Indian Wells Friday Picks And Pans: Will Isner Out-Blast Gulbis? Is Djokovic Back To Good?
by Sean Randall | March 14th, 2014, 1:34 pm
  • 73 Comments

Our final two quarters in the men’s draw are set for today at Indian Wells. But first quick look back at yesterday’s action.

As I thought, Milos Roanic just wasn’t able to solve the Alexandr Dolgpolov puzzle. No shame in that, few can.

The Ukraine talent overwhelmed Milos with his serve and befuddled the cerebral Canadian with his vast baseline arsenal.

I will say, I’m really starting to enjoy watching Alex when he’s playing this well. It’s so different, so much crazier than anything else we see today.

So tomorrow it will be extra fun watching him take on one of the best problem solvers in our sport Roger Federer. Federer got through a very tricky Kevin Anderson with flying colors. After a tight first ten games Federer kicked it into another gear an the match was over in a blink.

Federer is into the semis and really looking better than anyone right now. Can The Dog beat him? Sure, but right now I don’t see that happening.

On to today…


Novak Djokovic v Julien Benneteau
So is this match we finally see the real Djokovic? Who knows, but I’d be very surprised if he loses here. He’s beaten Benny the last five times they’ve played and he was sharp in the last two sets against a very hot Marin Cilic the other night.

But I still have to have some reservations – Novak did lose a set to someone named Alejandro Gonzalez after all! And like I’ve been saying that consistent form from last fall seems to have vanished.

Benny, though title-less, has had some big wins in his career. He’s beaten Federer a few times, beaten Novak at Indian Wells eight years ago and last fall upset Stan Wawrinka at Kuala Lumpur. And this week he trounced JW Tsonga then took care of business beating Thiem and Lopez.

That said, he does most his best work indoors and Indian Wells’s doesn’t have (or need) a roof. So I have to believe after a rough patch of results that Benneteau is somewhat satisfied reaching the quarters while for Djokovic anything short of a title on Sunday would be a major disappointment. Motivation is with the Serb.
The pick: Djokovic in two


John Isner v Ernests Gulbis
This is a tough one to pick. Very tough. Straight-up I give the edge to John. I know Ernests leads 2-1 in their series but John won the only time they played on hardcourt last year in Valencia and he’s playing in his country and at a tournament he where he beat Novak to make the final two years ago. That counts for a lot.

So John gets the early edge.

But, as I often like to say, who’s the hotter player right now? Isner is coming off an ankle injury, though he did just make the semis in Delray. However Earnie has been playing the best tennis of his life of late. Winning Marseille, making the semis of Rotterdam and beating Grigor Dimitrov earlier this week. His wins stack up much higher than Isner’s.

That said, I don’t particularly like the matchup here for Earnie. Isner loves the court and the conditions in the desert and unless Earnie shows patience and plays smart – makes Isner move instead of going for outrageous winners all the time – I think the American will get a few more break chances than Gulbis and eventually convert thanks to a silly error.

“Expect the unexpected. He’s so talented. We all know that,” Isner said about Earnie. “You never really know what you’re going to get with him out there. He’s a shot maker. He hits the ball extremely hard. He can sort of go crazy out there, too. But it’s kind of like, I don’t know, equate it to like a John McEnroe crazy. He does it but he stays with it. He did that out there today. So, you know, I hope that he cracks some racquets against me tomorrow. That means I will be doing a couple things right. We will see how it goes.”

We know John will have his serve but this match will rest on how foolish or daring Gulbis will be. Against guys like Dimitrov or Bautista Agut, Gulbis can get away with hitting horrendous shots because there’s not as much pressure to hold serve. That’s not the case against Isner who really forces players to play smart and hold serve because breaking the 6-foot-10 tree back is so rare.

And today I think Earnie makes some dumb mistakes, finds himself in a few holes and John gets a miss-hit or rips a crazy winner or a timely double fault and that’s the set, then it’s the match.
The pick: Isner in 3

Tonight the women play their semis. I like the top seed Li Na over Flavia Pennetta who really putting away Sloane Stephens yesterday – I know it was windy but boy was that some horrible tennis!

And then I like Simona Halep in an upset over Radwanska. Halep is quite the player, reminds me of a female David Ferrer. And the way she’s playing I think she can win on Sunday or if not, eventually be a serious threat at a Slam.

Tennis Channel and ESPN2 have coverage today starting at 4:30pm ET.

FRIDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 start 11:45 am
ATP – R Federer (SUI) / S Wawrinka (SUI) vs [2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)

Not Before 1:30 pm
ATP – J Benneteau (FRA) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB)

Not Before 3:30 pm
ATP – [12] J Isner (USA) vs [20] E Gulbis (LAT)


Also Check Out:
Djokovic, Isner Set Indian Wells Semifinal Meeting
Federer v. Murray; Nadal v. Djokovic Seeded for Indian Wells SF
Ernests Gulbis Thinks He Can Beat Nadal Today At Indian Wells
Poll: Roger Federer Or Novak Djokovic, Who’ll Win The Indian Wells Sunday Final?
Nadal, Djokovic Leads Seeds Today at Indian Wells

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73 Comments for Indian Wells Friday Picks And Pans: Will Isner Out-Blast Gulbis? Is Djokovic Back To Good?

Slice Tennis Says:

Now that Federer’s master and the master of masters1000 is not there anymore in the draw, its a great chance for Federer to do something which he has not done for ages.
Normally he picks up his level dramatically when he knows Rafa is not there in his path anymore. Lets see what he can do here.


Polo Says:

Why is Raonic cerebral?


Translated Age Says:

It’s the hair.


RZ Says:

Anyone have a live stream for the doubles match? It’s not up on LShunter.net.


salleh ahmed Says:

They dont broadcast the doubles for unknown reason.

But the bryans match they showed yesterday. Make ur opinion


Mr. Larvey Says:

It’s a big shame that it’s impossible to see those doubles matches… They are often very entertaining.


RZ Says:

Thanks Salleh and Mr. Larvey. I’m glad I at least got to see one Fed/Wawa match live at IW.

I can’t believe they haven’t been showing most of the doubles. The Fed/Wawa vs. Gulbis/Raonic should have been streamed, if not shown on Tennis Channel. And I can’t believe the semis are not being shown (aside from the Bryans vs. Quisner). Such a lack of respect for 2 GS title winners, not to mention Peya-Soares who are the #2 team in the world.


RZ Says:

Here’s what tennis writer Tom Perrotta tweeted. I agree with it completely:

Tom Perrotta @TomPerrotta
Federer/Wawrinka doubles is not any TV anywhere? So says @TennisTV. Great opportunity wasted. Tennis loves to trip over its own shoelaces.


pigoonse Says:

Thanks Tennis-X and Sean Randall!

Preventing Same old S*** fall-out from Fedal wars ruining all the Indian Wells Picks and Pans threads.

Stay on topic, people.

Great matches coming up today. Anyone interested?


Mr. Larvey Says:

RZ, Would love to go to IW some year to watch the maches live… I think that would also be weatherwise a decent place. At least compared to northern europe.


Okiegal Says:

I was looking for it too……no where to be found. Don’t know why ESPN3 showed the dubs last night and not today. Who knows why they do what they do? I have as much trouble trying to figure out the media as I do trying to figure out tennis players! lol


Mr. Larvey Says:

Seems that Peya/Soares have the upper hand – at least at the moment. Somehow it would have been nice to see Fed/Waw play against Bryans…


RZ Says:

Mr. Larvey, I highly recommend it! The first weekend, there are so many matches to choose from that you are sure to find something good to see. Weather-wise, it can be quite hot, but usually bearable. The practice courts are accessible to fans, and with so many top pros playing doubles, you can usually see several of the top guys on the court at the same time. When I lived on the east coast I went to watch the US Open a few times, but I think Indian Wells is a much more fan friendly and fun tournament to watch.


kjb Says:

@pignoose

I am definetely interested in the matches today. Would love to see Ernie/Nole Semi. I don’t think Benneteau can trouble Nole even if Nole is at 75 percent. On a faster court maybe.
For Gulbis to have a chance against Isner I think patience is the key for him there.

Should be good!


Mr. Larvey Says:

RZ, Thanks for the recommendation. I need to arrange my schedule so that I can go there next year.

