A strong field at the 2016 ATP Indian Wells tournament has been whittled down to 16, as the opening Masters tournament of the season gets to the business end of the week.
Previewing the Indian Wells ATP Round of 16
(1)Novak Djokovic vs. (18)Feliciano Lopez
Novak Djokovic dropped a set to Feliciano Lopez and then retired with an eye infection last month in Dubai. Now he’ll get a rematch with the serve and volleying Spaniard for a spot in the quarterfinals. The World #1 played a miserable opening set and struggled through a match with upstart American Bjorn Fratangelo, but his win over Philipp Kohlschreiber was a solid one. Feliciano Lopez beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and then slipped past an in-form Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets, after failing to close the match out in two. Lopez appears to be rounding back into top 20 form, but Djokovic, presuming he’s healthy, should gain his eight career win over the Spaniard.
(7)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. (11)Dominic Thiem
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has more experience, and a h2h win, compared to Dominic Thiem, but this should be a fantastic match featuring attacking tennis. Tsonga has scored routine wins over Vincent Millot, and Sam Querrey, and looks to be playing some of his best tennis of the season. Thiem is the ATP’s current win leader in 2016 and has won close matches over Jozef Kovalik, and American favorite Jack Sock. Sock pushed Thiem to a third set, but Thiem rose to a different level in that set to setup this match with Tsonga. It’s a tough call between them, but this looks to be Thiem’s time to rise.
(4)Rafael Nadal vs. Alexander Zverev
Joining Thiem in the round of 16 is the young Zverev, who is also making his charge to join the ATP’s elite this season. Alex has had a fantastic season thus far and it was made even better by winning three setters over Ivan Dodig, and Grigor Dimitrov, before demolishing Gilles Simon, all solid hard court players. Rafael Nadal is a level above them however, and Zverev will need to conjure up a special performance to upset Rafa. Nadal dropped a set to Gilles Muller in his first match, but looked much better when he got revenge on Fernando Verdasco with a routine win in the round of 32. This match should be close, and Zverev upsetting Nadal on a hard court would not surprise me, given Rafa’s inconsistency on the surface in recent months.
(5)Kei Nishikori vs. (9)John Isner
American tennis fans last hope is once again big man John Isner. Isner will look to break his 1-1 h2h deadlock with Kei Nishikori, and keep the star-spangled banner flying high in Indian Wells for a few more days. Isner has a four match win streak, and was untroubled against Andreas Seppi, and Adrian Mannarino. Nishikori is putting his return skills up to the test after beating Mikhail Kukushkin, and slipping past Steve Johnson in a pair of tiebreaks. This is another match that is difficult to predict, but if Isner can serve well, he will have a great chance at a slight upset.
(8)Richard Gasquet vs. (10)Marin Cilic
Richard Gasquet beat Marin Cilic at the Cincinnati Masters last year and he’ll be in for another tough match against the Croatian for a spot in the quarterfinals. Gasquet beat Nicolas Mahut, and then Alexandr Dolgopolov in three sets. Cilic has turned away Ryan Harrison and Leonardo Mayer without dropping a set. This should be a high quality match, contrasting Cilic’s power, with Gasquet’s grace. Given he’s been a better player recently, Gasquet should advance.
(3)Stan Wawrinka vs. (15)David Goffin
Stan Wawrinka has never lost to David Goffin (3-0) and with the bottom half of the draw wide open after Andy Murray’s early exit, Stan the man has a great shot to ride his one handed backhand into the final. Wawrinka is on a seven match win streak after wins over Illya Marchenko and Andrey Kuznetsov. Goffin is on a four match win streak, but dropped sets to the lower ranked Frances Tiafoe, and Guido Pella. It’s unlikely that Wawrinka will lose this match given his current form, and Goffin’s shakiness.
(6)Tomas Berdych vs. (12)Milos Raonic
Tomas Berdych is higher ranked, but he’s just 1-3 in the h2h against Raonic, who is showing no signs of rust since returning from an injury. The Czech has brushed past quality opponents in Juan Martin Del Potro and Borna Coric, while Raonic rolled past Inigo Cervantes, and got a retirement victory over Bernard Tomic. This match will featuring big serving, and plenty of power tennis. Given the h2h, Raonic is likely a slight favorite, but Berdych is probably in better form.
(13)Gael Monfils vs. Federico Delbonis
Gael Monfils dropped a set to the most surprising name left in the tournament, Federico Delbonis, back in 2014. The Argentina stunned Andy Murray and is rapidly improving on hard courts, though he usually prefers clay. His third set tiebreak win over Murray, came after he beat both Santiago Giraldo and Joao Sousa, Monfils defeated Pablo Carreno Busta and Albert Ramos without dropping a set. Delbonis is unlikely to push Monfils much on this surface, but he’s clearly riding a wave of momentum.
Looking ahead, a Djokovic vs. Wawrinka final is the most likely outcome.