The Ocho: Indian Wells Wrap-up


“The Eight” …. Every week, @tennispig will give his top eight ATP singles players and top eight ATP/WTA doubles teams from the previous week. It’s a great way to monitor who is hot … and who is not. This week, it’s a look back at Indian Wells.

1. Juan Martin Del Potro
Well who else is going to top the list than the champion of the tournament? NOBODY. Roger Federer may have been struggling some with back issues the last few rounds at Indian Wells, but all credit goes to Del Potro for the title win on Sunday. He had his back up against the wall with Federer serving for the match at 5-4 in the third with two match points. After blowing his own opportunity in the second set at 8-7 in the tiebreak to win, the Argentine fought off Fed and wound up rolling in the third set tiebreak to win his first Masters title. The win pushes DelPo into the 6th spot in the rankings and further cements him as the 1B to Federer’s 1A right now on the ATP World Tour.


2. Roger Federer
Federer is in this spot alone for the way he fought through in the semifinals against Borna Coric. With his back certainly effecting his play some, the Swiss was able to overcome the talented Croat 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. It was a match he looked like he was destined to lose, but came up with the goods at the right time to win. It helped him run off his 17th straight win to start the season, a personal best for Fed. Despite the loss, it’s clear that Federer is still the gold standard on tour and seemingly the field will need these physical issues to crop up from time to time to give them their best chances to KO the world number one.

3. Borna Coric
The fairy tale week for Coric looked like it was going to get the perverbial cherry on top with an unexpected win over Federer, but alas it was not to be. Still, it was a first for Coric with a run to a Masters 1000 semifinal. That included upset wins over seeds Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Roberto Bautista Agut and Kevin Anderson. The win zips the 21-year-old to #36 in the latest rankings, up 13 spots from last week. He’s also just three spots behind his career best ranking of #33.

4. Grigor Dimtirov
Back on the list for all the wrong reasons as Dimitrov once again could not solve Indian Wells. This time instead of surrendering himself in the third round, Dimitrov was knocked out in his first match in round two by Fernando Verdasco. He’s still ranked fourth, but he’s again struggling to live up to expectation. This Indian Wells-Miami double has been a trouble spot for him in his career, never advancing past round four in Miami and round three at Indian Wells. Dimitrov heads to Miami on a three match losing skid with two opening match losses in his last three tournaments.

5. John Isner/Jack Sock
Isner and Sock can’t get out of their own way in singles, but the Americans came together to win the doubles titles at Indian Wells this week. Isner and Sock are now 15-5 all-time when pairing up. For Sock, who has now dropped out of the top ten in singles to #11, it’s his second doubles title this season and 10th of his career. His two doubles titles equal the number of singles’ wins he’s been able to rack up this year at just 2-5. I’m also still blocked by him on Twitter, which is still fantastic to me. Isner is just 2-6 in 2018, but has chosen to let the Pig live his life by seeing the Isner tweets.


6. Su-wei Hsieh/Barbora Strycova
You can’t ask for anything more than winning a prestiguous doubles title as a first time pairing. That’s exactly what Hsieh and Strycova did this past week. The duo paired up at the last minute, literally signing up for doubles ten minutes before the entry deadline. They even tried to switch partners at the last minute, but it wasn’t allowed. Good thing, eh?

hey beat Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-4 for the titles. What is more impressive is that Hsieh paired up with a different partner for the second straight tournament to beat the 2nd ranked Russians. Hsieh paired with Shuai Peng in Dubai last week to knock off Makarova-Vesnina en route to the Dubai final. Hsieh is now ranked twice in the top right with Peng at #6 and Strycova at #8 after the big win at Indian Wells.

7. Bryan Brothers
The Bryans went another week without a title, but they continue to gain momentum. Bob and Mike moved up a notch to number two in the rankings with their finals run at Indian Wells. It was their second straight tournament final after doing the same in Acapulco. The key right now is that they are producing consistent results early on and getting deep in tournaments. They head to Miami where they have made the semifinals or final in five of the last six years.