I really enjoy watching doubles as well, especially when there are some top level single palyers mixing the field. Raonic/Gulbis is a team that I would love to see playing together more often.


Okiegal Says:

@pigoonse

I am ready and waiting and hoping to see some good matches. Wonder if we are in for any shockers….I hope so, that makes it more interesting……except when Rafa gets beat, don’t like that shock at all! lol Enjoy today, I sure am!


skeezer Says:

“Now that Federer’s master and the master of masters1000 is not there anymore in the draw”
Yep your “master” is too busy losing to the Dolgos, the Darcis, the Rosols, etc of the world. Why even bring Rafa up on this thread? the guy is OUT of the tourney, he lost. Time to talk about who’s left in the draw and watch, not put about the players that are OUT.

Novak should get past Julian. Same with Isner…on paper. But Gulbis has got the skill set to beat him, if he can maintain his head.


Mr. Larvey Says:

I don’t see Julian bothering Nole, but the other QF is actually very interesting. I concider Gulbis as a favourite even if Isner typically is at his very best on US hard courts.


Okiegal Says:

oops, I goofed……sorry I brought up Rafa, Skeezer…..I’ll butt out!!! lol I thought about that right after I sent it, I apologize.


Slice Tennis Says:

Federer and his fans has to hope that Julian and Isner win today.


kjb Says:

I am a Fed fan and I hope he plays Nole in the Final. The greatest hardcourter of alltime vs. the best hard courter of the current generation.!!!!!

Allez Fed!


RZ Says:

Slice Tennis, I disagree. I’m a Fed fan and I’d rather see Djoker win today and have Fed play him in the final (assuming Fed gets by Dolgopolov). They usually have good matches against each other.


pigoonse Says:

Benneteau and Djokovic are almost done warming up.

Novak says it is a different feeling going to IW not having just won AO. He needs this win.


John Says:

I hope Fed wins this one. I also hope he doesn’t get drawn in Djokovics half at the french (like in 2011) this year, some fans must hope he does.


Maestro Fed Says:

With this form I would say Roger is the favorite to win against Djokovic.


Okiegal Says:

Wow, my new HD Samsung big screen is out of this world for live sports.! You can see the hair on their legs and every little zit! Lol I am not sure if it could be any better if I were there in the stands in person!


Mr. Larvey Says:

It’s definetly bad day at the office for Julien. Hope he improves to second set otherwise this is all over before it even started.


pigoonse Says:

Novak has his game face on, happy to report.

That was easy, maybe too easy. Novak has the first set 6-1


Okiegal Says:

This match is history……Julian is scared I guess. This is pitiful…..28 minute first set…..sigh…


pigoonse Says:

It is a bad day at the office for Julien.

Not much of a tennis match so far, unless you are a Nole fan. He looks marvelous.


pigoonse Says:

Yeah Okiegal – I don’t imagine this can be too interesting at the moment. Tennis is a sport, Allez, Julien!

He needs encouragement.


Mr. Larvey Says:

Yes, I have to agree that Novak plays very well. However, he wasn’t really pushed in the first set. Let’s see if Julien can relax a bit in the second.


Okiegal Says:

Nice shot, Benne!


Okiegal Says:

Joker fans where is Becker??


pigoonse Says:

Mr. Larvey, I second what RZ says about Indian Wells. It is a beautiful place, very clean, easy to see the players and the weather is perfect usually the 1st week of March. Can be a bit windy but it doesn’t rain.


Okiegal Says:

@pigoonse

Joker better win, his opponent didn’t show up today…May be Julian will finally settle in, but do I see him winning this set?? Not a chance!


pigoonse Says:

Thinking ahead to the Isner/Gulbis match. I am very interested to see how Gulbis handles the crowd. Ernests does not like fans cheering for him too loud, so, hope he can keep his cool.

I expect the match will be typical Gulbis action. Part of his charm.


Mr. Larvey Says:

So I just have to go there next year :)


pigoonse Says:

Yes, me too. Don’t forget to put on the sunscreen. One can get fried.

I see Nole was getting that look a little that game – the one he gets when he is drifting off somewhere.

