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  A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)
Not Before 1:30 pm
ATP – J Benneteau (FRA) vs  N Djokovic (SRB)
Not Before 3:30 pm
ATP –  J Isner (USA) vs  E Gulbis (LAT)
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