BNP Paribas Open What The Title Would Mean Federer Nadal Djokovic del Potro

Nadal Indian Wells

Photo courtesy of twitter.com

The BNP Paribas Open, aka Indian Wells, has made a name for itself as arguably the ATP’s premier and most prestigious event. The Tennis Review looks at what such a valuable piece of silverware would mean to some of men’s tennis’ title contenders. 

Rafa Nadal

Nadal is back, his Australian Open final appearance testified to that, but an Indian Wells title would be the star witness as to his return to the top of the game since his comeback.

The BNP Paribas Open is arguably the most important ATP 1000 trophy and with top seed Andy Murray out, a struggling Novak Djokovic, and an unpredictable Roger Federer, Nadal, a three time champ (’07, ’09, ’13) in the Desert, may be the Big Four member most likely to take the title.

Nadal’s game is well suited to the conditions-slow and high bouncing, especially at night-and coming off his first Grand slam final for a while (Roland Garros ’14 was his previous final to this year’s Melbourne), and with the the fifth seed having the best return stats over the past 12 months left in the draw now Murray is gone, the stars seem to be aligning for Nadal to win his first hard court title since Doha ’14.

Could that potential Indian Wells title open the door to another first since 2014? Another Roland Garros title? And not just any old one, but La Decima. Ten slams at one major tournament is an achievement no tennis player has earned yet, and if Nadal can win Indian Wells just before the European clay swing gets underway and prove he is back to not just contesting for the game’s big titles, but winning them, too, La Decima and all the history that come with it would be another step into a forehand down the line closer.

Novak Djokovic 

Three time defending champion Djokovic is struggling this season, suffering shock defeats at the Australian Open and in Dubai.

The world No.2 says he is in a better place than he was a few months ago, and returning to a venue where he has had so much success, winning five titles, may account for that.

Djokovic will need to be in a better place with a draw that could see him have to defeat del Potro, Kyrgios or Zverev, Nadal or Federer, Nishikori, and then Wawrinka.

del Potro and Kyrgios would be two hurdles the Serbian would like to clear with the two players having brought him down to places he would prefer not to return to, the Argentine defeating him in the opening round of Rio, the Australian beating him in the Dubai quarters. If Djokovic can avenge those defeats in a big event like Indian Wells and then go on to win the title, a sixth BNP Paribas title win would be quite a statement for Djokovic after so many recent losses and slipping to world No.2.

Defending his 1000 points from last season would also put a halt to the Serbian’s drop down the rankings and the taste of victory may re-ignite his passion for the game, though with the draw the second seed potentially faces, he would need to have the gas turned on, ready to be lit, and after stating recently he has lost his love for the game, whether or not that gas is on, only Djokovic knows deep down, and he will need to dig deep to win in the desert.

Such a re-ignition could not come at a much better time. Djokovic is not the only top ranked player in a slump right now- his top ranked rival Andy Murray just suffered a second round Indian Wells loss- and there would be no better time for Djokovic to announce his return to winning ATP 1000s than when the current No.1 is bowing out in his opening match.

Few players have better timing on the court than Djokovic or a better sense of when to strike and seize their chances, the question is whether or not Djokovic is dialed in to showcase those talents.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer has only been stopped in Indian Wells in his past two appearances by Novak Djokovic in the final and the Swiss, who showed in Australia he can still bring his best game to the biggest events, will have plenty of motivation in Indian Wells, where he has won four titles (’04, ’05, ’06, ’12), to once again showcase his legendary game.

If Federer did take the title, the prospect of his winning another slam at Wimbledon would increase. The confidence the Swiss would get from coming through a draw that could see him have to defeat Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, three of whom he beat on his way to the Australian Open title, would stand him in good stead before the clay season gets going, a swing in which he is unlikely to win a trophy, but one he can continue to fine tune his game and match toughness for when the Grass Swing comes round.

Federer would need to be at his aggressive best to win the title, the slower conditions allowing the likes of Nadal and Djokovic to keep him at the baseline and pass him at the net when he gets there, but if the Federer serve and net game clicks, he has everything necessary to earn a popular fifth BNP Paribas Open title and get his fans thinking about slam No. 19.

Stan Wawrinka

Wawrinka has shown he has the heart to win big, winning three of the game’s four Grand Slams, and the belief to win at events where he has had poor records, so a title at Indian Wells, where he has never gone beyond the quarter-finals in nine attempts, is not out of the question and would nicely round out his resume where his three slams stand out among one ATP 1000 trophy, three ATP 500 titles, and eight ATP 250 crowns.

Wawrinka has a good chance this year with Murray’s defeat leaving the top half nice and open for someone like the Swiss to charge through and take advantage of both an open draw and a potential finalist who might be more worn out than he is after making their way through the top heavy bottom half.

Wawrinka is very capable of taking such opportunities, blessed with the brute strength to power through in the slow Californian conditions against a weary rival, a feat which, if he achieves, will strengthen his legacy as one of the rare players to rival the Big Four, an effort so successful some might argue, if Wawrinka wins in Indian Wells, we are now living in the age of another tennis rock group- the Fab Five.

Juan Martin del Potro

A win in Indian Wells would be del Potro’s first ATP 1000 title, after three final appearances (Canada ’09, Indian Wells, Shanghai ’13), and one of the ATP 1000 venues the 2013 finalist would most likely be champion, the medium slow hard surface giving him plenty of time to wind up that slam winning forehand  and run around that compromised backhand.

Since coming back to the ATP tour last year, del Potro has proven what a big match player he is, beating Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal, and reaching the Rio final and the US Open quarters, and his big game and big heart seem destined to earn him a big title again, and a first ATP 1000 title, an achievement he could not reach in his peak years, would mean he was not just back, but he might be on the way to being better than ever.

Kei Nishikori

An ATP 1000 title would be a big breakthrough at the very top of the game for the Japanese after 3 ATP 1000 finals and a slam final.

Nishikori has a good chance this year at a tournament he has only managed to make the last eight at once in 8 visits. He has a tough draw- the fourth seed could have a match on his hands in the last sixteen versus Lucas Pouille, and would have to play his best versus Grigor Dimitrov in the last eight- but if he can get his aggressive baseline game in sync with the slow conditions, he could face a tired Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or del Potro in the last four, exploit their own slow conditions after their tough draws, and be match tough for a possible final versus Stan Wawrinka, against whom he matches up well.

With that kind of potential draw ahead of him, a long road lies ahead for Nishikori to win that difficult first big trophy, but Nishikori has been on the road for a while now in the quest for his big breakthrough, and if anyone has the game and experience to make it to the end it is him.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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