From Roger Federer’s Fight To Kyrgios’ Chance: Five Things To Follow At Indian Wells - UBITENNIS
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From Roger Federer’s Fight To Kyrgios’ Chance: Five Things To Follow At Indian Wells

It is showtime in the Californian desert and there is plenty at stake for the best players on the ATP Tour.

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Roger Federer (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

The 44th edition of the BNP Paribas Open provides an opportunity for the usual protagonists to continue their dominance on the men’s tour. With defending champion Juan Martin del Potro sidelined by injury, players will be battling it out for 1000 ranking points as well as $1,340,860 in prize money for the winner.

Here are five things to follow in the men’s draw this year.

Federer’s fight to stay in the top five

The day after winning his 100th title at the Dubai Tennis Championships, Roger Federer flew straight out to the Californian desert for his next challenge. The 37-year-old re-entered the top five this week, but faces a tough task in the coming weeks holding that position.

Seven out of the top 10 players on the ATP Tour are defending 45 or less points, however, for 2018 runner-up Federer he is defending 600 points. Meaning an early loss in the tournament will open the door for the likes of Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson to overtake him. To prevent this happening, the Swiss player needs to reach at least the quarter-finals this year to have a chance of staying in the top five.

This year is Federer’s 18th appearance in the Indian Wells main draw. A five-time champion, he has won 62 out of 74 matches played (84% winning rate). The last time he failed to reach the quarter-final stage was back in 2010.

How did the current top 10 fair in Indian Wells last year?

Ranking
Player
Age
2018 result
1 Novak Djokovic 31 Round two
2 Rafael Nadal 32 Withdrew
3 Alexander Zverev 21  Round two
4 Roger Federer 37 runner-up
5 Juan Martin del Potro 30 Champion
6 Kevin Anderson 32 Quarter-finals
7 Kei Nishikori 29 Withdrew
8 Dominic Thiem 25 Round Three (retired)
9 John Isner 33 Round two
10 Stefanos Tsitsipas 20 Round two

Can anybody defeat Djokovic?

Novak Djokovic will return to action for the first time since winning the Australian Open in January. The world No.1 is the only player in history to win every Masters 1000 tournament at least once. Since his resurgence on the tour last summer, Djokovic has won five titles (three grand slams and two Masters).

During that time Djokovic has looked unbeatable during certain tournaments, but has also suffered defeats. Losing to Karen Khachanov in Paris last year, followed by Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals. His only defeat so far in 2019 was to Roberto Bautista Agut in Qatar. Despite those losses, Djokovic remains the huge favourite heading into the event. He also has a prime opportunity to strengthen his number one ranking with only 10 points to defend from last year.

Should the Serbian prevail, he would tie Rafael Nadal’s record of 33 for most Masters 1000 titles won in the Open Era. Djokovic would also claim a record sixth Indian Wells title.

The Next Gen challenge

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As the first Greek player in history to break into the ATP top 10 this week, 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas will be hoping for a strong run. Defending only 25 points, the Australian Open semi-finalist made his debut in Indian Wells last year. Going out in the second round to Dominic Thiem. Tsitsipas will be seeded ninth in the draw.

Alexander Zverev is the only member of the Next Gen contingent to win multiple Masters 1000 titles. Furthermore, two out of those three trophies have occurred in North America. The German recently settled for runner-up at the Mexican Open to Nick Kyrgios. Zverev’s record at Indian Wells is far from spectacular after winning just four matches between 2016-2018. It is only of one two Masters events where he is yet to reach the quarter-finals.

Other next Gen players to look out for include Alex de Minaur, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe. 18-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime, who is the youngest player in the top 100, has received a wildcard into the main draw.

Next gen players in the top 100 (ranked by age)

Ranking
Player
Age
58 Felix Auger-Aliassime 18
25 Denis Shapovalov 19
10 Stefanos Tsitsipas 20
24 Alex de Minaur 20
66 Ugo Humbert 20
94 Casper Ruud 20
3 Alexander Zverev 21
35 Frances Tiafoe 21
46 Taylor Fritz 21
59 Reilly Opelka 21
61 Jaume Munar 21

Will Nadal maintain his strong record?

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It has been six years since Rafael Nadal last triumph in Indian Wells. Overall, he has won 50 matches in the tournament to date since making his debut back in 2003. To put that into perspective, Indian Wells if his third most successful Masters event in terms of wins after Monte Carlo (68) and Rome (56).

The 11-time French Open champion is seeking to reach his second final of the tour in 2019. His current win-loss record the season stands at 7-2. He has won at least one ATP title every year since 2004.

“I know that the season is long. My first priority, more than winning titles or not, is to be happy. To be happy, I need to be healthy. I’m going to do the things that give me a better chance to be healthy more than anything. That’s the priority. If I am healthy, I am competitive, I am happy, I have the chance to win tournaments.” Nadal told reporters following the Australian Open final.

So far in his career, Nadal has achieved nine wins over top 10 players in Indian Wells.

Will Nick Kyrgios exceed or implode?

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After a stellar performance last week, some are regarding the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios as a threat to the draw. The Australian defeated three top 10 players on route to winning Acapulco. His first ATP title since January 2018.

“It’s hopefully an example for people who are struggling and getting in some places you don’t think you can get out of. If I can do it, you can do it,” Kyrgios said following his triumph. “I was really down and out and didn’t know what I was going to do, but you have a week like this and things can change.”

Consistency has been an Achilles heel for the 23-year-old in recent months. Besides being hampered by numerous injury issues, Kyrgios has been criticised throughout his career for his controversial attitude on the court. The most recent being from Nadal, who said he lacks ‘respect.’ Something that was heavily disputed by Kyrgios himself.

“I need to be way more disciplined, way better professionally and do the right things,” Kyrgios admits.

A player that likes the big stages of the sport, it remains to see how Kyrgios will fair. It was at the 2017 edition of Indian Wells where he stunned both Zverev and Djokovic on route to the quarter-finals. Kyrgios missed last year’s tournament due to injury.

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Bianca Andreescu becomes the youngest WTA Premier Mandatory champion at Indian Wells

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Canadian 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu edged past Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4 to become the youngest WTA Premier Mandatory champion and the fourth youngest winner at Indian Wells behind Martina Hingis, Serena Williams and Monica Seles.

Bianca Andreescu has won her maiden WTA title. With this win she has won 28 of her 31 matches this season and becomes the first wild-card to win the Indian Wells title.

Andreescu started the first set with an immediate break on her fourth break point chance in the opening game after Kerber’s second double fault. The Canadian teenager held her serve with a hold of serve at 15 to open up a 2-0 lead.

In the third game Andreescu hit a forehand slice to draw level to 30-30, but Kerber held her serve for 1-2, as Andreescu sent her forehand wide.

Andreescu held her serve at 30 in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. The teenager got to 30-all on Kerber’s serve, but the German player hit a big forehand and held her serve for 2-3. In the sixth game Andreescu hit a forehand winner to earn a game point and held her serve with her first ace. Andreescu made a double fault at 30-15 in the 10th game but she held her serve to close out the first set 6-4 in 40 minutes. Kerber won all her points on her second serve, compared to Kerber’s 55%. The German player made 14 unforced errors in the first set.

In the second set Andreeu got to 30-30, but she hit her backhand into the net to hold serve for 1-1. In the best game of the match Kerber saved two break points to hold her serve for 2-1. Andreescu battled hard to hold her serve but Kerber came back from 30-40 down to convert her only break point of the set after two deuces thanks to a forehand error from Andreescu. The player consolidated the break with a hold at 30 to open up a 4-1 lead. Kerber held her next service games to close out the second set 6-3.

Andreescu opened the third set with a hold at 30 to take a 1-0 lead. The Canadian held serve in the third game at deuce for 2-1, but she missed a chance for a break point, when she netted a short forehand. Andreescu required medical treatment on her arm after the third game.

Kerber converted her second break point to take a 3-2 lead, when Andreescu hit a shot into the net. Andreescu broke straight back at 15 to draw level to 3-3 and held serve at love for 4-3. The Canadian got the second consecutive break on her second break point chance in the eighth game to earn her chance to serve for the match, but Kerber saved three championship points to break back in the ninth game on return at deuce, when Andreescu hit her drop-shot into the net.

Andreescu closed out the match with another break in the 10th game on her fourth championhip point. She hit a forehand winner at 30-30 and closed out the match, when Kerber hit the net, and fell to the ground in celebration.

“I would like to congratulate Angelique Kerber for an amazing tournament. It was amazing to share the court with you today. You are an incredible champion and an inspiration. Hopefully this moment can be an inspiration for many young athletes because, like I always say, if you believe in yourself anything is possible. My mother told me throughout the years ‘if you work hard, you dream to get big. Then you can accomplish so many things and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout. This moment has become a reality and it’s really crazy. To my team – thank you for being there for me throughout so many years. It’s really means so much to share this moment right now”, said Andreescu.

 Angelique Kerber congratulated with Andreescu on her amazing week in the post match speech.

“I would like to say congratulations to Bianca for your unbelievable tournament, for your win here. You played amazing during the whole tournament and you really deserved to win the title”, said Kerber.

 

 

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Rafael Nadal Withdraws From Federer Clash With Knee Injury, Withdraws From Miami

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from his BNP Paribas Open semi-final with Roger Federer due to a knee injury.

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Rafael Nadal (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from his Indian Wells semi-final with Roger Federer after suffering a right knee injury.

The Spaniard injured his during his 7-6(2) 7-6(2) win over Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals. As a result he has also withdrawn from next week’s Miami Open.

It was reported that Nadal had a 15 minute practice before a 10 minute conversation with his team where they made the decision to withdraw from the semi-final.

After the announcement Nadal emphasised his disappointment at the withdrawal, “I wanted to try my best to be competitive, but during the warmup I felt my knee was not good enough for the level I need to play,” Nadal explained.

“It’s tough for me to accept all these things that I’m going through in my career. Sometimes I feel sad because I’m in a disadvantage to all my opponents. 

[I need to] be positive and grateful for all the things tennis has given to me. I feel fortunate for all the things I’ve done in my life and the world of tennis.”

It is a bitterly disappointing setback for Nadal who would’ve been hoping to close the gap between him and Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings.

Next for the Spaniard will be Monte-Carlo in mid-April after also announcing his withdrawal from next week’s Miami Open, “The plan for the clay season is Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Roma and Roland Garros. That has been my calendar throughout my career and I hope to be able to complete it one more time.”

As for Roger Federer, he will now play either Dominic Thiem or Milos Raonic in tomorrow’s final as he looks to win his sixth title in California.

 

 

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Indian Wells Day 13 Preview: The Men’s Semi-Finals

It will be Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal for the 39th time in the BNP Paribas Open Semi-Finals… or will it be?

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Roger Federer (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

During his semi-final yesterday against Karen Khachanov, Rafa aggravated the knee tendinitis that has plagued his hard court tennis in recent years. He was still able to finish off the dangerous Russian, but even Nadal himself admits he won’t know how his knee will be for this match until he wakes up today. It’s entirely possible he may retire from yet another hard court tournament. Assuming he is able to play, we’re in for a rekindling of tennis’ most historic rivalry. The other men’s semi-final will feature two men who have advanced to finals at both Grand Slam and Masters 1,000 events, but are yet to win one.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Roger Federer (4)

Rafael Nadal (@BNPPARIBASOPEN – Twitter)

This will be their first match since the Shanghai Masters in October of 2018, nearly a year-and-a-half ago. Nadal holds an overall 23-15 edge in their head-to-head, but he hasn’t defeated Federer in over five years, by far the longest stretch in this rivalry without a Rafa victory since they first met 15 years ago this month. Roger has won all of their five most recent meetings, all of which have been played on hard courts. That run started at the 2015 Basel event.

It famously continued in the 2017 Australian Open final, which is really the match that turned this rivalry around.  Federer came back from down a break in the fifth to beat his toughest opponent. The bigger racquet face he changed to during an injury layoff in 2016 played a significant role. Roger went on to beat Rafa at this tournament two years ago, and then again two weeks later in the Miami final.

Their last three matches have all been straight set wins for Federer, ever since that Australian Open final. Both men have advanced to this semi-final without dropping a set, with Federer only losing his serve once in four matches. Roger has looked exceptionally sharp, and is on a 9-match win streak coming off his 100th career title in Dubai two weeks ago. Considering their recent history, the court surface, and Nadal’s knee, Federer is the favourite to reach his 9th Indian Wells final.

Dominic Thiem (7) vs. Milos Raonic (13)

Dominic Thiem (@OanaVancea – Twitter)

Both of these men should be fully rested ahead of this semi-final.  Unlike Nadal and Federer, they got a day off between their quarterfinal and semi-final matches. And Thiem got Thursday off as well when Gael Monfils withdrew from their quarterfinal. Dominic didn’t lose a set in his other three matches at this tournament, while Milos only dropped one in four matches.

Raonic is yet to face a seeded player at this event, but he’s 2-0 lifetime against Thiem. Both of those matches were on hard courts, and Milos took both in straight sets. Thiem though is a much-improved hard court player since they last met in 2016, and he’ll prefer the slower hard court in Indian Wells. However, Raonic has achieved much more previous success in the desert than Thiem. This is the first Indian Wells semi-final for Dominic, while Milos has advanced this far in all of his last four appearances. I like the big-serving Canadian’s chances to reach his second final in tennis paradise.

Other notable matches on Day 13:

Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot (@ESPNtenis – Twitter)

In the women’s doubles final, the best team in the world, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1), vs. two top 15 singles players, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

In the men’s doubles final, an established team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo (6) vs. a newly-formed team of Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos.

 

 

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