8. Matteo Berrettini
I can hear the google search engine revving up for this one and go ahead – the Italian deserves some recognition with what he is doing right now. Berrettini snuck into the Indian Wells main draw and acquitted himself well with a three set, opening round loss to Daniil Medvedev. The 21-year-old was able to parlay that into a finals run at the Irving Tennis Classic on the Challenger circuit after losing in California. It was his second Challenger final in 2018, having notched a title win in Bergamo earlier in the season.


He also qualified for his first Grand Slam in Australia via qualifying, He is 1-3 in main draws at the ATP level this season, but looks to be a legitimate riser and one to watch for at this stage. Berrettini is at a career high #95 this week and that is quite an achievement for him, considering that he was in the 800s last year after missing a good chunk of 2016 due to a knee injury. Berrettini is a big kid at 6’4″ tall who has shown some prowess on both hard courts and clay on the lower levels. Keep an eye on him in Miami qualifying this week.


2018 BNP Paribas Open R4 Preview: Kevin Anderson vs Pablo Carreno Busta


(7) Kevin Anderson vs (11) Pablo Carreno Busta

Anderson Bidding for Another Deep Run

If you made a short list of the most consistent players on the ATP World Tour right now, Kevin Anderson would have to be in your top three. The South African has made three finals in the first two months of the season, winning one title in New York. He’s been his consistent self this week in the desert with 41 aces through two matches. Anderson has not been broken with just three break chances seen against his serve. His first serve win rate is averaging right at 80 percent and his second serve has been stout with a win rate over 70 percent. He came through his third round match with Nicolas Kicker in two tie breaks, bringing his record in breakers this season to 8-4. He’s won the last six that he has played.

For Carreno Busta, this has been a solid week with wins over Horacio Zeballos and Daniil Medvedev. Considering he’s had trouble winning his first match in tournaments for about half a year now, you might even say it’s been a great week. PCB edged Medvedev in the last round 6-1, 7-5. The Spaniard lived on the edge with 12 break points given off his serve, but he came up big in saving eleven. He will be happy to have improved his break conversion rate, taking four breaks off eight chances from the Russian. That came after he converted just two of 14 against Zeballos. PCB’s first serve win rate has been steady at around 73 percent. He’s been broken twice on 19 chances against his serve.

This marks their first meeting since last year’s U.S. Open semifinal. Anderson ousted Carreno Busta 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to run his record to 3-0 against the Spaniard. He had beaten him earlier in the summer in straight sets at the Rogers Cup and in their first meeting in Casablanca on clay back in 2013. In the U.S. Open meeting, Anderson’s big hitting style was the difference. He smacked 22 aces and had a superb 83 percent win rate off his first serve. He was broken twice on four chances. Carreno Busta by comparison, won just 64 percent off his first serve and was broken four times on 14 opportunities. The scoreline and stats pretty much mimicked their meeting in Montreal earlier in the season.

The Formula

The obvious bane of Carreno Busta’s existence today is going to be the Anderson serve. How does he do better against it? He has broken it twice in each of the last two matches and at least once all three times they have played. So, it’s not indestructible – but PCB needs to do more in order to win today. In looking back to their U.S. Open clash, Anderson was hitting his spots very well with his serve. Carreno Busta’s best efforts came when he was able to keep the ball low on return and force Anderson from hitting in his strike zone. I think that is a key if PCB is going to contend today.

I’d look for Carreno Busta to go wide and up-the-T consistently on serve in an effort to stretch Anderson east and west. if he can get Anderson off balance in return, then he has a chance to employ that same strategy of using the next shot to keep the ball low and have Anderson on the run. For Anderson, he just needs to make solid contact in return. Both his forehand and backhand returns are solid and he has shown that if he gets the ball back with depth – he’s going to turn aggressive quickly from there off the ground.

