After an enthralling first round Davis Cup weekend which saw the top two players in the world play lengthy five setters, the ATP tour heads to Indian Wells for the first Masters 1000 event of the year. Four times champion Novak Djokovic is the heavy favourite as he looks continue his dominance over the rest of the tour.
Check out the full draw here: Indian Wells Draw
Watch the matches here: Indian Wells 2016 Live Streaming
Djokovic found himself in major trouble in the fourth rubber of Serbia’s Davis Cup tie with Kazakhstan, falling 2-1 down to Mikhail Kukushkin before winning in just under 5 hours. As seems the case with any event he plays in these days, Djokovic will have to be in dire shape to lose early, if at all. His lengthy run of finals ended in Dubai recently after retiring a set down in the quarter finals of the event. With the player who most troubles him over best of three, Roger Federer, out of the event there seems very little to stop him from making his sixth final in total.
It was Feliciano Lopez that Djokovic retired against in his last ATP event after the Spaniard took the first set but if they meet in the fourth round it should be very much expected that Djokovic extends the head to head to 8-1. To make it that far Lopez will likely need to see off his countryman Roberto Bautista Agut who is seeded 14th. Agut is already an impressive 16-4 on the year with titles in Sofia and Auckland to go with that record.
New Nike acquisition Jack Sock will hope to go deep and a favourable draw might help with his first potential seeded opponent being Dominic Thiem. Thiem has been in good form recently with two titles on two different surfaces this year, mostly recently the hard courts of Acapulco. Projected to make the quarter finals from this section of the draw is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga although it is hard to tell what shape the Frenchman is in after his Davis Cup weekend action was cut short by an early Frank Dancevic retirement. Before that a shock loss to Thiago Monteiro in Rio was one of just three other matches Tsonga has played since the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal is projected to be the Djokovic semi final opponent although recent outings suggest that Djokovic will cruise once more. Nadal failed to win titles in Rio and Buenos Aires after a R1 exit at the Australian Open, with disappointing losses to Cuevas, Thiem and Verdasco respectively. Amongst those hoping to strike against a cold Nadal are Rotterdam champion Martin Klizan and Grigor Dimitrov, although the 0-7 record the Bulgarian currently has against Nadal is cause for concern. Additionally, talented youngsters Alexander Zverev and Jared Donaldson will be hoping to make a splash at the tournament.
The top half of the draw is rounded off by two seeds who had varying fortunes during Davis Cup weekend. John Isner (49 aces, 0 double faults) saw one of his best serving performances ever in an impressive win against Bernard Tomic to lead his country to victory in Australia. Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori came from two sets down to lead by a break in the fifth against Andy Murray in an all important fourth rubber only to lose in a match that went almost 5 hours. He will look to bounce back in California but will have to be wary if he and ninth seed Isner meet given the American’s previous here – he was a finalist in 2012.
While third seed Stanislas Wawrinka has remained a thorn in Djokovic’s side at the grand slams, this has yet to be converted to regular best of three at ATP level where Djokovic leads 15-2 and was 2-0 last year. Wawrinka owns the curious achievement of winning more slam titles than Masters 1000 with just a solitary Monte Carlo title to his name at this level. He has never even passed the quarter finals of Indian Wells but should really be hoping to do so on this occasion, not least because of this seeded position.
David Goffin and Jeremy Chardy may well be amongst those hoping to thwart his effort this time round while a curious first rounder is thrown up in this quarter between two of the hottest talents in American tennis at the moment – Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Harry Fritz. Fritz has been living up to his potential more so far and notably made the Memphis final earlier in the year. The biggest threats in the other side of the quarter look to be Richard Gasquet and Marin Cilic. Wawrinka will likely be hoping for the latter if he makes it that far, given he holds a 9-2 record over the Croatian.
Andy Murray remains favourite to make the final from the bottom half of the draw but it is fair to say there are a number of dangerous players in the draw, especially if Murray is tired from his marathon Davis Cup victory over Kei Nishikori at the weekend. Nick Kyrgios is the first amongst them although he did withdraw from Davis Cup action although his team-mate Bernard Tomic is not so convinced that there was a great deal wrong for his participation to ever be in danger here.
Tomic is a possible quarter final opponent for Murray but Milos Raonic looks more likely. The Canadian outlined his credentials in January with a run to the Australian Open semi final and a Brisbane title which included a victory over Roger Federer but he has not played since the five set loss to Andy Murray in Melbourne. While Murray has won his last three against Raonic, he has previously found it tough and was 3-1 down prior to these three matches. Tomas Berdych remains a threat at this level but there will be question marks over his health after a retirement at the weekend. If he plays and is fit, a possible second round clash with Juan Martin Del Potro offers plenty of intrigue. The Argentinian made his return at Delray Beach a few weeks back and while a second final after his 2013 effort is far too much asked, a couple of matches under his belt and no damage will be a good return for Del Potro who at full strength, would be a welcome re-addition to the tour.
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