Finally playing his first match at Indian Wells this fortnight, Novak Djokovic plays Taro Daniel as he begins his hunt for a record sixth title at the event. He and Roger Federer are both tied at five although all the expectations are that the Swiss will win this event to extend his run at No.1.
Djokovic’s career has hit a block the past year due to injuries, with his return in Australia not going as expected. The loss to Hyeon Chung came as a surprise, especially with the similarity in game styles between the two players. He had further treatment on his elbow following this loss and has not played since then. “Considering my results here in the past it’s one of my favourite places to play,” he said. “I had surgery after Australia and it’s still a short time but I managed to recover really well so I’m hoping that I can start this tournament as healthy as possible and then start building from there.”
Daniel, playing at this tournament for the first time, qualified with two straight sets wins before a three set win over Cameron Norrie in the opening round. He closed out the decider in impressive style, winning it 6-1 after losing the previous set by the same result. The Japanese player is currently outside the top 100 and never shown any real indication that he will rise to be one of the elite players in the game just yet. He did hold his own against Rafael Nadal at last year’s US Open, winning the first set against the then World No.1, one of his 7 losses against top 20 players.
“Obviously expectations-wise it’s different. It’s not like coming in like last year or two years ago, this year is really different not just because of rankings but because I haven’t played matches at all. Djokovic added. “The goals are a bit different. Nevertheless when I step on the court it’s game on. I want to get the best out of myself and get a win.”. Djokovic should begin the tournament with a confidence boosting win but tougher times will be ahead in the next few rounds with projected matches against Kei Nishikori and Juan Martin Del Potro.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets