Indian Wells Men's Draw Preview: The Group of Death in the Desert - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Men’s Draw Preview: The Group of Death in the Desert

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Roger Federer (zimbio.com)

Written by John Horn (twitter.com/sportshorn)

 

You may have heard the words “Group of Death” when it comes to the World Cup of Soccer or any other multi-stage tournament in professional sports. The Group of Death is usually named as such because of the number of strong competitors in the group. Well, that is exactly what transpired after the ATP Men’s draw had been completed on Tuesday at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells California. The first Masters 1000 Series event of 2017 could turn out to be very entertaining especially if you have a look at the bottom quarter of the draw.

World No. 2. Novak Djokovic, 2017 Australian Open Champion Roger Federer, three-time Indian Wells champion Rafael Nadal, defending Olympic Silver Medalist Juan Martin Del Potro and two of the games young stars Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev are all in the bottom quarter of the draw. To have this many big names in one quarter of a 96 man field is unusual. Not only are the names selected at random through a draw (similar to a lottery) but with Djokovic no longer the top player in the world, Federer the 9th seed, Nadal the World No. 6 and Del Potro still looking to bolster his ranking after being out of tennis for much of last year, this quarter was able to come about.

After their epic five set final at the Australian Open in January, we could very well be treated to a another match between Nadal and Federer yet again. However, this time it would be in the 4th Round here in the desert.

Djokovic’s road to the semi-finals appears to be the toughest amongst the top 10 players in the game. His second round opponent is likely to be Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund. If he can get through that match he would likely face Del Potro in the third round. If he can get past the tough Argentine, Djokovic, who has won the Indian Wells title more than any other men’s player in the tournament history (five times), would then likely see Kyrgios or  in the round of 16. Kyrgios defeated Djokovic in the quarter-finals in Acapulco last week. If he were to win that match, Djokovic would then likely face Nadal or Federer in the quarter-finals. Perhaps getting word of his tough road ahead, Djokovic had a long hitting session this evening on the main Stadium Court with David Goffin.

World No. 1 Andy Murray doesn’t have any real threats until the quarter-finals when he could face the red hot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga has already won two titles this year (Rotterdam & Marseille). Third seed Stan Wawrinka coming off a disappointing early round loss in Dubai, wouldn’t see a Top 10 opponent until the quarter-finals. Dominic Thiem or Gael Monfils would be his opponent in the final eight.

Fourth seed Kei Nishikori and No. 6 Marin Cilic could be on a collision course in their quarter of the draw. But Grigor Dimitrov and Sam Querrey likely have other ideas. Dimitrov is playing some of the best tennis of his career while Querrey jumped 14 spots in the world rankings after beating Thiem, Kyrgios and Nadal last week to win the Acapulco title.

One player missing from the tournament is Canadian Milos Raonic. The World No. 4 withdrew from the event on Monday after not being fully recovered from his latest injury, a torn hamstring. The 26-year old who has battled multiple injuries during his career reached the Indian Wells Final a year ago losing to Djokovic.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid 30’s Celsius throughout the tournament so it should be an eventful 11 days of men’s tennis in California.

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Kei Nishikori recovers from a slow start to beat Taylor Fritz in Barcelona

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Kei Nishikori beat Taylor Fritz 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 41 minutes to advance to the second round at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

 

Kei Nishikori raliied from 1-4 down in the first set to reel off 12 of the next 15 games.

Fritz converted his second break point in the fourth game and held his service game to open up a 4-1 lead. Nishikori broke twice in the seventh and eleventh games to take a 6-5 lead. The Japanese player served out the first set 7-5 at deuce after saving a break point.

Nishikori went up a double break in the third and fifth games to seal the second set 6-2.

Nishikori and Fritz met once before in the 2016 Memphis final, when the Japanese player beat his younger US rival to clinch his fourth consecutive Memphis title.

Nishikori bounced back from his opening round defeat against Pierre Hugues Herbert last week in Monte-Carlo.

Nishikori claimed two consecutive titles in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015 and finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal, who won the Barcelona title 11 times.

The Japanese player will face Canadian 18-year-old Next Gen star Felix Auger Aliassime or Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri.

Jaziri came back from one set to beat Guido Andreozzi 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-2 after 2 hours and 42 minutes.

Spanish veteran David Ferrer dropped just 11 points in his service points to ease past Germany’s Misha Zverev 6-3 6-1 after 65 minutes. Ferrer will face Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the second round.

Teenager Nicola Kuhn from Spain edged past Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 30 minutes scoring the biggest win of his career.