I think the big problem for Carreno Busta in the ground rallies is that he can’t hit as big as Anderson and he’s not always aggressive with his strokes. Anderson is going to be the opposite. Every chance he has, he’s going to hit big and move forward to cut off the court. This is again where hitting the low ball can help equalize some of Anderson’s advantage on the ground. The problem is PCB doing that consistently is unlikely. I think it requires time to set up and make the shot, and Anderson’s aggressive ground game likely won’t allow for enough opportunities.

The Pig-nosticator

Anderson’s consistency all-around has been a big factor in his rise into the top ten and even more so with his results early in 2018. Carreno Busta is still trying to recapture that same form from the last time that they met. I think the Spaniard will have trouble keeping pace with Anderson’s service holds as the match wears on. His best chance may be to stick even with the 7th seed early and hope to catch him with a late wobble in a set to steal one. He’ll also need to avoid the Anderson forehand.

I don’t think the stats or past results lie in this match up. Carreno Busta can grind and make Anderson work, but it’s usually Big Kev who overwhelms him by match’s end. Based on what we’ve see from Anderson this week with his serve and groundies, I think that is likely a result that will be replicated today against PCB. I won’t discount Carreno Busta from taking a set, but I do think Anderson edges this one in the end to advance to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Kevin Anderson wins in straight sets

2018 BNP Paribas Open R3 Preview: Jack Sock vs Feliciano Lopez


(8) Jack Sock vs (28) Feliciano Lopez

Opportunity Beckons

This quarter of the draw opened up some with the early exit for fourth seed Alexander Zverev. Seeds Diego Schwartzman and Kyle Edmund have also been erased early, leaving Sock as the top remaining seed in the quarter. Lopez meanwhile has quietly made three quarterfinals this season, including last week in Acapulco. The 36-year-old will be seeking his first win against a top ten opponent since he beat Marin Cilic for the Queen’s Club title on grass last summer. Both players got through their openers in straight sets with Sock beating Thomas Fabbiano 6-2, 7-5. Lopez defeated Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 6-3.

Sock looked destined to go the distance against the Italian as he trailed 2-5 in set two. The American would reel off five straight games though to close out the match in two. Sock was pretty solid overall with an 80 percent win rate on first serve and 61 percent on second. He smashed seven aces and was broken just once on two chances. The 8th seed would manage four breaks of serve against Fabbiano on eight opportunities. He did a lot of work against the Italian’s second serve, taking 62 percent of the points played.

Lopez was in a superb rhythm on serve with 16 aces for his match against Escobedo. He never faced a break point and dominated with an 87 percent win rate off his first serve. The Spaniard was also solid on second serve, taking 67 percent of the points. When Lopez is in that sort of rhythm, he’s still very capable of pulling off upsets of higher seeded players like Sock. He did enough in return to secure three breaks of serve against Escobedo on six chances.

The Formula

This is match number four between these two with Sock leading 2-1. The last meeting came on clay in Houston last Spring, where Sock prevailed in three sets. Sock also won in 2016 on hard courts in Shanghai in three sets with Lopez’ lone win coming indoors in 2013 in Memphis. The Houston clash was very close with the Spaniard actually winning more points in the match (100-98) despite losing 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-4. The match was very even with both winning right around 60 percent of their service points.

One of the biggest challenges for Lopez in the two most recent meetings has been with the amount of break points that he has allowed Sock to see. Sock has seen 21 over those last two matches, while allowing Lopez to see just 12. Interestingly though, both players secured six breaks of serve total. So Lopez has done a better job with fewer chances, but still has been unable to get a win. For Lopez, a big part of his attack will be going after Sock’s backhand both in return and off the ground. It’s by far the weaker wing for the American with his forehand still a fearsome shot when it’s in rhythm.