Ajde Nole! stay awake


pigoonse Says:

while typing Novak got the break – this match should be over soon and for me it is a bit of a relief after that match versus Marin Cilic.

Isner/Gulbis will be right after this one.


pigoonse Says:

Pitiful for Benneteau. He played so well against Thiem and Lopez.

Djokovic will play ?

Would really love a Djokovic/Gulbis match but my pick is Isner.

Well done, Nole!


tfouto Says:

djoko has played a great game, even if Julian was on a bad day today…


pigoonse Says:

Novak was great, wasn’t he? Watching the post-match highlights.


tfouto Says:

yes, Djoko steping up the level towards the final…

Gulbis will win today. At least i hope so. For good of tennis. Gulbis is so talented player. Mental is the problem, but seems more focused now. Let’s see.


pigoonse Says:

Agree, tfuto.

Gulbis fan here.


pigoonse Says:

But John Isner is good at IW. Gulbis/Djokovic semifinal might be fun this time. Their 2011 match at IW was very boring – what there was of it. Ernests basically gave Novak no resistance at all.


James Says:

John Isner in 3. This is ‘merica!


pigoonse Says:

How is Gulbis going to win a set @James?


pigoonse Says:

Gulbis doe not like noise – annoying mericans.


metan Says:

Fight john, fight!!! Don’t let this Latvia takes his chances. Come on Isner!!!!


tfouto Says:

Isner game is really an ugly tribute to tennis…


salleh ahmed Says:

Isner is so one dimensional
1 mini break was enough. gulbis had no chance at all. The break point he had was defended with an excellent second serve.


salleh ahmed Says:

Imagine isner without his serve and height. He wouldnt be top 1000 player.


metan Says:

Good job John. Send this Richie home please.


salleh ahmed Says:

Gulbis has the break. But not one single convincing hold of his own in this set. Better god under pressure und fending the bp off


salleh ahmed Says:

Samenpattern. Bp gulbis. Next comes an ureturnable serve. At least he the break. But serving first in the final set would be an advantage


metan Says:

Gear up, John!!! Break back!


salleh ahmed Says:

JMDP nearly same height but has an allround game. Isner has only serve. How many rallies we had in this match so far???


salleh ahmed Says:

Omg gulbis self destructed
Isner hadnt to do nothing


metan Says:

Saleh, I know that but John can learn to improve his game in many departments. But today his main job to win this battle.


salleh ahmed Says:

Another TB.my money would be on isner. He should win this


pigoonse Says:

Such an uninteresting match. Looking forward to Federer/Dolgopolov.

Good luck Novak!!


salleh ahmed Says:

4-2 isner. Should bring it home.
Gulbis had a good tourney but some lapses cost him the sf place


metan Says:

Congratulations to John.
Sayonara gulbis, see you on Latvia. I am feeling good. 😜😜😜😜😜


Okiegal Says:

Wow, Isner….he’s deadly in tiebreaks……good job!


salleh ahmed Says:

So gulbis has lost the last for sets in TBs against isner
He had SP in the first, and was serving for the sez in the second. Self to blame.
So novak against isner. Think isner will give nole something to think about


salleh ahmed Says:

No raquet smash, no screaming, no arguments with the umpire, too calm and discplined. Because of that gulbis lost the match hehehehe


metan Says:

Saleh, LOL!!!


Polo Says:

All Isner matches are boring. Even Gulbis got too bored to get involved in that match.


pigoonse Says:

Congratulations Agnieszka Radwanska!

Great match…way better than the men’s tennis today.


http://tiahpost.com/blog/ Says:

Ladies second semis going on at ESPN2. Score 4-3; Pennetta just broke Li Na. She will serve for 5-3….


tennismonger Says:

@ Polo

LOL! – Isner’s REAL secret weapon = boredom!

Gotta give the lad credit though – he’s in the semis @ IW & Gulbis is not…

I hope Nole can find a way to stay interested today!


Okiegal Says:

Well, so John is boring?? But who in the world wouldn’t want their favorite player to be able to pop out an ace in a tight spot….geez I wish mine could…..not that he hasn’t before, but I mean, consistently, like old boring Izzy. I would like that aspect in my guys game…….who wouldn’t???

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1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
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