The tennis world has returned to self-anointed “tennis paradise,” as the top ATP and WTA players compete in the first joint 1000-level tournament of the season.
In the absence of the unvaccinated World No.1 Novak Djokovic, US Open Champion Carlos Alcaraz is the top ATP seed, and can regain the No.1 ranking by winning this title. But Danill Medvedev is clearly the hottest player on tour, as he’s claimed three hard court titles in the last three weeks. Sadly, Rafael Nadal, the runner-up here a year ago, is absent due to injury, but defending champion and American No.1 Taylor Fritz is present.
Iga Swiatek is both the defending champion and the World No.1, and will comfortably remain No.1 regardless of this fortnight’s results. She is joined in the WTA draw by 10 other Major singles champions, including newly-crowned Australian Open Champion Aryna Sabalenka. And it also features the three players who have defeated Swiatek this season: Jessica Pegula, Elena Rybakina, and Barbora Krejcikova.
The 32 seeds in each 96-player singles draw receive first round byes. First round matches begin on Wednesday.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
John Isner vs. Brandon Nakashima – Second on Stadium 1
Isner’s first appearance in a Masters 1000 final came at this event 11 years ago, when he lost in straight sets to Roger Federer. John is 26-13 lifetime at Indian Wells, but the 37-year-old is coming off a subpar 2022 season, where he went 23-17. However, Isner did reach a hard court final last month in Dallas.
Nakashima had a much stronger 2022, going 41-26 and winning two titles (San Diego, Next Gen Finals). The 21-year-old broke into the top 50 for the first time in September. Yet Brandon is off to a modest 1-3 start in his 2023, with two of those losses at the hands of fellow American Mackenzie McDonald.
Nakashima is 2-1 against Isner, and all three matches took place during the summer of 2021 on hard courts. Brandon prevailed in Los Cabos and at the US Open, while John won in Atlanta. But based on their 2023 records, I give Isner the slight edge to even their head-to-head.
Jordan Thompson vs. Gael Monfils (PR) – Not Before 6:00pm on Stadium 1
This will be Monfils’ first match since last August, when he retired from a Canada Masters match against Jack Draper after injuring his foot. During the layoff, he and fellow player Elina Svitolina welcomed their first child, Skai Monfils. Gael went 14-7 in 2022, and is 17-12 lifetime at this event.
Thompson is a former top 50 player who has spent much of the past 12 months playing Challenger events. The Australian has won three Challenger titles during that span, including one just a few weeks ago in the United States. He is just 2-4 in the main draw of Indian Wells.
In their first career meeting, it’s hard not to favor Thompson based on Monfils’ lack of match play. However, Gael usually plays his best in front of a lively crowd, and he’ll certainly have one during the first night session of this tournament.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Yibing Wu (WC) vs. Jaume Munar – Just last month in Dallas, Yibing became the first Chinese man to win an ATP title in the Open Era, defeating Isner in a dramatic final after saving four championship points. Munar was a semifinalist just last week on clay in Santiago.
Anna Kalinskaya vs. Alycia Parks – Like Yibing, Parks won her first tour-level title last month, with an impressive victory over Caroline Garcia in Lyon. Kalinskaya has reached the third round or better in both of her appearances in Indian Wells.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker
According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.
Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.
Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.
This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.
The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.
Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.
“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.
“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”
Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.
Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.
Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development
Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.
Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.
The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.
Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.
Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.
“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”
It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.
One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.
Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.
“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.
“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.
“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”
Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.
Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain
The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans.
Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.
Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.
“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying.
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”
Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.
“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’
Will Kyrgios play?
Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity.
“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”
Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment.
“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”
The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions.
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