Roger Federer plays the first match in his Indian Wells title defence on Saturday night, taking of Federico Delbonis. The Argentinian earned a shock victory over Federer at Hamburg in 2013 during the initial run that saw him rise up the rankings.
Indian Wells is Delbonis first hard court tournament since Miami last year with his top 70 ranking coming nearly all from clay, many of which were Challenger tournaments. While 6-6 this year, he is just 1-3 on hard courts with the sole win coming in the last round against Ryan Harrison. The surprise three set win earns him a spot on Stadium 1 although there are few doubts that Federer will level the head to head by the end of Saturday.
Federer played Rotterdam to move back to the No.1 spot for the first time since 2012. Winning the tournament, combined with Rafael Nadal’s absence due to injury, allowed him to overtake the Spaniard. He will have to likely win this tournament and the upcoming Miami Open to remain there for much longer although the clay season will give him the opportunity to once more chase the rankings if he loses it in March.
“I think when you’re at the top, everybody is watching everything you do extra carefully so you maybe go into a shell to some extent, because you don’t want people to know your magic formula, if there is any,” Federer said of once again being the top target. “As you’re riding the wave and have the momentum, you want to try to maintain that as long as possible so you sometimes do tend to go into a bit of a bubble. I try not to ever really go there.”
Prediction – Roger Federer in straight sets