Let’s start on serve. When Lopez attacks the backhand return of Sock, he can definitely control the points quickly if he’s showing the power and precision he did against Escobedo. When Lopez is able to stretch Sock or body him to cause weak returns, he’s shown that he is unafraid to move in and finish at the net. The Spaniard’s doubles skills come in handy there and he’s still a good volleyer and mover at 36. I think Sock needs to be decisive and aggressive off his backhand return. He may not get the ball past Lopez when he moves in, but he can’t give him easy layups at the net.

For Sock, it is usually about rhythm and avoiding second serves. In three of his four losses this season, his second serve win rate as been 46 percent or under. Not surprisingly, he has been broken 15 times in those matches on 29 chances. In his two wins in 2018, his second serve win rate has been 60 percent or better and he was broken just once. I think where Sock struggles on serve is just sometimes seemingly not being precise enough and not always seemingly serving with a purpose. When he puts oomph on his serve and is precise, he has great depth and can push the returner back. For me, consistently doing that is what is separating him from doing greater things with his talent.

When they get into ground rallies, both have big forehands and both will do well to aim more for the backhand of the other. Both Sock and Lopez do employ a slice on their backhand and I think it’s Lopez who does a bit more with it. Sock tries to use it to run around to the forehand, but sometimes just seems to use it to use it. I’d rather see him go with the double hander with more power. If he goes with the slice without purpose too much, Lopez can move in and pound the forehand. If Sock is going to float the slice to Lopez, he needs to put enough on it to keep it on Lopez’ backhand.

The Pig-nosticator

This is certainly a big moment for both. For Sock, it is a chance to jump start a poor start to 2018 and it couldn’t come at a better time with a lot of points to defend in Indian Wells and Miami. The winner gets either Sam Querrey or Yuki Bhambri for a realistic shot at a Masters quarterfinal. For Sock, I think it’s about finding the serve early and avoid second serves, where Lopez can step in a be aggressive. For the Spaniard, he needs that big first serve like he had working against Escobedo. When he’s got that working, he’s free to be aggressive and will use some serve and volley to add pressure to Sock.

Based on their previous history, I think you can expect this one to be competitive unless one of them shows up flat. I think Sock’s comeback against Fabbiano after faltering early in the second set could actually be a big benefit to his confidence. He will know now that if he keeps grinding, he can persevere through adversity. Lopez for me has the game to win this match, but he’s more prone at his age to looking fantastic in one match and then going a bit flat in the next. I don’t know that he’ll fall apart here, but I think if Sock can keep his game dynamic with the forehand and first serve – this is his to win.

Prediction: Sock wins in three sets

2018 BNP Paribas Open R2 Preview: Tomas Berdych vs Hyeon Chung


(12) Tomas Berdych vs (23) Hyeon Chung

Chung Looking to Rekindle Early Season Magic

Hyeon Chung made a name for himself at the Australian Open with an unexpected semifinal run. Since then, he’s been consistent, but not quite as spectacular as what we saw down under. He’s gone 5-2 since returning from his blister issues in Australia. That includes a first round battle against Dusan Lajovic in Indian Wells. Chung escaped the first round with a 6-7 (9), 6-3, 6-3 win. Chung worked over the Serb’s serve, seeing an incredible 23 break chances in the match. The 21-year-old would convert on eight of those as he took 48 percent of the points off of Lajovic’s serve. Chung’s serve wasn’t that great either. The South Korean was broken five times off 15 opportunities. He won just 65 percent of his first serve points and 52 percent off his second serve.

Berdych got his campaign at the BNP Paribas Open off to a blistering start as he dominated with a big first serve en route to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Maximillian Marterer. The 12th seed won 88 percent of the first serve points and was broken just one time on three break points seen by the German. His second serve was far less at just a 48 percent win rate. Berdych landed 59 percent of his first serves, a number he will want to repeat or better against a much better returner in Chung. The Czech took advantage of Marterer’s inability to consistently land his own first serve at just 40 percent. Berdych would win 56 percent of the second serve points and break the German four times.