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Matteo Berrettini beats Mikhail Kukushkin in Budapest

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Italy’s Matteo Berrettini claimed his first win on clay this season with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin in the opening round of the Hungarian Open.

 

The first set started with four breaks of serve in the first five games, as Berrettini built up a 4-1 lead. Kukushkin pulled back one of the three breaks in the sixth game for 2-4. Berrettini held his final two games at love to claim the first set 6-4.

Berrettini went up a double break in the first and fifth games to open up a 5-1 lead. The Italian player wasted his first match point. Kukushkin got one break back and saved another match point to hold his service game to win his third consecutive game for 4-5, but Berrettini served out the win at love in the 10th game.

Berrettini set up a second round against Aljaz Bedene, who came back from a double break down in the opening set to beat Bernard Tomic 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.

Radu Albot from Moldova broke serve twice in each set to seal a 7-5 6-4 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky on his fourth match point after 1 hour and 41 minutes setting up a second round against Filip Krajnovic, who edged Andreas Seppi 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after wasting four match points in the second set.

Marco Cecchinato has pulled out of the Hungarian Open and will not defend the title he won last year.

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Fernando Verdasco wins all-Spanish clash against Feliciano Lopez in Barcelona first round

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Fernando Verdasco beat Feliciano Lopez 6-4 6-3 in 81 minutes at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

 

Former Barcelona champion Verdasco, who won this tournament in 2010, improved his win-loss record against his compatriot to 6-5 in their 11 head-to-head matches.

Verdasco claimed his only break point at love to close out the first set 6-4. Lopez got his first break at deuce in the opening game of the second set. Verdasco won four consecutive breaks from 2-3 down with two breaks to wrap up the second set 6-3. Verdasco will face Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

Taylor Fritz won an all-American first round clash against giant Reilly Opelka 6-3 6-4 after just 55 minutes In the match between two US rising stars Fritz never faced a break point and converted one break point in each set from the four chances he created to cruise into the second round.

Fritz earned the only break in the fifth game of the first set at 15 to take a 3-2 lead after Opelka made a volley error in the fifth game. Fritz hit three service winners in the ninth game to seal the opening set 6-3.

Fritz went up a set and a break in the third game of the second set with a forehand winner. He hit a forehand winner to close out the match, as he was serving for the match at 5-4.

Diego Schwartzman came back from one set down to beat Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6 6-4 6-2.

Nishioka converted his fourth break point in the first game, but Schwartzman broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. After a trade of breaks in the sixth and seventh games Nishioka saved saved three break points to hold his serve in the eighth game. The Japanese player converted his fifth break point after a double fault from Schwartzman in the ninth game. Nishioka served out the first set at love.

Both players traded breaks twice in the second set en route to drawing level to 4-4. Schwartzman broke serve in the 10th game to close out the second set 6-4. Schwartman reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 with two breaks of serve to win the third set.

Schwartman was playing his third match in Barcelona because he had to play the qualifying round. He forgot to sign before the tournament deadline.

Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer battled past Marius Copil 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 after two hours and 36 minutes to score his ninth match win of the season.

Mayer earned his first break to race out to a 3-0 lead and saved four break points at 3-1. He held his final two service games to close out the second set 6-3. Both players saved a total of four break points in the second set to hold their service games en route to the tie-break. Copil earned three mini-breaks to claim the tie-break 7-3 forcing the match to the third set. Mayer got the only break at love in the 12th game to seal the third set 7-5.

German Jan-Lennard Struff cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-3 6-1 after just 51 minutes. Struff saved all three break points and dropped 14 points in 8 service games. He broke once in the fourth game of the first set and three times in a row to seal the win.

Jaume Munar came back from one set down to beat Portuguese qualifier Pedro Souza 2-6 6-4 6-0 setting up a second round match against US Frances Tiafoe. Sousa got four of the six breaks to win the first set 6-4. The second set went on serve until the 10th game, when Munar got his first break on his third chance to close out the second set 6-4. The Spaniard broke three times to take a bagel win in the third set.

Mackenzie McDonald saw off Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-2 6-2 in just 57 minutes. Mackenzie converted four of hi sten break points and dropped nine points in eight service games. He won the final four games of the first set from 2-2 with two breaks to close out the first set 6-2. He got two more breaks in the third and eighth games to wrap up the match with with a forehand crosscourt winner.

Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics cruised past Denis Kudla 6-4 6-1. The Hungarian player saved two break points he faced and converted four of his nine break points.

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