Indian Wells Preview Who Will Win? The Five Most Likely Champs
Indian Wells is the first ATP 1000 title of the season and while it may be missing a few big names, there are plenty of worthy champions in the wings. The Tennis Review gives you five of them, and a few honorable mentions.
Roger Federer (1)- Champion 2004-06, 2012, 2017
This draw could not have worked out better for Roger Federer and an upset in the early rounds (possible opponents: Round 2- Delbonis, Harrison; Round 3, Paire, qualifier, Krajinovic) would be nothing less than alarming.
Things look pretty good for the defending champ in the middle of the tournament, too, when Federer, who could make history with a record sixth title in Indian Wells, is scheduled to face Fabio Fognini in round four and then Dominic Thiem in the quarters.
Nick Kyrgios, a potential opponent in the last four could be the biggest test for Federer on his way to the final– the Australian is 1-1 versus the Swiss with both matches going three sets and every set to a tie-breaker.
Federer will have plenty of motivation to get through another close one versus the Australian- with Nadal out of the tournament, and out of Miami, too, there is room for Federer to put some distance between himself and his biggest rival at the top of the rankings before the clay season gets underway in just over a month.
Juan Martin del Potro (6)- Finalist 2013
The recent Acapulco champ and world No. 8 has a decent record in Indian Wells- he is a career 18-7 there and beat Murray and Djokovic on his way to the 2013 final- and is, after winning his first ATP 500 title, in Acapulco, since Basel 2013, on a confident run.
The best and healthiest big match player in the draw after Roger Federer and in the very open bottom half, del Potro has an intriguing clash with either Jan-Lennard Struff or Alex de Minaur in round 2, David Ferrer in round 3, Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori in round 4, Marin Cilic in the last eight and Sascha Zverev in the last four.
That draw is anything but easy, but del Potro has what it takes to battle his way through it to face Federer in the final, a championship match which, if it happens, will be a saving grace for a tour lacking Nadal, Murray and Wawrinka at its biggest ATP 1000 event.
Graciasss!!!! 🙌🏆☺️🎉🇦🇷🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/32z9UNWErY
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) March 4, 2018
Nick Kyrgios (17)- Quarter-final 2017
A wide open draw and few expectations, Indian Wells 2018 is the perfect opportunity for Nick Kyrgios to ride his explosive game to a semi versus Federer.
If Kyrgios wins that match and reaches the final, he may have learnt enough from his runner-up appearance in the Cincy ’17 final to take his first ATP 1000 trophy.
The Australian may give the impression he could care less, but anyone who saw his recent run in Australia (Brisbane title, Australian Open last 16) knows he wants to win big, and with a game which should allow him to do so and his temperament for the big occasion, it’s only a matter of time until we see just how much the game really means to Kyrgios.
Hyeon Chung (23)- First round 2016.
This is Chung’s 9th ATP 1000 main draw, his second in Indian Wells, and he has won five matches in all, and the furthest he has gone is the fourth round (Canada 2017, beat Feliciano Lopez and David Goffin).
Chung may seem like a long shot for an ATP 1000 trophy, and not just any one, but Indian Wells; however, if Federer is knocked out early, and while that is unlikely, stranger things have happened in this sport, this tournament is ripe for a young gun to come out and claim a big title, and Chung has the best momentum and temperament of the lot of them.
Chung may have to beat Federer himself if he wants the trophy, in the quarters, but first he would have to get past Lukas Lacko or Dusan Lajovic in round 2 and potentially Tomas Berdych in round 3 and Dominic Thiem in round 4, which is a slightly rocky but very doable road to the business end of an ATP 1000 for a 23rd seed, and a pretty attractive one, too, as far as draws go for an upcoming player with nothing to lose and plenty of spirit.
For the Next Gen Finals champ and the Australian Open semi- finalist, the Indian Wells title would be another big step, but Chung is not one for taking them baby style- for the South Korean, it’s big strides all the way.
Marin Cilic (2)- Quarter-final, 2016.
— Marin Cilic (@cilic_marin) March 3, 2018
In a tournament hit with the absence of most of the sport’s active slam champs, Cilic is one of the few healthy ones playing good tennis, and not just good hard court tennis, but, when he is on form, some of the very best you are likely to see.
Cilic has never done as well in Indian Wells as you would expect of one of the current game’s highest achievers- his best result is a quarter final- but past form is no real indicator of what Cilic can achieve. The Croatian is unpredictable, and with another lesson learned in Melbourne, Indian Wells could be the place where the second seed shows us just how hard he has been hitting the tennis books in the gym and on the court.
Honorable mentions: These players have potential champion written all over them, but for one reason or another, that potential is likely to go unrealized.
Novak Djokovic (10): The five time champ is commited to coming back to the top, and Indian Wells would be a great place to do it, but the career grand slammer struggles with del Potro at the best of times and at a point in his career far from those he has drawn the Argentine in the fourth round.
Sascha Zverev (4): Zverev has made a young career out of winning very open ATP 1000s (Rome, Montreal 2017), but he has not been having a good time of it since winning Montreal and while he is in the open bottom half of the draw, a semi-final versus del Potro, as happened last week in Acapulco, looks to be about as good as it is going to get.
Grigor Dimitrov (3): With Nick Kyrgios in his quarter of the draw, and and with a possible opener versus Fernando Verdasco, Dimitrov, who has never been past the third round in Indian Wells in six appearances, looks unlikely to excel in the desert anytime soon.
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