Thursday, March 12, 2015

Indian Wells: Bottom Half Preview

The top section of the bottom half has lots of young(ish) talent, with Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios falling in this part of the draw.  Raonic shouldn't have much trouble reaching the round of sixteen, but it's harder to guess who he'll be playing.  The best bet is 11th seeded Grigor Dimitrov, despite his recent drop in form.  This is Kyrgios' first tournament back since Australia, so it's likely he'll be a bit rusty in his return.  Robredo is the other seed in this section, but he doesn't appear to be at the level we have come to expect from him.  In the round of 16, Dimitrov should be able to squeak past the higher ranked Canadian.  He's won their last two meetings, and will be extremely motivated to get his season going with a big result.  The slower surface at Indian Wells should be all he needs, so expect the Bulgarian to make it through to the quarters.

In the next section, Nadal has to be happy with his draw.  The other seeds are the French trifecta of Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy, none of whom seem capable of challenging Nadal.  Nadal should be finding his better form now that he's got some tournaments under his belt, and he should coast into the quarterfinals. 

The next quarter features Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, both of whom have been playing well to start 2015.  Karlovic is in this section too, and while he's always dangerous the slower surface won't do him any favors.  Also present in this section is reality dating television star/tennis player Sam Querrey, who should be ready to focus on tennis after meeting his "match" on Millionaire Matchmaker.  In the round of 16, expect Wawrinka to get past Berdych for the seventh time in a row.  One would think the two might have a closer rivalry, but history shows the matchup clearly favors the Swiss.

In the bottom quarter, it's hard to see anyone slowing down Roger Federer, unless Andreas Seppi can rekindle the magic from Australia.  However, Seppi has come back down to earth since pulling the upset, and Federer appears to be back on track after winning Dubai.  Roberto Bautista-Agut and Gilles Muller are your other seeds in this section, and aren't likely to give the Swiss legend much to worry about.  Jack Sock is also in this section, and is playing his first tournament in 2015 after offseason hip surgery.  Sock's draw is manageable, and he definitely improved at the end of last year, but it's hard to expect too much of anyone playing their first tournament after a relatively long layoff. 

In the quarters, Nadal should be able to get past Dimitrov without too much trouble.  Dimitrov has played Nadal close in the past, but has never beaten the world number three.  Neither player is at their best heading in, but Nadal never seems to lose to players with one-handed backhands.  Unless Nadal is rusty being back on hard courts, its tough to even see this match going three.

In the all Swiss matchup between Wawrinka and Federer, the younger Swiss is the pick here.  Wawrinka has been great so far this year, and should be well rested heading into the tournament.  Federer has only had the one slip up himself this year, winning both of his other tournaments.  While it's always risky to bet against Federer (particularly against his countryman), the high bouncing court should add weight to Wawrinka's already heavy shots and help him reach the semifinals.

In the semis, Nadal would enter a matchup against Wawrinka with a 12-1 head-to head edge.  The two haven't played since Wawrinka's 2014 Australian Open triumph, and Nadal will be looking to get revenge against the Swiss.  Current form may favor Wawrinka, but Nadal has previously won Indian Wells after coming back from a layoff (see 2013).  Nadal will head into this match with a lot of confidence giving their track record (and the fact he was battling injuries in his only loss to Wawrinka during the Aussie Open finals), and he'll find a way to get past the big hitting world number seven.  The rest of the tour may be hoping Nadal isn't yet fully back, he should be ready to make his move back to the top of the game.

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