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Nadal Faces Tricky Road In Indian Wells

Indian Wells, U.S.A.

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal, with artist Mike Sullivan, unveils his new portrait in Indian Wells.

There is no easy road to the BNP Paribas Open title, and this year, Rafael Nadal’s title defence may arguably be trickier than ever before. For the first time in Indian Wells, the top-seeded Spaniard may have to defeat Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in succession to claim the crown.

Nadal and Murray are both in the top quarter of the draw, while Federer has been drawn into the second quarter alongside fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, who will be playing his first tournament since defeating Nadal in the Australian Open final.

Nadal’s bid for a fourth Indian Wells title begins against either Czech Radek Stepanek or Uzbekistani Denis Istomin. He could face a third-round meeting with Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, whom he recently defeated in the Rio Open final, and could then face Italian Fabio Fognini or Frenchman Gael Monfils in the fourth round.

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Murray, the fifth seed, could face an early test against No. 32 seed Pablo Andujar in the third round. The Spaniard held two match points against Nadal in the Rio de Janeiro semi-finals, and led Murray by a set and break last week in Acapulco. Murray is seeded to play Canada’s Milos Raonic for a place in the quarter-finals.

World No. 3 Wawrinka will look to maintain his unbeaten season record when he faces Ivo Karlovic or Alex Bogomolov Jr. in his second-round opener. Two-time champion Lleyton Hewitt and in-form South African Kevin Anderson, who has reached hard-court finals the past two weeks, are potential Round of 16 opponents.

Four-time champion Federer also arrives in Indian Wells on a winning streak, following his triumph last Saturday in Dubai, and could meet German Tommy Haas or Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the fourth round.

Fourth seed Tomas Berdych, the Dubai runner-up, and eighth seed Richard Gasquet are in the third quarter of the draw, along with top American John Isner, Acapulco champion Grigor Dimitrov and Marseille titlist Ernests Gulbis.

Dimitrov and Gulbis split their two meetings in February, including a late-night battle last week in the Acapulco quarter-finals, which the Bulgarian won after two hours and 40 minutes. They are seeded to meet in the third round in Indian Wells, with the winner potentially facing Berdych.

Second seed Djokovic, meanwhile, could face a quarter-final rematch with returning finalist Juan Martin del Potro. The two-time Indian Wells champion lost to the Argentine in last year’s semi-finals, and then avenged the loss a few months later at Wimbledon, where he prevailed after four hours and 34 minutes - the longest semi-final in tournament history.

Del Potro is seeded to play Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Round of 16, while Djokovic may come up against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the No. 24 seed. Cilic has reached finals in his last three tournaments, with titles in Zagreb and Delray Beach. He upset Tsonga and Murray en route to a runner-up finish in Rotterdam (l. to Berdych).

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