Two time champion Roger Federer, who was slated to play his first match since the semifinal of the Australian Open in Melbourne, has been forced to withdraw from the second ATP 1000 event of the year due to a stomach virus. Federer who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in early February was to face friend and long time rival Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, who too is on a comeback trail. Much to the disappointment of the fans the tall Argentine succumbed to fellow countryman Horacio Zeballos who gained entry into the draw as a lucky looser following Federer’s withdrawal.
Five time champion Novak Djokovic, who already holds the record of three Indian Wells-Miami double, having done so in 2011, 2014 and 2015, had an easy 6-3,6-3 win over Kyle Edmund of Britain. Other players to advance were the seventh seeded 2010 runner up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic who got a walkover from the American Rajeev Ram, while David Ferrer overcame a stern test from another American Taylor Fritz 7-6(6),6-1.
Ferrer broke in the first game of the match, but failed to serve out the set at 5-4. He converted on two out of nine break points in the second set in a match lasting one hour forty seven minutes. The 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia beat Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-4,6-1, Frenchman Richard Gasquet who won the ATP 250 in Montpellier beat the left handed Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4,6-4.
Dominic Thiem, winner in Buenos Aires and Acapulco this year beat the Australian Sam Groth 7-5,6-2, while the Belgian David Goffin who reached his first semifinal at an ATP 1000 event in Indian Wells last week comfortably beat the Spanish qualifier Marcel Granollers 6-4,6-4.
Other seeded players to advance were the Frenchman Giles Simon and Benoit Paired, Victor Troicki of Serbia, American Steve Johnson and Joao Sousa of Portugal. There were mixed results for France and Spain; veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco upset the stylish 28th seed Jeremy Chardy, however the unseeded Lucas Pouille of France beat the Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez.
Another Spaniard Feliciano Lopez also was upset by the qualifier from Japan Yoshihito Nishioka. Zeballos advanced with a 6-4,6-4 win over Del Potro who was playing only his third event since Miami last here where he was beaten by Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in the first round. Zeballos has a win over Rafael Nadal in the final of the Chilean Open in 2013 but has dropped to 122 in the world ranking and was winless in 2016 at any ATP tour level event.
Following is the list of matches in the bottom half of the men’s draw in the round of 64, with my pick mentioned first:-
Andy Murray (2) v. Denis Istomin
Stanislas Wawrinka (4) v. Andrey Kuznetsov
Rafael Nadal (5) v. Damir Dzumhur
Kei Nishikori (6) v. Pierre Hughes Herbert
Grigor Dmitrov (26) v. Frederico Delbonis
John Isner (13) v. Tim Smyczek
Jo Wilfred Tsonga (9) v. Santiago Giraldo
Milos Raonic (12) v. Denis Kudla
Jack Sock (22) v. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Nick Kyrgios (24) v. Marcos Baghdatis
Gael Monfils (16) v. Tatsumo Ito
Thomaz Bellucci (30) v. Mikhail Kukushkin
Sam Querrey (29) v. Adrian Mannarino
Alexandr Dolgopolov (27) v. Andreas Seppi
Pablo Cuevas (23) v. John Millman
Roberto Bautista Agut (17) Aljaz Bedene
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]