Djokovic Heads Indian Wells Draw
Two-time defending champion on quarter-final collision course with Tsonga
As the ATP World Tour shifts to the Californian desert this week, Novak Djokovic’s focus will be fixed firmly on another record. The top seed and two-time defending champion arrives at Indian Wells with a 16-1 record for the season and begins his quest for an unprecedented fifth BNP Paribas Open title.
The Serb receives a first-round bye before opening his bid against either a qualifier or Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili. Djokovic is on track to face Spanish 14th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round and should the draw continue according to seedings, he would carry a 14-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head record into a quarter-final clash with French seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Djokovic has not fallen to the Frenchman since 2014 and Tsonga would likely have to make his way first past the winner of a third-round showdown between Austrian 11th seed Dominic Thiem or American 22nd seed Jack Sock.
Should he reach the semi-finals, Djokovic would likely square off against either fourth seed and three-time former champion Rafael Nadal or fifth seed Kei Nishikori. After his first-round bye, Nadal is slated to meet either Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller or Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic in the second round and could run into his Australian Open conqueror, countryman Fernando Verdasco, in the third round. French 16th seed Gilles Simon is his projected fourth-round opponent before an expected clash with Japan’s Nishikori, a player he owns a 7-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against. Nishikori meets either Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin or Spaniard Daniel Munoz de la Nava in the second round and a dangerous fourth-round showdown with big-serving American John Isner lurks. The pair has split two previous meetings.
Andy Murray heads the bottom half of the draw as the No.2 seed. The Scot will be attempting to claim a first BNP Paribas Open title, with his best result being a runner-up showing in 2009. Murray opens against either Bosnian Damir Dzumhur or Spaniard Marcel Granollers and could face the winner of a blockbuster third-round showdown between two of the tour’s flashiest shot-makers, Gael Monfils and Nick Kyrgios, in the fourth round. Monfils leads Kyrgios 1-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, while Murray would carry a combined 8-2 lead into a clash with either the Frenchman or the Australian.
A quarter-final date with Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych is on the cards. Murray would take a narrow 7-6 FedEx ATP Head2 Head lead into that match. Berydch faces one of the more difficult routes of the Top 8 seeds to the quarter-finals. The 30-year-old will take on either a qualifier or 2013 runner-up, Juan Martin del Potro in the second round. Del Potro, playing just his second tournament on his road back from surgery, remains the last player to defeat Djokovic at Indian Wells and holds a 4-2 record against Berdych, although the two haven’t met since 2012.
A fourth-round meeting with either Australian Bernard Tomic or Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic is projected for Berdych. Raonic reached the semi-finals in the desert last year on the back of his first victory over Nadal.
Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka would be the likely semi-final opponent of a Murray-Berdych winner. Wawrinka is yet to make it past the quarter-finals at the BNP Paribas Open and would potentially have to down eighth seed Richard Gasquet to do so. Wawrinka trails the Frenchman 1-2 and Murray 7-8 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head records. He faces either Russian Dmitry Tursunov or Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko in the second round with Belgian 15th seed David Goffin on track for a fourth-round clash.Eight Next Generation players – potentially nine if Andrey Rublev continues through qualifying – will contest the BNP Paribas main draw, including six teenagers. Two of them, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe will square off for the first time in an all-American battle in the opening round. German 18 year old Alexander Zverev opens against Croatian Ivan Dodig before a potential second-round meeting with Grigor Dimitrov, while Dodig’s countryman, 19-year-old Borna Coric starts against Frenchman Lucas Pouille before a potential match with Thomaz Bellucci.