2017 BNP Paribas Open Preview

BNP2017

The Mini-Major

The first of this year’s nine Masters 1000 events kicks off this week in Indian Wells, California with the BNP Paribas Open. Indian Wells is often referred to as the “mini Major” due to its 96 played field, the largest of the season outside of the Grand Slam tournaments. It’s also traditionally the point in the season where the men start separating themselves from the boys. Right now, Andy Murray is still the main man at #1 and he comes in with the Dubai title in tow after last week’s exploits. It was a near perfect week as far as the Scot was concerned as he won the tournament for the first time and also saw his nearest foe, Novak Djokovic, get beat earlier-than-expected in Acapulco.

As such, Murray has a hefty cushion atop the ATP rankings with Djokovic set to defend champion’s points both at Indian Wells and Miami in March. It could be a chance for Murray to put a huge stranglehold on the top spot if Djokovic cannot rediscover his killer instinct. Murray’s closest competition after Djokovic is third ranked Stan Wawrinka who is over 6,000 points behind Murray for the top spot. A win this week for Murray coupled with any sort of loss for Djokovic should keep Murray primed to stay in the #1 seat for quite a while barring injury.

Djokovic Seeks History This Week

Novak Djokovic is back this year as the defending champ and he’s out for a slice of history. The Serb has won this event three years in a row and a fourth consecutive title would place him as the only player in the history of this 40 year tournament to accomplish that feat. Roger Federer was the last player to win Indian Wells three times in a row from 2004-2006. Last year, Djokovic defeated Milos Raonic for the title. Only Roger Federer has been equal to Djokovic’s accomplishment of three straight Indian Wells’ crowns. Djokovic already owns the all-time record for most titles at this event with five and is tied for most finals’ appearances with Federer at six.

Large Draw Means Top Tier Players

With the larger field of players, most of the big boys will be involved this week in California. One notable exception will be Milos Raonic, who announced his withdrawal from the tournament late on Monday due to a hamstring injury. Andy Murray tops the field and should arrive with confidence after taking the Dubai title. Murray hasn’t fared that well at Indian Wells though with just one trip to the final in 2009. He was a third round casualty last year against Federico Delbonis and has failed to get past the quarterfinals four of the last five years. He’ll certainly be out to change that in 2017.

Djokovic will be seeded second and hope that one of his best tournaments can be the catalyst for change. The Serb lost in the quarterfinals last week in Acapulco to Nick Kyrgios and has still been seemingly just a bit off his game. Indian Wells has been a pleasure ground for Djokovic through with a career mark of 47-6 here. He has won the title five times and you have to go back to 2010 to find him getting beaten before the semifinals. In fact, only in 2006 and 2010 has he failed to make it as far as the quarterfinals in his eleven trips here.

This week’s third seed, Stan Wawrinka, has had a devil of a time making a big run at this tournament. He is 17-9 all-time at the BNP Paribas Open with two quarterfinal trips as his best finishes. He has lost in the fourth round or earlier each of the last five years. The Stanimal was a disappointing early exit in Dubai. As usual, beware of “Non-Slam” Stan in this situation. Indian Wells may be a big-time tournament, but that hasn’t meant big time performances from Wawrinka who seems to save those still more exclusively for Grand Slams.

Kei Nishikori will look to steady an up and down beginning to his 2017 campaign in Indian Wells as the fourth seed. Nishikori has made two finals this year, but lost in the opening round in Acapulco his last time out. That was a bit predictable as he was making a quick turnaround from clay to hard courts in the span of just a couple of days. Nishikori is only 7-8 in his career at Indian Wells, but this year’s fifth seed did make his first quarterfinal at Indian Wells last year in his 8th trip out west.

Nadal Trends Big

Rafael Nadal’s surge back towards the top five gained more steam in Acapulco last week, but ended with a hugely disappointing finals loss to Sam Querrey. Rafa will still feel good about his progress this season, having made the final in two of three tournaments played. Indian Wells has always suited Nadal pretty well with a 48-9 mark overall. This week’s fifth seed has won here three times and made it to the quarterfinals at-minimum in ten of his 12 appearances. The slow conditions usually found at Indian Wells definitely play to Rafa’s strengths, so he’ll expect to make that 11 of 13 with another deep run this year.

Marin Cilic comes to Indian Wells as the 6th seed with a bit of momentum after making the Acapulco semifinals. That was the second straight tournament where he made the quarterfinals or better after going 1-3 in his first three tournaments of the season. The conditions here had not played well to Cilic’s game, but he did make the quarterfinals for the first time in 2016. That boosted his overall record at the tournament to 9-9. The Croat should still have a big red flag attached though as he has lost in the third round or earlier seven of nine times he has played at Indian Wells.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brings a solid 17-3 record for the year to Indian Wells as the 7th seed, where he has had some modest success. The Frenchman has made the quarterfinals in two of his last three trips. He has lost his opener twice though in 2011 and 2014. Do the math there and you might not be that excited for JWT this week. Still, he’s healthy and playing well with two indoor titles in 2017. He’s also made the quarterfinals of each of the five tournaments he has played in so far this season.

Dominic Thiem (8) slides into Indian Wells with a good record at 14-6 this season. He won a title on clay in Rio and is 6-3 outdoors on hard courts this season. At 23, this will only be Thiem’s fourth excursion to Indian Wells. Last year’s fourth round showing was his best. He did lose his opener to James Duckworth in 2015. You would figure the slower conditions here to play well for Thiem, so it could just be a matter of experience and a good draw before the Austrian busts out with a big run.

Roger Federer returns to Indian Wells after a one year absence. Like Djokovic, Fed has enjoyed a mountain of success at this tournament with a 52-11 record and four titles. His worst recent finish was back in 2010, when he was dumped out in round three by Marcos Baghdatis. Since then, Federer has made the quarters or better each year since 2011 with three trips to the final. His last title however came in 2012.

Gael Monfils arrived at Indian Wells with some moderate success this season, but just nine matches under his belt. He’s 6-3, but was a disappointing to loser to eventual Dubai finalist Fernando Verdasco last week in the quarterfinals. Monfils had not had much success at the BNP Paribas Open until last year when he made the quarters. Prior to that, Monfils was just 3-7 during his career at Indian Wells. He’s been a first-up loser four times here and despite the productivity last year will be on the list of players who will need to be alert to upset possibilities in their openers.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
Andy Murray (1)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7)
David Goffin (11)
Roberto Bautista Agut (16)
Pablo Carreno Busta (21)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (22)
Pablo Cuevas (27)
Feliciano Lopez (30)

Breakdown: Top Half
Murray could not have crafted a much nicer draw than this one in my opinion. His early draw should be largely uneventful with Yen-Hsun Lu, Frances Tiafoe and Feliciano Lopez as the main bumps to getting to the fourth round. Lopez has had a poor start to the season in singles and has been just average (12-14) at Indian Wells. He did make the quarterfinals in 2015, but was beaten routinely by Murray 6-3, 6-4. Bautista Agut and Carreno Busta would be the seeds in his way to a quarterfinal and would pose the more significant threats. Murray is 3-0 vs RBA however without dropping a set in those meetings. RBA has been a third round out the last two tries at this tournament, so he may not even get another shot.

Carreno Busta has continued well this season at 12-6 and the conditions in California could aid him a bit. This will be just his fourth trip to the BNP Paribas Open though with last year being the first time for him to win a main draw match at this tournament. His path looks nice with a qualifier or serve machine Reilly Opelka due up first. A tasty third round clash with RBA could be on deck with the two splitting a pair of meetings at this level. PCB won the last at Winston-Salem in 2016, while RBA outlasted him in five sets at the U.S. Open in 2015. RBA has either Juan Monaco or Adrian Mannarino standing in the way of that all-Spanish clash.

