is still yet to win a main draw match but has a winnable opener here.
The eighth seed in the draw is Richard Gasquet, who has a winning record against projected quarter final opponent Berdych. He begins against either Nicolas Mahut or Teymuraz Gabashvili. Gasquet is 3-0 against his fellow Frenchman although Mahut is 1-2 against Gabashvili. Fernando Verdasco is a likely third round opponent with Horacio Zeballos poor on hard and Rajeev Ram out of form.
John Isner and Philipp Kohlschreiber‘s most memorable matches have been late night affairs at the US Open which the German won on both occasions, but in best of three it is Isner that has the upper hand going 4-0. They can meet in round three if they progress as expected. 2012 finalist Isner already has a title this year but was disappointing in his last outing against Ivo Karlovic. He plays either Michal Przysiezny or Nikolay Davydenko while Kohlschreiber will play either Yen-Hsun Lu or Tobias Kamke. Two retirements and a 6-1 6-1 loss in his last three matches suggests that Lu is there for the taking if Kamke can play well.
Juan Martin Del Potro was a losing finalist last year, narrowly failing to complete the feat of defeating three of the top four seeds in winning a tournament. After retiring in Dubai, injury woes suggest he is unlikely to get close to matching that feat this time round. He should be able to defeat Feliciano Lopez or Dudi Sela with ease if the wrist holds up while possible third round opponent Vasek Pospisil has struggled for fitness himself. He has played just once since the Australian Open, losing to Alexandr Dolgopolov. Pospisil will open against Mikhail Kukushkin or a qualifier.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can take advantage of the Del Potro doubts as he continues to look better and better since his return from injury last year. A final in Marseille is his best result on the year although he was out played by Ernests Gulbis once there. Three qualifiers and two other Frenchman populate his part of the draw. Tsonga plays Julien Benneteau or a qualifier while 21st seed Gilles Simon plays a qualifier. Tsonga is 5-4 and 6-4 against Benneteau and Simon respectively.
Novak Djokovic rounds off the final quarter of the draw as second seed but has looked vulnerable in comparison to his recent past. He failed to win any of the hard court Masters in North America last year for the first time since 2010, before his ascent to the very top. There is very little to trouble him early on though with either Victor Hanescu or a qualifier first up and then likely 31st seed Ivan Dodig. Dodig will most likely face Adrian Mannarino who will look to ensure Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez remains winless on the main tour.
The in-form Marin Cilic is a potential tough match although the Croatian may have run out of steam after a three week stretch that saw him make three finals in three weeks, winning in Delray Beach and Zagreb. Cilic opens against Pablo Carreno Busta or a qualifier and may play another Spaniard in round three with Tommy Robredo seeded to be his opponent there. Robredo made the fourth round of the Australian Open in his last hard court tournament, losing to eventual winner Stanislas Wawrinka. Bradley Klahn will want to prove the tournament wrong after a shocking wildcard snub – despite being ranked above every single one of the event’s choices. He plays Marinko Matosevic for the opportunity to take on Robredo.
SF: Rafael Nafal def. Roger Federer
SF: Tomas Berdych def. Novak Djokovic
F: Rafael Nadal def. Tomas Berdych