Five Must-See First Rounds In Indian Wells
With the Top 32 seeds having a bye, the focus is on a host of tantalising first-round showdowns at the BNP Paribas Open.
Frances Tiafoe v Ernesto Escobedo
Fresh from his maiden ATP World Tour title at the Delray Beach Open, #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe will carry an abundance of confidence into his first FedExATP Head2Head meeting with 21-year-old countryman Ernesto Escobedo. The pair has clashed twice before at ATP Challenger Tour level, with Escobedo winning both in a third-set tie-break. However, both matches were in 2016 and Tiafoe has since surged up the ATP Rankings to No. 64, with Escobedo currently at No. 117. The 20-year-old Tiafoe defeated #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov, Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung and his childhood idol Juan Martin del Potro en route to the Delray Beach Open title while Escobedo scored an impressive win over American No. 1 Jack Sock in the opening round in Acapulco last week. Spanish 28th seed Feliciano Lopez awaits the winner in the second round.
Gael Monfils v Matthew Ebden
Enigmatic former World No. 6 Gael Monfils has already tasted hard-court success in 2018 when he collected the trophy in the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. The 31-year-old, currently at No. 42 in the ATP Rankings, has reached the quarter-finals in Indian Wells once before – in 2016, before he fell to Milos Raonic. His lone win over Matthew Ebden was on hard court at the Australian Open but that was eight years ago. The 78th-ranked Australian will be quietly confident after upsetting Sam Querrey, the defending champion, in Acapulco in the first round last week. He also counts a win in 2018 over John Isner in the opening round of his home Grand Slam tournament. Should Ebden beat Monfils he would earn a shot at beating Isner for a second time in 2018 in round two.
Taylor Fritz v Reilly Opelka
Twelve months ago, Taylor Fritz pulled off his first victory over a Top 10 opponent in the ATP Rankings when he brought down No. 6 seed Marin Cilic en route to the third round at the BNP Paribas Open. In a battle of 20-year-old #NextGenATP Americans, the 74th-ranked Fritz will open his 2018 campaign in the desert against Reilly Opelka. This will be their first FedExATP Head2Head encounter, however, Fritz did beat his 199th-ranked compatriot en route to the Newport Beach Challenger title on hard court in January, his first Challenger title in two years. Fritz earned a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open after his Challenger title run at Newport Beach and a semi-final run at the Indian Wells Challenger event leading in. Opelka impressed against his countrymen last week at the Delray Beach Open where he took down Ryan Harrison and Sock to reach the quarter-finals. The winner will take on No. 27 seed Andrey Rublev in the second round.
Stefanos Tsitsipas v Radu Albot
Greece’s NextGenATP charge, Stefanos Tsitsipas, enters his first-round BNP Paribas Open match with Radu Albot at a career-best No. 71 in the ATP Rankings. The 19-year-old reached the quarter-finals in Doha to open his season where he won through qualifying before bowing to Dominic Thiem. Last week, he beat No. 6 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber en route to the quarter-finals in Dubai. Tsitsipas scored his biggest win over home favourite David Goffin to reach his maiden ATP World Tour semi-final in October in Antwerp. He has never met the 88th-ranked Albot. The Moldovan scored his first Top 20 win over Isner before Nishikori ended his run in three sets in the New York Open quarter-finals last month. The winner will face fifth seed Thiem for a place in the third round.