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.
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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