The Formula

This is meeting number three between Berdych and Chung. Their last came on clay last year in Lyon, where Berdych prevailed 6-3, 7-5. Their first meeting was in 2015 in Miami where Berdych won 6-3, 6-4. Serve has been a huge advantage for Berdych in the past against Chung. His first has been particularly effective with a 77 percent win rate in the two previous meetings. Chung’s first serve win rate by comparison is just a shade over 66 percent. Where the South Korean really got into trouble was his second serve. Berdych has won 21/34 second serve points played against Chung. That’s an obvious key for this clash as well. Chung will need to avoid second serves at key points or he’ll be in trouble of Berdych taking him down in straights again.

I do think Chung has a bit more confidence now in return, but he will need to find his best against a power first serve. Watching some of the tape from their Lyon meeting, it was apparent that Berdych’s power bothered Chung, even on clay. Though Indian Wells is a slower hard court, that still doesn’t bode well for the 23rd seed. Berdych attacked the backhand return of Chung fairly consistently and went he went to the forehand side, he did a good job of stretching Chung wide. That left the other half of the court open for a quick finish quite a few times from the Czech. Overall, his power and precision are going to be a problem for Chung again if Berdych is in rhythm.

As for Chung’s serve, it should be a bit better than their last meeting as he’s worked on his footwork to enhance his power. He’s still inconsistent on serve though and that can get him into trouble against big hitters like Berdych. For Chung, avoiding second serves has to be a large part of the game plan. Berdych was very aggressive in return when Chung was forced to second serves, stepping inside the baseline and getting good contact. That often left him in control of the rallies from there, which were usually short and too much for Chung due to Berdych’s better court position and power off a weak second serve.

Some of Chung’s best work on serve in that match came when he targeted Berdych out wide from both the deuce and ad court. It didn’t matter if it was Berdych’s forehand or backhand side, the key was getting the Czech stretched in return. Chung will need to be very precise with his serves to achieve that consistently. When he was not in that last meeting, Berdych’s depth in return really bothered him and Chung was left backing up too much or off balance with bad footwork.

In the ground battle, Berdych has had few problems going baseline to baseline with Chung. His power off both wings has given Chung problems and left the Czech controlling quite a bit of the action from a neutral position on the baseline. For Chung to succeed, he’s got to change that and get Berdych on the move. A stationary Berdych from the baseline is going to kill him with the depth of his ground strokes. An in-motion Berdych will be challenged to make shots and Chung can try to enhance that struggle by hitting the ball lower to make him forced to stretch and make difficult running shots. Chung is certainly a better shot maker on-the-run for me in this match-up, so he’s got to do well in return if he’s going to bother Berdych and use that sort of strategy.

The Pig-nosticator

I do think this is a different version of Chung that Berdych will see versus the last time about ten months ago. His confidence is higher and I think his game all-around has certainly improved. The issue here is power. If you hearken back to the Australian Open and Chung’s first “big” win over Alexander Zverev – how did he neutralize the power advantage of Sascha? He kept the German running and running and running some more in rallies. That’s what he has to do with Berdych to have the chance to score the upset.

The issue there is that Berdych’s first serve can negate a lot of that opportunity. A key stat to watch will be Berdych’s first serve percentage as well as his first serve win rate. If he’s landing his first serve close to 60 percent and winning at a rate in the high 70s or over 80 percent, I don’t think Chung has much chance. For Chung, a massive key will be not giving any breaks of serve right back. Against Lajovic in round one, he gave back a service break in the next game twice. He was fortunate to cancel that out by breaking back again in the next game. I don’t think he will get those sort of chances against Berdych.

I don’t see a ton here that says Berdych won’t again have too much power for Chung in this match-up over the course of three sets. This may not be as straight forward as their previous meetings, but unless Chung can find better results on serve and figure out how to consistently get Berdych moving east to west in the ground battle – I think Berdych takes this one.

