Looking at the men’s quarterfinal lineup, did anyone get all eight? I know I didn’t. I had Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and that’s it. But that’s the new tour, it’s like the Wild West these days: expect the unexpected.
The biggest early round shock was Rafael Nadal’s draw-busting loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov. And that result really opens things up for Federer who now won’t even have to deal with Australian Open champ and countryman Stan Wawrinka, an upset victim Wednesday to Kevin Anderson.
Andy Murray has never played that well in Indian Wells and yesterday his poor form finally caught up to him as Milos Raonic took him out.
Wawrinka has been living the high life since his big win in Melbourne, and I think in his first tournament since he’s now feeling the weight of that win. Welcome to you new life, Stan!
And while I didn’t see Novak Djokovic’s late night win over Marin Cilic, I have to ask, under the Becker plan what has been his best, most impressive win so far? Very mediocre.
“I was composed and mentally calm, regardless of the score line,” said Djokovic. “I just accepted the fact that he came out of the blocks better than I did. He was very aggressive, not missing at all, serving incredibly fast and accurate. I couldn’t do much really. I was forced to back up.
“I believed that I could come back. The second set was a whole new story. I reset myself and told myself it was the start of the match. I forgot about the first set and the second and third went really well. It was the intensity I want to have and I hope to keep it up.”
However after all the turmoil and unrest, as we get closer to the Sunday final I think we should fall back to the norm, with the favorites getting through. So with that, here are my quarterfinal picks for today.
Alexandr Dolgoplov v Milos Raonic
Both guys are enjoying their best weeks at this event. The streaky Dolgoplov is really in the zone after his big win over Nadal and then a solid effort yesterday over Fabio Fognini. And when he’s in the “peak area”, he’s awfully tough to play and awfully tough to beat.
Raonic is also playing some good tennis. With his height and serve he’s dangerous anywhere, and I think the light air of the desert really helps that weaponry. And watching the end of his Murray win, boy did Milos look scary good.
But I have to say this match rests with Dolgoplov.
These two have never met and I think that plays a big role here. Alex has faced several of these “big bomber” types on the tour, but Milos has never played anyone like Alex – because there’s only one Alex! And I think he’ll have the crowd, the motivation from the homeland and like I said he’ll have the element of surprise.
“I think both of us is really about keeping one another out of rhythm,” Raonic said looking ahead. “For me, it’s about keeping the points shorter. For him, it’s about throwing stuff you wouldn’t expect. I think the most important thing, obviously my serve. And the beauty of that is nobody can affect me.
“Most important thing I think is going to be about controlling the center of the court, sort of stepping up, and when I do get ahead in the points, staying ahead,” he said. “But it’s all very situational stuff. I think dictating and imposing my game on him rather than him imposing on me is the most important thing.”
Dolgoplov won’t be wary of the big man across the net. The 25-year-old’s already had some wins over the bigger guys this year – he beat Ivo Karlovic in Sydney and a few weeks ago chopped down Jerzy Janowicz in Acapulco. And he’s beaten Sam Querrey, Anderson, Cilic and other big men in the past.
For me though, in this I look at how is the better player right now. And even though he just beat Murray, I can’t believe Raonic is playing at his very best since, as he says, this is his first healthy tournament of the year. While Dolgoplov beat Ferrer a few weeks ago, beat Nadal and has to be full of confidence.
So with that, I’ll go with the man from the Ukraine…
The pick: Dolgoplov in three
Roger Federer v Kevin Anderson
Obviously Federer is the favorite in this one. 2.5 months into the season you could make the case he’s playing better than anyone, something few of us would have believed six months ago when Tommy Robredo was dropping the hammer on the Swiss legend at the US Open.
But the new racquet, the healthy back and the Stefan Edberg influence are all mixing together to produce a really nice cocktail right now. How long can it last?
After wins over Dmitry Tursunov and Tommy Haas, tonight though the task toughens and Kevin Anderson. The 6-foot-8 South African is playing some of the best tennis of his career. Armed with one of the most formidable serves in the game, Anderson is coming off finals in Delray and Acapulco, and this week he’s got wins over Grand Slam champions Lleyton Hewitt and Wawrinka. But I think his runs ends today.
“I have to come out and focus on my game and just do what I have been doing,” said Anderson. “I feel like I have been playing good tennis, and I’m going to definitely continue that tomorrow.”
These two met just last fall when Federer cruised over Anderson in straight sets at the Paris Indoors. And I expect something similar tonight. Though anytime you play someone with that big of a serve in light air, there’s danger.
“I know how tough he is,” Federer said of Anderson. “He’s the best here usually in the States, outdoors on the hard courts. That’s when he’s had his biggest success. I’m aware that this is not going to be an easy match just because he’s not ranked in the Top 10.”
The only pauses I have here is if a) Anderson gets on one of those rolls; and, b) the 32-year-old Federer played four sets of tennis on Wednesday (singles and doubles), so perhaps his body isn’t fully recovered.
That said, with Nadal and Murray out and Djokovic wobbly, I think Federer recognizes that is too great an opportunity to pass up. And I’m not going against him here.
The pick: Federer in two
As for the women’s matches, I like Li Na and Sloane who seems to be coming around here – she must think this is a Slam! So I’ll side with the American in a close one.
Tomorrow’s quarters are Djokovic-Benneteau and Isner-Gulbis.
Tennis Channel has full coverage starting at 2pm ET.
THURSDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
WTA –  N Li (CHN) vs  D Cibulkova (SVK)
Not Before 1:00 pm
ATP –  A Dolgopolov (UKR) vs  M Raonic (CAN)
Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA –  F Pennetta (ITA) vs  S Stephens (USA)
ATP –  B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP –  K Anderson (RSA) vs  R Federer (SUI)
WTA –  L Hradecka (CZE) / J Zheng (CHN) vs  C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND)
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