The first Masters 1000 of the year has a really wide open draw. It’s so wide open that I’m ready to break my computer out of frustration while trying to pick the right bracket. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the ATP Bracket Challenge. It’s officially a year old and it’s almost fun if you don’t care about the result.
Back to the actual tennis, these Masters are becoming real tricky to predict as the years go by. In 2005 and 2006, Roger Federer scooped up eight MS titles and reached the finals of almost everything else. Nowadays, the Swiss isn’t a master of the Masters the way he completely dominates in the slams. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of great tennis to enjoy.
Federer’s Quarter: Not exactly the most daunting draw, but this quarter is filled with some of the most talented (underachieving) players on tour. David Nalbandian is dealing with injury but could be inspired after a great win in Davis Cup. Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils are slated to play in the second round. Jankko Tipsarevic could try to upset another Andy in his second straight tournament should he make it to the third round against Andy Roddick.
But the match I’m looking forward to most is a potential third round clash between Marcos Baghdatis and Roger Federer. I can’t see Federer losing, or rather, Baghdatis actually closing it out, but this will be a match that will feature excellent rallies from two of the most talented ball-strikers of today. Radek Stepanek can always cause trouble but, should he make it through Dudi Sela and Tommy Robredo, Federer will take care of him.
Murray’s Quarter: Having been a finalist last year, Andy Murray is one of the clear-cut favorites. He’s not particularly injured and he’s had plenty of time to recover from his Australian Open defeat. He’s also probably looking forward to this event and the one in Miami since these courts suit him almost perfectly. A tussle with Igor Andreev could occur in the third round. And his fourth round opponent can be one of David Ferrer, James Blake, or Ivo Karlovic. None of these guys will probably beat Murray but they can give him all sorts of fits.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Robin Soderling, and maybe Michael Llodra are the only guys I can see that have the potential to make it through. Llodra and Tsonga nearly retired against each other in Dubai but Tsonga played on. Soderling isn’t physically injured but he’s 0-1 in big events so far this year. However, these courts should suit him well; they’re slow but not slow enough to stop his ferocious forehand and backhand.
Nadal’s Quarter: Rafael Nadal is currently 3rd in the world but I would say that Murray is definitely playing above him at the moment. Nadal is a two-time champion and the defending champion at the moment, so I feel like betting against him is not the best idea. But nonetheless, the players are too confident against him today. If he plays a couple of guys who try to blast him off the court, his body might not be able to handle the grind of playing a top player in the latter stages of the tournament. With that, I think this is going to be Sam Querrey’s breakout Masters. I think he’ll get through John Isner in round three and then score the biggest win of his career in the fourth round against Nadal.
Nikolay Davydenko is coming off injury and has never played particularly well in Indian Wells. Ernest Gulbis is coming off his first title and I think he’ll have enough confidence to upset Davydenko and then get through Fernando Verdasco to get a rematch with Querrey. They’re 1-1 but Querrey won their most recent meeting on hard courts in straight sets.
Djokovic’s Quarter: Gilles Simon makes a notable return after dealing with several injuries in the past few months. He should be able to grind out a few wins since the surface favors him, but Djokovic should take him out in the fourth round. Besides that, Djokovic’s other test might come against Philipp Kohlschreiber, but I don’t think that’ll be much of a match considering the poor display the German put on in Davis Cup just recently.
Marin Cilic has a favorable draw and should be able to take care of Juan Carlos Ferrero despite the Spaniard’s hot streak. It’s a real toss up between Cilic and Djokovic. Cilic has never beaten the Serb but their matches have often been close. Cilic has been playing the best tennis of his life in recent months whereas Djokovic has yet to muster up any kind of top form. Djokovic has managed to stay consistent and he hasn’t lost a match in a couple of weeks now. Cilic is confident and I think he’ll continue to prove himself.
Federer def Murray
Djokovic def Querrey
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