Five Early Clashes To Watch For At Indian Wells
With the Top 32 seeds all receiving byes, several unseeded players in first-round action have the potential to set up intriguing second-round clashes at the BNP Paribas Open.
(3) Alexander Zverev vs. Mischa Zverev
Provided that Mischa moves past Martin Klizan of Slovakia in the first round, another Zverev battle will take place in the desert. Alexander won their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year at the Citi Open, but the contrast in playing styles and personalities would make this another entertaining encounter.
Alexander is in fine form having reached his first final of 2019 this past week at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC) (l. To Kyrgios), but Mischa is still looking for his first win of the season (0-2).
(9) Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. (WC) Felix Auger-Aliassime
An all-#NextGenATP matchup will take place if Auger-Aliassime can defeat Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in the opening round. The Brit reached his first ATP 500 semi-final this past week in Acapulco (l. to A. Zverev).
Auger-Aliassime earned his wild card off a stellar February in Brazil, reaching the final of the Rio Open presented by Claro and quarter-finals at the Brasil Open (l. to Djere in both events). Those two weeks have led to a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 58. Meanwhile, Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to crack the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on the back of outstanding results this season that include winning the Open 13 Provence (d. Kukushkin), finishing runner-up at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (l. to Federer) and advancing to his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open (l. to Nadal).
The BNP Paribas Open is already Tsitsipas’ seventh ATP Tour event of 2019 and he’s played 20 matches this season (15-5), so the only concern for the 20-year-old Greek is whether the backlog of matches will finally catch up with him.
(12) Karen Khachanov vs. Tomas Berdych
Berydch returned to the tour this season after sitting out seven months with a back injury, but he has picked up where he left off. The Czech player is 12-5 after finishing runner-up in Doha (l. to Bautista Agut) and reaching the semi-finals in Montpellier (l. to Herbert).
If Berdych can get through an all-veteran battle in the opening round against Feliciano Lopez of Spain, his clash against Khachanov has the potential for an upset. The Russian is 4-5 this year and has yet to defeat a player inside the Top 60 of the ATP Rankings, but his dominant end to last season by defeating Novak Djokovic to win the Rolex Paris Masters shows he’s capable of beating anyone when he’s on.
(22) Kyle Edmund vs. Frances Tiafoe
The Brit started 2019 off slowly after suffering a knee injury at the end of last season, but is riding high after winning last week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Indian Wells. Meanwhile, Tiafoe seeks to reclaim the form that took him to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Since his outstanding run Down Under, he has gone 1-3 in ATP Tour events.
The #NextGenATP American will first need to defeat Nicolas Jarry of Chile in order to set up the showdown with Edmund. Tiafoe and Edmund’s lone FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting saw the American prevail in a third-set tie-break last year at the Miami Open, and a battle between them in the desert should see another competitive scoreline.
(25) Denis Shapovalov vs. Taylor Fritz
Should Fritz come through an all-American opening-round clash against Steve Johnson, a battle between two of the most entertaining young stars in tennis will take place in the second round. Shapovalov has produced consistent results to start the year, with two ATP Tour quarter-finals and a third-round finish at the Australian Open, while Fritz recorded a Top 10 win over John Isner at the ASB Classic.
The #NextGenATP Canadian won their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year in Delray Beach, but both men are equally capable of picking up a victory if they meet again.