TENNIS – World Number 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal and last year’s Wimbledon champion Andy Murray may square off in a mouth-watering quarter final at Indian Wells. Other potential quarter finals could be Federer vs Wawrinka, Berdych vs Gasquet and Djokovic vs Del Potro. Diego Sampaolo
Nadal and Murray, who claimed last year’s editions of the hard-court Master 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami respectively, have been drawn in the first quarter of the Indian Wells in the Californian desert and could clash in a potential quarter final. Nadal could face a very tough path to title defence as his possible rival in the semifinal may be either Roger Federer or Stanislas Wawrinka.
Nadal, three-time Indian Wells champion, will start his US hard-court campaign against either Denis Istomin or Radek Stepanek (who lost in three sets against Federer in the quarter finals in Dubai last week). The Mallorcan legend, who won two tournaments this year in Doha and Rio de Janeiro, could face Ukraine’s Aleksander Dolgopolov in the third round, and either Italian top-player Fabio Fognini, who has moved up to World Number 14 in the ATP Ranking following his fourth round at the Australian Open and his win in Vina del Mar or Gael Monfils. Nadal beat Dolgopolov in the recent Rio de Janeiro final and Monfils in the Doha final at the beginning of January.
Murray could face Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the third round, It may be a tough test for the Dunblane star as Andujar held two match points against Nadal in the Rio semifinal and led by a set and a break against Murray in Acapulco last week.
Murray could face another stiff challenge in the third round against Canadian rising star Milos Raonic for a place in the quarter finals.
Federer and Wawrinka could meet in a possible super Swiss derby in the quarter final in the second quarter of the draw. Federer showed glimpses of his past glorious tennis last week when he won the ATP in Dubai where he beat Novak Djokovic in the semifinal and Tomas Berdych in the final recovering from one set down in both matches, a clear indication that the Swiss Maestro is back to his top form also thanks to his successful relationship to Stefan Edberg. Dubai marked Federer’s first title win since Halle in 2013 last June.
The Basel native will start against a qualifier and play against Dimitry Tursunov in the second round but his path to the quarter finals could not be easy as he may face either Tommy Haas (who retired during the semifinal against Paolo Lorenzi last week in San Paolo) or Kei Nishikori in the third round.
Wawrinka is still unbeaten this year as he won in Chennai and the Australian Open (the first Grand Slam of his career) and helped Switzerland win the Davis Cup first round match against Serbia.
The Lausanne player, who has moved up to World Number 3 after his triumph in Melbourne, will debut against either Alex Bogomolov Jr. or Ivo Karlovic and either Lleyton Hewitt or Kevin Anderson in the third round. Anderson played very well in the recent weeks reaching two consecutive finals in Delray Beach and Acapulco.
The third quarter of the draw will feature a potential quarter final match between last week’s Dubai finalist and this year’s Australian Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych and French top player Richard Gasquet.
This year’s Rotterdam champion Berdych may face Bautista Agut in the second round, Florian Mayer in the third round and a potential clash against the winner of the third round match between Grigor Dimitrov and Ernests Gulbis. Berdych leads 4-2 in his previous head-to-head matches against Dimitrov but he lost in the first round at Wimbledon in 2012.
Dimitrov won the second title of his career last week in Acapulco against Kevin Anderson after beating Andy Murray during the week. Gulbis won the Open 13 in Marseille two weeks ago. Dimitrov faced Gulbis last week in Acapulco where the Bulgarian prevailed after a late night match which lasted two hours and 40 minutes.
Gasquet’s potential rival in the third round could be US giant John Isner who has to overcome Phillip Kohlschreiber in the third round. The German lost in the semifinal of Dubai against Berdych last week.
Second seed Novak Djokovic may face last year’s Indian Wells finalist Juan Martin Del Potro in a potential fourth quarter of the draw in a re-match of 2013 Indian Wells semifinal won by Del Potro and last year’s Wimbledon marathon semifinal won by Djokovic after four hours.and 43 minutes (the longest Wimbledon semifinal in history). Djokovic, semifinalist in Dubai last week, may face in-form Croatian Marin Cilic, who won two titles in Zagreb and Delray Beach and lost the Rotterdam final against Berdych after knocking out Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Andy Murray.
Del Potro, who has suffered from wrist problems in recent weeks, will make his debut against Feliciano Lopez in the second round and Vasek Pospisil in Montreal before possibly facing Tsonga in the third round.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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