The defending champion Novak Djokovic and three time champion Rafael Nadal averted potentially tricky situations as both faced stiff challenge in their round of 32 matches on Tuesday in the first ATP 1000 event of the year in Indian Wells, California. While Djokovic beat the German veteran Phillipe Kohlschreiber 7-5,7-5; Nadal avenged his Australian Open first round defeat at the hands of Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, but not before fighting off four set points in the second set tie-break 6-0,7-6(9).
A tournament record 13 top 16 seeds will be in action in the round of 16 on Wednesday as Japan’s Kei Nishikori, American John Isner, Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and the Austrian Dominic Thiem were joined by the 19 year old unseeded Alexander Zverev of Germany who caused the only upset of the day as he beat the 16th seeded Giles Simon with consummate ease 6-2,6-2.
Feliciano Lopez is the only player to beat Novak Djokovic in 2016 as the Serb conceded his quarter final match at the Dubai Duty free championship due to an eye infection after dropping the first set 3-6. He set up an intriguing rematch between the two as he won an All Spanish encounter against Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(5),6-7(10),6-4. Nadal faces Zverev in the round of 16.
Four Americans remained in the bottom half of the draw but only the ninth seeded John Isner progressed after beating the left handed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-4,7-6(4). He faces the fifth seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, who edged the 30th seeded Steve Johnson of the U.S.A., 7-6(6),7-6(5).
Dominic Thiem of Austria continued his impressive form as he beat another American Jack Sock 7-5,6-7(5),6-1. He faces the highest ranked Frenchman in the draw Jo Wilfred Tsonga who easily put out the Delray Beach champion Sam Querrey 6-3,6-4.
The Round of 16 line up with my pick mentioned first is as under:-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Feliciano Lopez (18)
Dominic Thiem (11) v. Jo Wilfred Tsonga (7)
Rafael Nadal (4) v. Alexander Zverev
Kei Nishikori (5) v. John Isner (9)
Richard Gasquet (8) v. Marin Cilic (10)
Stanislas Wawrinka (3) v. David Goffin (15)
Milos Raonic (12) v. Tomas Berdych (6)
Gael Monfils (13) v. Frederico Delbonis
Djokovic has struggled so far to find his best form since winning his fifth Australian open title in January (d. Murray) and will be severely tested by the left handed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. However the focus would be on the two future stars Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem as they play Rafael Nadal and Jo Wilfred Tsonga respectively.
The 2012 runner up John Isner is the only remaining American in the draw as he takes on Kei Nishikori of Japan. Milos Raonic who has only lost one match this year – the semi final of the Australian Open (loss to Murray), will face the Czech Tomas Berdych.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]