Prediction: Berdych wins in three sets

2018 BNP Paribas Open R2 Preview: John Isner vs Gael Monfils


(15) John Inser vs Gael Monfils

Isner Looks to Resurrect Himself

John Isner will hope that a trip to Indian Wells will cure what ails his 2018 season. Thus far, Isner is just 1-5 with four opening match losses out of five tournaments played. The American has made the fourth round in three of the last four years at the BNP Paribas Open, but faces a stiff challenge from Gael Monfils. Monfils leads the head-to-head 5-4 and whipped Isner at this very tournament last year 6-2, 6-4. It was the fourth win for the Frenchman in their last five meetings. Isner’s lone win in that stretch came at the 2013 U.S. Open.

Monfils came to Indian Wells off of a solid run through the South American clay swing, where he made the quarterfinals or better in Quito, Buenos Aires and Rio. He’s already played a match at Indian Wells, beating Matthew Ebden 6-3, 6-3 in round one. Monfils will be seeking to make the fourth round for a third straight season at Indian Wells. He made the fourth round, losing to Dominic T hiem last year. In 2016, he made the quarterfinals – his best finish at the BNP Paribas Open.

The Formula

Last year’s match between these two was their first since 2014. It was a night match, whereas this year’s tussle will be first up at 11:00 am local time. Monfils’ wins the last two teams have featured the Frenchman going through in straight sets without dishing out any break chances. Monfils had plenty of success targeting the backhand return of the American and you can bet that will be at the top of the list again on Sunday. He did a nice job of stretching Isner wide and that was usually a winning run of play from the Frenchman that followed. He can take the short ball and finish with aggression as he moves in, typically finishing with a power forehand.

Isner will set up deep in return, hoping to get some big swings. If Monfils is hitting his marks though, Isner isn’t likely to trouble him much. Monfils won 68 percent of his first serve points against Ebden and was broken only once. I would expect that win rate to be higher against Isner. In the last to wins against Big John, Monfils has averaged right around an 80 percent win rate with his first serve. He has actually out aced Isner 14-13 in those matches, but generally does his damage without getting that many freebies. Isner will have to hope Monfils is off his game some on serve and generally should try to be as aggressive as possible to keep Monfils pinned back to the baseline.

As for Isner’s serve, you will see Monfils set up at least a foot behind the baseline when Isner is prepping for his ball toss. From there, the Frenchman mixed it up in their last meeting. He would move back to the baseline a few times and also stayed set in that deep position as well. Isner was adept at taking the short ball off of any returns that Monfils did not get much on. He moved in well and looked to finish off the rally quickly on the next shot. Isner definitely does not want to get into very many long baseline exchanges with Monfils. We know who plays better defense and we know that a fatigued Isner is a less effective serving Isner.

The Pig-nosticator

Isner’s numbers are a tick below his career averages this season. His win rates on 1st and 2nd serve are at 76 and 54 percent, down two percent in both categories over his career numbers. The biggest difference in his game so far this season has been his inability to save break chances as well as he has in the past. His career average is 70 percent. This season, he’s saving just 52 percent of the break chances against his serve. Monfils converted four of six break chances against Isner and converts at a 46 percent clip this season. Over the past year, he ranks in the top 20 in that category.

Obviously that makes this a not-so-great match-up for Isner with his current struggles. I think if he has any shot to ward off Monfils in this one, it stems from building his confidence with some early success. Isner has lost the first set in all six matches he has played in 2018. He’s only come back the one time against Radu Albot in Delray Beach to capture a win. Isner has also been very poor in tie breaks this season,just 1-5. His career wing percentage in breakers is around 61 percent.

I think it’s a pretty straight forward formula for Monfils. Hold serve and see if Isner cracks under pressure as he has been prone to do this season. Until he proves different, I’d go against Isner avoiding the upset on Sunday.

Prediction: Monfils wins in three sets