The star studded bottom half of the draw was in action on Sunday at the first Masters Series event of the year, led by second seed and five time champion Novak Djokovic, three time champion Rafael Nadal, four time winner Roger Federer, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro. All four advanced safely into the round of 32, but the star of the day was local favourite Taylor Fritz who upset the 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded seventh, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, claiming his first top ten scalp of his career.
After the surprise loss of top seeded Andy Murray who lost to Canada’s Vacek Pospisil on Saturday, the three time defending champion Djokovic, struggled past the Briton Kyle Edmund 6-4, 7-6(5) to set up a mouth watering clash with the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro who beat fellow countryman Federico Delbonis 7-6(5), 6-3. Roger Federer, who last won the title in 2012, brushed aside little known Frenchman Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-1.
The 36 year old Robert, who turned pro in 2001 and currently ranked 81 in the world, won his first match of the year beating Dudi Sela of Israel in the first round. He could offer little resistance against the 35 year old Federer who won the match in just 51 minutes. Rafael Nadal was equally impressive in his 6-3, 6-2 win over Guido Pella of Argentina, while fourth seeded Kei Nishikori beat Briton Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4.
Also advancing were the GenNext stars Nick Kyrgios of Australia and the German Alexander Zverev who will face each other in the round of 32 on Tuesday. The Americans Jack Sock, Steve Johnson also advanced. In an All American match up Donald Young upset the Acapulco winner Sam Querrey, seeded 23rd, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
The resurgent Grigor Dmitrov, the promising Frenchman Lucas Pouille, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco also were among the seeds to advance. In a minor upset Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri took out the Spanish doubles specialist Marcel Granollers, seeded 32nd, 7-5, 6-3.
Following is the line up of matches in the top half of the draw with my pick mentioned first :-
Vasek Pospisil (-) v. Dusan Lajovic (-)
Roberto Bautista Agut (16) v. Pablo Carreno Busta (21)
David Goffin (11) v. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (22)
Fabio Fognini(-) v. Pablo Cuevas (27)
Stanislas Wawrinka (3) v. Phillip Kohlschreiber (28)
Tomas Berdych (13) v. Yoshihito Nishioka
John Isner (20) v. Gael Monfils (10)
Dominic Thiem (8) v. Mischa Zverev (29)
David Goffin of Belgium who reached the last four in 2016 before being beaten by Djokovic, looks set to repeat the feat in a depleted top quarter of the draw following the loss of the top seeded Andy Murray. Stanislas Wawrinka would be tipped to meet him in the semi-final, but will be vary of the veterans in his section of the draw. The Austrian Dominic Thiem is likely to be the third seeded Wawrinka’s quarterfinal opponent.
Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have won in 12 of the last 13 years since 2004 in Indian Wells, interestingly Ivan Ljubicic, who is the current coach of Federer won the title in 2010. As the draw has panned out only one of the three can advance to the last four.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]