All the top four seeds are safely through to the Round of 32 after completing straight sets victories in their opening matches at the first Master’s series event of the year in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open. Top seeded Novak Djokovic playing in his first match after winning his record 7th Australian Open title in Melbourne six weeks ago, recovered from a slow start to beat the local favourite Bjorn Fratengelo 7-6(5), 6-2. The top seeded Serb also recorded his 50th match win at this event on Saturday in the evening session.
Djokovic next goes on to face the veteran German Phillip Kohlschreiber who upset the 31st seeded newly crowned Acapulco champion Nick Kyrgios of Australia as he easily won 6-4,6-4. That prevented a rematch of a mouth watering rematch between Djokovic who lost to Kyrgios two years ago in Indian Wells. The man Djokovic is slated to meet in the last four, Alexander Zverev advanced after his opponent Martin Klizan of the Slovak Republic retired with the fourth seeded German leading 6-3,2-0. Second seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain ruthlessly dispatched the American Jared Donaldson 6-1,6-1. His arch rival Roger Federer of Switzerland, fresh from his 100th career title win in Dubai had a 6-1,7-5 win over the German Peter Gojowczyk. The 2012 finalist John Isner, the highest ranked American, seeded eighth, blasted the Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrn 6-0,6-2.
Sixth seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, seeded sixth, barely escaped defeat against the left handed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-4,4-6,7-6(4). Nishikori who broke a long title drought by winning the Brisbane ATP 250 event at the start of the year improves to 13-3 for the year. The seventh seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem had his fair share of troubles on the hard courts but still came away with a 6-4,7-5 win over the Australian Jordan Thompson. The tournament lost the fifth seeded South African Kevin Anderson who pulled out due to injury. Other popular winners included the tenth seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who was a 6-3,6-4 winner over Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Cilic next faces the Canadian Denis Shapovalov, seeded 24th, who beat the American Steve Johnson, 6-3, 6-4
Shapovalov’s compatriot Milos Raonic, seeded 13th, beat the American Sam Querrey 7-6(1),6-4 but in the biggest upset of the tournament Felix Auger-Aliassime upset the ninth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4,6-2. Another notable winner was the three time grand slam champion Stanislas Wawrinka who beat the 29th seeded Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, 6-4,6-7(5),7-5. That sets up a rematch of the 2017 final against Roger Federer.
In other minor upsets, fifteenth seeded Marco Cecchinato was beaten 4-6,2-6 by the left handed Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Ivo Karlovic, who turned forty on 28th February, beat compatriot Borna Coric, seeded eleventh, 6-4,7-6(2). He now plays India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran, a 6-4,6-7(6),7-6(4) winner over the 17th seeded Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili. The left handed Indian, a qualifier ranked 97th in the world, failed to serve out the match while serving at 5-3 in the decider, but was not to be denied in the tie-breaker. American qualifier Marcos Giron upset the 23rd seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia 1-6,6-4,6-2.
Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz upset the 28th seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille, 6-2,3-6,6-4. The Macedonian Radu Albot, a recent at the Delray Beach event last month, his maiden title, continues his impressive run with a 6-0,7-6(4) win over the 16th seeded Italian Fabio Fognini. Filip Krajinovic defeated the 20th seeded David Goffin of Belgium 6-3, 6-3.
The following is the line up for the round of 32 matches with my pick mentioned first :-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Phillip Kohlschreiber (-)
Gael Monfils (18) v. Albert Ramos-Vinolas (-)
Ivo Karlovic (-) v. Prajnesh Gunneswaran (-)
Gilles Simon (27) v. Dominic Thiem (7)
Alexander Zverev (3) v. Jan-Lennard Struff (-)
Milos Raonic (13) v. Marcos Giron (-)
Felix Auger-Aliassime (-) v. Yoshihito Nishioka (-)
Laslo Djere (30) v. Miomir Kecmanovic (-)
Kei Nishikori (6) v. Hubert Hurkacz (-)
Denis Shapovalov (24) v. Marin Cilic (10)
Radu Albot (-) v. Kyle Edmund (22)
Roger Federer (4) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (-)
John Isner (8) v. Guido Pella (32)
Karen Khachanov (12) v. Andrey Rublev (-)
Daniil Medvedev (14) v. Filip Krajinovic (-)
Rafael Nadal (2) v. Diego Schwartzman (25).
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]