5 Things We Learned At The 2017 BNP Paribas Open
We look into five storylines that emerged during the season’s first Masters 1000 event
1. NEW CONTENDERS ARE EMERGING FOR NO. 1 RANKING
Andy Murray unseated Novak Djokovic this past October for the top spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, but Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are showing they may challenge for the top spot this season.
While Djokovic and Murray have piles of Emirates ATP Rankings points to defend for the remainder of 2017, Federer has minimal points to defend during the clay-court swing and nothing in the second half of the year. He’s already established himself as the dominant player of 2017 by winning the first Grand Slam and first Masters 1000 title of the year. Meanwhile, Wawrinka’s early exits last year in Masters 1000 events seem to have been halted with his runner-up showing in Indian Wells. The reigning US Open champion has said his results aren't consistent enough to challenge for the No. 1 ranking, but he has so far continued to make deep runs this year.
2. KYRGIOS IS THRIVING ON THE BIG STAGES
Fresh off a win over World No. 2 Djokovic at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, Nick Kyrgios repeated the feat with another straight-sets victory in their fourth round clash at Indian Wells. The upset was especially noteworthy as it snapped the three-time defending champion’s dominance at this event.
The Aussie has always had the game to score big wins, but he’s shown improved discipline in his shot selection this season and appears better able to physically withstand the grueling rallies required to defeat the world’s best. The only thing that could stop Kyrgios this tournament was a bout of food poisoning that forced him to withdraw from his quarter-final against Roger Federer, but he should be healthy for Miami and keen for another big fortnight.
Despite the loss to Kyrgios, Djokovic enjoyed a milestone moment this tournament by recording the 300th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 win of his career over Juan Martin del Potro in the third round.
3. SOCK IS PRIMED FOR TOP 10 SPOT
Jack Sock continued his outstanding start to 2017 by reaching his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final in Indian Wells, taking out Grigor Dimitrov in the third round and scoring his first Top 5 win against Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals. The big-hitting American already has two titles this year in Auckland (d. Sousa) and Delray Beach (w/o Raonic), but proved he’s also ready to step up in the world’s biggest events.
An encouraging sign for Sock in his Top 10 quest is that he has also excelled on other surfaces, winning his first ATP World Tour title on the clay courts of Houston in 2015. If he can continue his current form throughout the remander of the year, he could be the first American to debut inside the Top 10 since John Isner in April 2012.
4. KEEP AN EYE ON THE QUALIFYING
From Vasek Pospisil’s mammoth second-round upset over Murray to the inspired fourth round run from Dusan Lajovic, several qualifiers at Indian Wells showed they have the games to avoid having to qualify for tournaments much longer. Even those who didn’t advance out of qualifying got in on the action, with lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka defeating Ivo Karlovic and Tomas Berdych before narrowly falling to Wawrinka. This fortnight showed that qualifiers are far from mere draw filler and could produce plenty of major storylines throughout the season.
5. INDIAN WELLS GROUNDS CONTINUE TO IMPROVE
From a massive expansion of the Stadium Plaza, renovating all the suites and hospitality spaces, and adding 21 new restaurants and concessions, the major renovations unveiled this year delighted the 439,261 fans who streamed through the gates this year. With former World No. 2 Tommy Haas now at the helm as tournament director, it’s a guarantee that the fan experience at this tournament will get even better in the years to come.