Indian Wells Preview: ATP 250 & 500 Action

The build-up to Indian Wells has intensified with some business-end of tournament play in Rio, Marseille and Delray Beach this weekend, followed by some big boy tennis next week in Dubai and Acapulco.

In Rio, the lone 500 this week, we have maybe a Thiem v Dolgopolov final in the cards though Thiem has to take care of Schwartzman and Ramos-Vinolas on his side while the Ukrainian must get through his quarter and semi final matches, as well. Not much more to speak of there other than Kei continues to consolidate our view of his game: he was put out in R1 via home-towner Bellucci. We have nothing against Nishikori, but his prospects murray500-18just don’t look very bright, looking at the surrounding athletic landscape. His loss to Roger in Melbourne had to sting a bit, and then to lose to Dolgopolov and Bellucci since, and remain title-less, with the tennis only about to get even more intense. . . Not ideal for Kei.

In Marseille, the usual French suspects are wreaking havoc. What we’re left with is some potential fireworks. As I write this, the 1st set of the Monfils v Gasquet QF is inching toward a TB. The winner there gets Pouille in one SF. Nice to see the 23 year-old find a bit of form after a slow start to 2017. He hasn’t really steamrolled anyone on his way to this SF, but he’s there scheduled to play a fellow countryman to see who will face the winner of the other SF: Kyrgios v Tsonga. Ah. Could be brilliant. Could be a wet rag of heartlessness. I’ll be optimistic and say this should be a must-watch, as Tsonga surely wants to back-up his big Rotterdam title, no? Solidify the confidence and form he’ll need in bigger tournaments, seeing the twilight of his tennis career in the on-coming traffic? Right? I like me some motivated Tsonga.

Kyrgios, on the other hand, has to want to continue his reformation, no? Especially with Tomic tanking another match, this one vs. Darcis in R1 at Delray Beach. Put Tomic on time-out for good. This kind of Kyrigios/Tomic/Monfil theatrics of the mentally ill needs medical treatment/supervision, not professional tennis where supportive audiences are paying high prices to watch these athletes perform. Kyrgios, we know his talent, has to see the razor’s edge upon which he plays, knowing he can follow toilet-Tomic right into the swamp if he doesn’t keep his wits. Obviously, I want Tsonga to test the crap out of Nick.

Either way, good stuff in Marseille (Gasquet and Monfils have gone to a 1st set TB).

Delray Beach sees two QF matches coming-up: Ranoic v Edmund and Querrey v Del Potro. The first SF is set with Americans Sock and D. Young ready to exchange. Sock will beat his fellow American, Young. As the #3 seed, Sock continues to play pretty consistently. Another delpotroAmerican we’ve talked about in the past, waiting for his development, is Taylor Fritz, who lost to Young in three sets, after Young upset the #2 seed Dr. Ivo. Young then got a W/O against Darcis to face Sock.

The top half seems much heavier with the big Raonic/Querrey/Del Potro trio ready to sort-out a few things. Del Potro has a chance to return the favor against Sam, who beat the Argentinian in a SF at last year’s Delray Beach Open on his way to the title. Should be a decent final between Ranoic, we suspect, and Sam or Juan.

Definitely some good tennis on the horizon this weekend (Monfils took the first set TB 7-5; those boys are mixing it up. This is what we’re talking about. Get ready Lucas!).

Some even bigger tennis is on next week’s horizon with the Dubai and Acapulco 500s ready to go.

The Dubai field includes four of the top-10, including Murray, Wawrinka and Federer. Monfils, Pouille and Berdych, and guys like Dan Evans, Muller and Verdasco appear to be in the draw, as well. In the end, we have the world #1, the seven-time winner and the defending champion (Wawrinka) set to do battle in Dubai, where they’re celebrating the tournament’s 25 year anniversary.

In Acapulco, Novak appears to have decided late to grab a wildcard and enter an already solid field who will be swapping ground-strokes there, between margaritas.

The field here is loaded, like I said: Djokovic, Raonic, Nadal, Cilic, Thiem, Zverev, Goffin, Del Potro, and Kyrgios, among others. Thiem is the defending champ.

As Dubai and Acapulco crown winners, we will be less than a week away from Indian Wells kicking-off, so what do we make of these early mosh pits of top guys sharpening their form before a huge and historically prized Masters tournament in southern California?

Tweet from Novak accompanying the image of Acapulco:

nole_twitter_mex-jpg-large

Great news! You’ll see me back on court next week in Acapulco at Did you miss me?

I suppose the most interesting point here is Djokovic “crashing the party” (making everyone, as some might suggest, spill their margaritas). Is there much to make of this seemingly strategic move?

On the one hand, people might have had Nadal ready to consolidate his Melbourne tennis, build his confidence going into the IW/MI double, continuing to find positive feedback at those HC 1000s before turning to his much beloved clay. Nadal continuing to gain confidence has to be on a few people’s radars.

Therefore, the thinking might go, the Djokovic wildcard might be seen as a chance to punish the Spaniard himself, quell some of that confidence and reestablish his “dominance”?

That’s too simple and too flawed.

I think it’s a smart move for Djokovic, still, to play Acapulco, against these boys, all of whom are looking for a solid warm-up for Indian Wells. No question. Why you weren’t in the field already, Novak, who knows. But I say smart to test your game against some top guys.

In fact, why wasn’t he already in the field? If he was resting until IW, this could be seen as a smart strategy/preparation, as well. Shake-off some more of the supposed burn-out. But that plan’s been scrapped for the must-sharpen-my-form-before-IW plan.

The only person Djokovic should be worried about at this point is Djokovic. Not sure he’s in the position to keep an eye on Nadal, try to send an early message to Rafa that Novak has the upper-hand, etc. Novak has many many other things to worry about than Rafa.

If you look at the Acapulco field (alongside the Dubai field), you realize the gentleman playing Dubai probably represent Novak’s biggest concerns, so if he is wanting to send an early message, maybe he should have tried to get a spot in that other 500.

In the end, Novak is playing for his own form and confidence, both of which have taken a beating since last year’s FO. We’ve all seen it.

I suspect he just needed a little warm-up, that Pepe wasn’t providing the best tennis prep on the planet, etc. Nothing more than that: Novak wants to smell a little ATP 500 blood before the desert bloodbath in Indian Wells in about two weeks.

And there’s a lot of pressure on Novak right now. I suspect he will be fine, but we have to see him actually fulfill this prophecy. Even Doha lacked the fulfillment to which we refer. Downplaying the Doha final win, like we did, turned-out to be spot-on. He was very vulnerable in Melbourne. Remember?

He isn’t crashing any party in Mexico. He’s trying to find his game, his confidence, the keys to his legacy since this is absolutely his time and place (Murray might disagree) and there are actually people (Roger and Rafa) trying to crash Novak’s party.

Should be very very interesting to watch.

First things first: I’m pulling for some boys to hit the ball well this weekend, mainly Tsonga, Pouille and the Gentle Giant. We want the fire-breathers bringing all sorts of monstrosity to Mexico, and the U.A.E. before descending on southern California, where I’ll be waiting.

Oh, Gasquet just took the 2nd set, so a decider it is.

Cheers!

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