Indian Wells Men’s Draw Talking Points: The No.1 battle, Medvedev’s Rise And Ruud’s challenge - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Men’s Draw Talking Points: The No.1 battle, Medvedev’s Rise And Ruud’s challenge

Ubitennis’ guide to the stories to follow during this year’s event.

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The first Masters 1000 event of the season will get underway this week at the prestigious BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. 

96 players in the main draw will fight it out to win 1000 ranking points and $1,262,200 in prize money. Past winners include Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer who have both claimed the trophy on five separate occasions. Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt and Pete Sampras have also won Indian Wells multiple times. 

Here are five topics to follow during the 2023 tournament.

1) Will Djokovic lose his No.1 position?

Following the withdrawal of Djokovic from Indian Wells, the door has opened for two players to claim the No.1 position in the coming weeks. Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, who reached the semi-finals 12 months ago, can return to the top spot if he wins the title. Alcaraz began his season later than others due to injury but has already won a Tour title in Argentina and then reached the final of the Rio Open before pulling out of his next event due to a hamstring issue. 

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas will not be able to remove Djokovic from the top spot no matter how well he performs. However, should he win the Indian Wells title, he will put himself in contention of claiming the No.1 position at his next tournament which will be the Miami Masters. 

Djokovic hasn’t publicly commented on his withdrawal this week but it is assumed that he had no choice but to do so after being unsuccessful in his attempt to be awarded a special exemption to enter America. The country has a national health emergency law in place until May which requires all foreign visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

2) Is Medvedev the player to beat?

Daniil Medvedev has shown he is back playing his best tennis after winning three consecutive Tour titles within as many weeks. The former US Open champion is currently on a 14-match winning streak and has recorded more wins on the ATP Tour than any other player so far this season. Out of those 14 wins, six of those were against players currently ranked in the top 20, including Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime (twice) and Djokovic. 

Medvedev’s opening match will be a testing encounter. Granted a bye in the first round, he will take on either former champion John Isner or reigning Next Gen Finals champion Brandon Nakashima. 

“The more I can achieve this season, the better. If I can manage to keep the level I played these three weeks, I can do big things and I know about it,” Medvedev told reporters in Dubai on Sunday.
“But other players want to win also, so it’s not going to be easy.”

Medvedev has been drawn in the same half as Tsitsipas, Rublev and Casper Ruud. 

3) Fritz faces a tough task

12 months ago Taylor Fritz delighted home fans by winning the biggest title of his career at Indian Wells when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final. Since then the 25-year-old reached his first major quarter-final at Wimbledon and has won another three ATP trophies, including this year’s Delray Beach Open. 

However, Indian Wells will be a new test of Fritz’s ability to handle pressure. With 1000 points on the line he faces the prospect of attempting to defend a title for the first time in his career. Furthermore, he is required to produce another deep run at the tournament to avoid the prospect of exiting the world’s top five. Last month he became the first American to crack the top five since Andy Rodick in 2009.

Fritz is seeded fourth in this year’s draw and could be another player set to experience a tricky opening match. He will begin his campaign against either veteran player Fabio Fognini or rising star Ben Shelton who reached the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open on his debut. He could also potentially play 30th seed Sebastian Baez in the third round followed by either Borna Coric or Alex De Minaur. 

4) Ruud seeks a change in fortune

Casper Ruud enters the first Masters 1000 event of 2023 in need of a confidence boost. So far this year the Norwegian has contested three tournaments but is yet to win back-to-back matches. He lost his opening match at the ASB Classic before suffering a second round defeat at the Australian Open. Ruud then took a mini break from the Tour for a training block which most of his peers conducted during the off-season. He returned to action last week in Mexico where he suffered a three sets loss to Taro Daniel in the second round. 

Despite his string of achievements such as being runner-up at two Grand Slam events in 2022, Ruud has never won a Masters final but came close in Miami last year. At Indian Wells, his best result was a run to the fourth round in 2021. 

In Ruud’s section of his draw, he could play Yoshihito Nishioka in the third round followed by Karen Khachanov. He has won 9 titles so far in his career but all of his triumphs were at ATP 250 events. 

5) Could Rune spring a shock?

Last November Holger Rune illustrated for the first time how much of a threat he can be with a sensational run at the Paris Masters which saw him defeat five top 10 players in a row en route to the title. The Dane hasn’t won another trophy since then but has reached the semi-finals of events in Montpellier and Acapulco. 

Rune has been hindered by a wrist issue in recent weeks and looked to be physically suffering from cramps during his clash with de Minaur in Mexico. However, his coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has insisted that he is fully fit heading into Indian Wells. 

The 19-year-old has shown he has what it takes to compete against the best in the world and should be considered a potential outsider to win the title if he is fully fit. He is the seventh seed in the draw which is a massive turnaround compared to 2022 when he had to come through qualifying to secure a place in the main draw. 

The full men’s draw can be viewed HERE

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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