The 44th staging of the BNP Paribas Open has been long overdue. This prestigious ATP tournament has a new spot on the 2021 tennis calendar. It will also be the last event of the ATP Masters 1000 series to take place this season. And for the first time in nearly two decades, there won’t be any former champions at the event. That is largely due to the absence of the Big 3-tennis’ famous trio of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal who account for 13 of the last 16 title wins. Defending champion Dominic Thiem won’t be returning to the desert to defend his crown from 2019. On that note, here is how we expect the draw to unfold in the next two weeks n Tennis Paradise.
Indian Wells Masters: Men’s Singles Preview and Draw Analysis
Top half, first quarter: Top seed and newly-crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev leads the charge
Top seed Daniil Medvedev has conquered what he aspired to accomplish at the start of the North American hard-court swing. The Russian picked up his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open and simultaneously halted Novak Djokovic’s bid of winning the coveted Calendar Slam. He will now look to round off this historic adventure by winning his fifth title of 2021.
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The Russian has a bye in the opening round and will square off against one of Mackenzie McDonald or in-form Australian James Duckworth. Things could get slightly trickier in the subsequent round with Medvedev potentially facing Serbia’s 27th seed Filip Krajinovic. Incidentally, Krajinovic defeated Medvedev at the 2019 edition of the BNP Paribas Open, just before the Russian rose to prominence. And although Medvedev avenged that loss at the Australian Open earlier this season, it is pertinent to note he was pushed to five sets.
Should the Russian ease his way into the fourth round as expected, he could meet Reilly Opelka. Medvedev comfortably beat the towering American in Toronto two months ago. The highest-seeded opponent he could face in the quarterfinals is likely to be Denis Shapovalov or Hubert Hurkacz. But none of them have favorable routes to get there. Shapovalov may have to contend with Aslan Karatsev, while Hurkacz could lock horns against the dangerous Sebastian Korda.
Quarterfinal prediction: Medvedev (1) vs Hurkacz (8)
Top half, second quarter: San Diego champion Casper Ruud could surprise again
One of the major talking points from the ATP 250 event in San Diego was that Casper Ruud has developed into a fully-fledged all-court player. We may be in for another rude awakening if we write him off this fortnight. Ruud is the first player to get to five titles this season, and his quest to number six will begin against Spain’s clay-court specialist Roberto Carballes Baena or a qualifier.
Ruud is eyeing a place at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin and should cement his spot with a deep in Indian Wells. The Norwegian is projected to meet Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals. However, the lack of consistency by Russia’s number four seed has been all too apparent in the second half of the season. In fact, Rublev could meet his San Diego conqueror Cameron Norrie in the fourth round.
Quarterfinal prediction: Rublev (4) vs Ruud (6)
Bottom half, third quarter: An open quarter loaded with power-hitters
This is possibly the most open quarter of the lot. Should the seedings hold up, there will be plenty of fascinating matchups among heavy-hitters in the third round but do not be surprised if it pans out differently.
Matteo Berrettini could draw Taylor Fritz. Jannik Sinner could trade blows with John Isner. Resurgent Gael Monfils might square off against 17th seed Lorenzo Sonego. And US Open quarterfinalist Carlos Alcaraz could book an enticing encounter with Alexander Zverev.
The projected quarterfinal is Zverev-Berrettini, but Sinner could wreak havoc in his compatriot’s section. The 20-year-old prodigy won his fourth career title in Sofia last week and is a force to be reckoned with this fortnight.
Quarterfinal prediction: Zverev (3) vs Sinner (10)
Bottom half, fourth quarter: Can Tsitsipas rediscover his mojo?
Stefanos Tsitsipas has won a tour-leading 51 matches this season, but he has also suffered 15 defeats-translating to about 77% winning rate. That is slightly lower than at least five players who have won two or more titles this year.
The Greek will be hoping the feelgood factor that seeped away during the US Open will have a fresh transfusion at Indian Wells. Tsitsipas has actually improved by leaps and bounds this season. It is easier to forget he was a set away from winning the French Open in June. And although he lost his bearings momentarily thereafter, he remains a formidable opponent on faster surfaces.
Tsitsipas has a generous draw by the looks of things. He could open up against Pedro Martinez whose record on hard courts is hardly his strong point. Then he should ease his way past one of Fabio Fognini or an out-of-form Jan-Lennard Struff. There is a potential fourth-rounder against Alex De Minaur, but the Australian has been subpar since recovering from COVID-19. On current form, De Minaur might not even make it past the third round particularly if he ends up facing wild card entrant Holger Rune.
On top of this quarter is Canada’s fast-rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 21-year-old Montreal native reached his maiden Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open and should be the headline act in this section. Auger-Alissime will likely need to squeak past Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta whom he beat in the Rotterdam semifinal last season.
Quarterfinal prediction: Tsitsipas (2) vs Auger-Aliassime (7)
Main Photo from Getty.