DESPITE not featuring world number two Novak Djokovic – who remained in the draw despite being at home in Serbia due to vaccination restrictions entering United States – the remaining Top 20 players all committed to the 2022 BNP Paribas Open. The Indian Wells Masters 1000 event is stacked full of talent, with plenty of potential winners as the ATP Tour is at its most even it has been in years.
Qualifying is underway at Indian Wells, with the men’s singles to commence on Friday, March 11 (or early Saturday morning for Australians).
THE REIGNING CHAMPION: Cameron Norrie
Remarkably top ranked Brit Cameron Norrie is only one of two past winners at the event, joining three-time winner Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells. Nadal last won the event in 2013, with Djokovic since winning three consecutive titles here – making it five all up – whilst Roger Federer (one more for a total of five), Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem round out the most recent years. Unfortunately injury has claimed all three of them, and is the key reason why none are competing at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Last year the 21st seed Norrie defeated 29th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in a surprise final, coming from a set down to win, 3-6 6-4 6-1. He also defeated Grigor Dimitrov, Diego Schwartzman and Tommy Paul on his way to the final. In 2022, Norrie will likely take on the in-form Pedro Martinez in the Round of 64 before a potential final rematch with Basilashvili in the Round of 32. The draw only gets significantly harder from there with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev in Norrie’s quarter.
THE TOP SEED: Daniil Medvedev
Entering his first tournament as the official world number one – and also his first one as a nomad with no official country – Medvedev was also the top seed here last year. He reached the Round of 16 before running into a red-hot Dimitrov. Currently ranked second in the ATP Race, Medvedev is still yet to win a title this year, falling to Nadal at both the Australian Open an in Acapulco. Other than him, he has claimed four Top 15 wins, with his only other loss being the first of the year in a tight three-setter with Frenchman Ugo Humbert at the ATP Cup. Medvedev will likely take on Australian Alexei Popyrin in the second round, with Gael Monfils a potential third round matchup, whilst the Spanish duo of Carlos Alcaraz or Roberto Bautista Agut are Round of 16 chances. He could face Nadal yet again if both players reach the semi-finals of the event.
THE IN-FORM STARS: Rafael Nadal, Felix Auger-Aliassime & Stefanos Tsitsipas
It is hard to look past Nadal who has managed himself perfectly this year, coming in to play in Melbourne instead of the ATP Cup, winning in a weaker field. It did his Australian Open chances no harm though as the Spaniard won his 21st Grand Slam, then won at Acapulco to make it a perfect 15-0 in 2022. He takes on a likely Sebastian Korda in the second round, with Round of 16 clash against Denis Shapovalov or Reilly Opelka on the cards. Auger-Aliassime in third overall in the ATP Race, with the world number nine boasting a 15-4 record in 2022. He won his singles in the ATP Cup final, then reached the quarter finals at Melbourne Park and the final in Marseille. Since losing to Taylor Fritz in the opening match of 2022, he has only dropped matches to Medvedev (twice) and Andrey Rublev. He takes on a likely Botic Van de Zandschulp in the second round, with Marin Cilic and then Matteo Berrettini his next two opponents. Tsitsipas is fourth in the ATP Race and holds a 14-5 record this season, reaching he final in Rotterdam, semi-finals at Melbourne Park and Acapulco and quarter finals in Marseille. A second round match with Jack Sock or Juan Manuel Cerundolo is set to take place, with Karen Khachanov and then reigning champion Norrie the two most likely next opponents for the Greek star.
THE UNKNOWNS: Casper Ruud & Nick Kyrgios
Both these players have had limited preparations for the event, with Kyrgios just playing his second event this year – after the Australian Open – whilst Ruud’s only hard court experience came at the ATP Cup, before missing the Australian Open due to an ankle injury. He played down in Buenos Aires and won that title as the top seed, defeating Schwartzman in the final, but the puzzling aspect was playing one event on clay before coming back to hard court. He also lost to Alexander Bublik in his last match out at the Davis Cup on hard court. For Kyrgios, he had that outstanding battle with Medvedev at the Australian Open, but at the end of the day, he has played two matches all year, and it is hard to see exactly how he fares. These two do not like each other, but could be set for a third round contest. Kyrgios takes on Sebastian Baez and Federico Delbonis in the first two rounds, with Ruud having the bye before likely facing big improver Maxime Cressy. Far from set in stone, but their third round match would be a cracker.
THE DANGER: Carlos Alcaraz
The rising Spanish star is a future Grand Slam winner in the making, and he is just as dangerous on hard court as he is on clay. He is already up to the Top 20 in the world, and seeded 19th at the event. Taking on either Mackenzie McDonald or Marton Fucsovics in the second round, he will take on compatriot Bautista Agut in the Round of 32, and if he can get past that, he has top seed Medvedev.
MUST-WATCH FIRST ROUND MATCHES:
With all the seeds having byes into the second round – as part of a 96-player draw – the first round will only contain unseeded players. We take a look at the best potential matches.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Sebastian Baez
Filip Krajinovic vs. Dusan Lajovic
Mackenzie McDonald vs. Marton Fucsovics
Lorenzo Musetti vs. Marcos Giron
Grigor Dimitrov vs. Tommy Paul