The first Masters 1000 tournament of the ATP season, the Indian Wells Masters or BNP Paribas Open, has always held a respectable position among the big tournaments, with thoughts being given to its status as a Masters tournament and whether it could be considered as the fifth slam due to its immense popularity. The center court, known as Stadium 1, is the second largest tennis stadium in the world with 16,000 seats, 44 luxurious stadium suites, locker rooms, press room, broadcast booths, 6,000 square-foot commissary and more.
The Last Edition
2016 Indian Wells was one of the most historic events in its category, in recent times. Then world no.1 Novak Djokovic, continuing his 2015 form, went on a rampage, thrashing anybody and everybody that he faced, winning his fifth Indian Wells title and 27th Masters title (thus, equaling Rafael Nadal’s Masters title count). 12th seed Milos Raonic reached the final, after a strong start to the season, but failed to offer any resistance as Djokovic neatly won 6-2, 6-0.
BNP Paribas Open 2017
This season, Indian Wells is going to be an interesting tournament, with a lot at stake for some of the players. Unlike last year, this time around, the always-in-form Novak Djokovic, is actually, out of form and often faces real difficulty in closing out his matches, or sometimes even worse — he can’t. Roger Federer had made a thumping comeback, but it’s unsure whether he’ll be able to compliment his 18th grand slam win with yet another Masters victory. Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray are clearly hungry and wanting for more and the youngsters are all out there, waiting for a slump from these top players so they can make it count.
The Big Guns
World no.1 Sir Andy Murray didn’t have a favorable start to his 2017 campaign after a breathtaking end to his 2016 season. He lost to Djokovic in the Doha 250 final, lost to German Mischa Zverev in the 4th round of Australian Open, staggering to find a rhythm in his own game and then holding on to it. He did, however, win the recently concluded Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, saving seven match points against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals and he will hope to carry this form into the hot conditions of Indian Wells. Murray would be desperate to improve his Indian Wells record, which has so far been rather poor. He has a 25-11 W/L record here with his lone final coming in 2009.
World no.2 Novak Djokovic is a heavyweight around here, having won a record 5 titles with an astonishing 47-6 career W/L record in Indian Wells. But this season poses as a potential threat to his sheer dominance at the Californian Masters. Having lost his Midas Touch ever since completing career slam, Djokovic has found it rather difficult to even reach the final of most events. His continuous early losses off late, has only made it worse for his brand of tennis, and much like Murray, he would be desperate to find a crucial title victory over the next 10 days, under familiar circumstances, but unfamiliar form.
Swiss Maestro Roger Federer scripted a fairy-tale comeback to tennis after a 5-month injury layoff, winning the elusive 18th major title at the 2017 Australian Open beating his arch-rival and nemesis Nadal in 5 intriguing sets. He was soon brought back to earth when Evgeny Donskoy, ranked 117, defeated him in the 2nd round of the Dubai Open after having to save multiple match points. But, Federer, a holder of 4 Indian Wells titles, is always a title contender there, with a staggering 52-11 W/L record. The 35-year old would be looking to add to his Masters tally and close the gap between him and Djokovic.
2014 Doha Open was the last time current world no.6 Rafael Nadal won a hard court title. His hard court title drought has been active for the last 30 tournaments and is worrying fans lately. Nadal’s loss to Federer in the Australian Open final, and then to Sam Querrey at the Acapulco Open final further demoralized his hopes of ending the hard court title drought, though a much talked about change in his coaching staff (Carlos Moya replacing Rafa’s uncle Toni, as the head coach) has improved Nadal’s game. His new-found motivation and a nudge to the right direction, has fueled his chances of winning a hard court title, preferably at the BNP Paribas Open, where he’s a 3-time winner with a 48-9 W/L record.
The Young Guns
ATP has been flooded with youngsters lately, with some of them earning real praise from all the right places. Of them, supremely talented, mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios has come out as the front-runner of the younger generation. Him winning 3 ATP titles and defeating Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in their first meetings itself is a big certification of his talent.
Another youngster, German teenager Alexander Zverev has been making heads turn with his amazing groundstrokes, especially on the backhand side. He lost to Nadal in a 5-set marathon in this year’s Australian Open and won Montpelier 250, proving himself to be a touch above others in his age group.
Austrian Dominic Thiem is a workhorse, in the most basic sense of the word. He is a gifted athlete, and a gifted shotmaker, and he can take huge workload without being too fatigued. But, he’s well past the saturation point and that is clearly evident from his form that’s moving down the spiral.
Russian 20 year-old Daniil Medvedev started the year ranked 99, and is currently 58, with the high point being, reaching Chennai Open final. Needless to say, he’s one to watch out for this season and of the prime young guns that are expected to make heads turn in this BNP Paribas Open.
Other than the young guns, the potential dark horses that can rattle opponents any given day, pose a lot of threat to the top guys.
Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian superstar, has been rediscovering himself in terms of mental strength lately and he’s looking more difficult to beat every passing week. If he can find his rhythm against the big guys, he’ll be the one to beat.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a tour veteran at 31, is getting his form back and has won back-to-back titles at Rotterdam and Marseille. He began the year ranked 12 and is already up at 7, and one of the potential dark horses who could wreak havoc in the draw.
Argentine superstar Juan Martin del Potro is always a threat to any player on any surface. With his forehand and serve, and a beautifully disguised sliced backhand, he can outlast the main players and he’s proved it time and again. Injuries may have hampered his physical durability, but his mentality isn’t one to be fiddled with.