X-Factor: Frances Tiafoe
The young American will be the one to watch in this half. He debuted last year at Indian Wells and nearly took down David Goffin in round two, losing in a third set tiebreak. That’s been a bug-a-boo for the 19-year-old; finding a way to close out matches with wins. He’s often found himself in positions to win as he did last week against Juan Martin Del Potro in Acapulco, but he again fell in a third set breaker. Cast into Murray’s portion of the draw, the third round looks like his best finish here if everything falls correct. That would still be a fantastic result for him. Tiafoe needs to start finding the Ws instead of just being that guy that puts a scare into higher ranked players, but falters in the end.

Breakdown: Bottom Half
Tsonga and Goffin are the highest seeds in this part of the quarter with a lot in their paths to a potential quarterfinal showdown. Tsonga has been playing extremely solid tennis, looking healthy for the first time in a few years. He may not have an easy first match though with Fabio Fognini a probable opponent. The Italian opens against Konstantin Kravchuk. Fognini is hit or miss as usual, but he’s played Tsonga tough despite going 0-4 against him. I’d expect a Tsonga win, but it could be tight. Goffin also could be in for a tricky start with either Tommy Robredo or Karen Khachanov as his opener. Khachanov has been reminiscent of Tiafoe in that he usually plays higher ranked opponents tough, but has failed to convert wins with just a 2-8 mark this season.

Goffin also has some tough customers in his part of the quarter with Damir Dzumhur, Ryan Harrison and Ramos-Vinolas (22). The 26-year old Belgian will earn every win he gets, but Indian Wells was good to him last year with a semifinal run. He beat both Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic on that path. Tsonga has Cuevas as the only other seed near him en route to the quarters. Cuevas has only made it past round two once in four trips to Indian Wells, so likely won’t be a factor in blocking Tsonga. The other floaters in this section are Martin Klizan and Thiago Monteiro, who face off in round one.

Bottom Line
There seems to be little here to give cause to an unseeded uprising. Murray, Tsonga and Goffin are the class of this quarter and likely will show that in the end. If there is a bit of a mild shock in this quarter, my eyes still spy Carreno Busta as the guy who might be able to pull something off. The biggest question though figures tot be who plays opposite of Murray in the quarterfinals; Tsonga or Goffin? Tsonga got Goffin in Rotterdam to take a 4-2 head-to-head lead, but they’ve never faced off outdoors on a hard surface. It shouldn’t matter much with Murray a combined 19-2 against Goffin and Tsonga.

Quarter #2 Seeds
Stan Wawrinka (3)
Dominic Thiem (8)
Gael Monfils (10)
Tomas Berdych (13)
Ivo Karlovic (19)
John Isner (20)
Philipp Kohlschreiber (28)
Mischa Zverev (29)

Breakdown: Top Half
Alert! Alert! Alert! Non-Slam Stan is in the building. Karma could place Wawrinka into an immediate deja-vu setting as he faces either Robin Haase or Paolo Lorenzi to start his campaign. Haase comes off a solid week in Dubai, where he made the semifinals. Haase is 1-6 against Wawrinka, but the one win? You guessed it – it came at Indian Wells in 2015. There are plenty of other land mines in Wawrinka’s half if he survives that one. Berdych, Karlovic and Kohlschreiber are the seeds in that half and you also have two more dangermen in Alexandr Dolgopolov and Viktor Troicki floating around. The good thing for Wawrinka is Dolgopolov and Troicki square off in round one. Troicki is 2-0 in that match-up, but has lost his last four openers at Indian Wells. Dog is 10-6 at this tournament and made the semifinals in 2014. As always, he could lose early or make a big run – you just don’t ever know.

Berdych has done fairly well here with a 20-12 mark and a semifinal trip in 2013. He’s made the fourth round or better six of the last seven times he has played Indian Wells. Karlovic’s serve has rarely translated to wins here with a 10-11 career record that includes no trips past round two in his last four tries. Kohlschreiber is 13-10 carer-wise at the BNP Paribas Open with the fourth round as his best finish twice in 2009 and 2011. He hasn’t won successive matches here though since 2011 and has a couple first-up losses in the last five years. Facing Dolgopolov or Troicki might add to that tally.

Breakdown: Bottom Half
Thiem’s section in this half could be innocent enough. He may see Jeremy Chardy to open or a qualifier. Mischa Zverev would be the seed standing his way to a fourth round berth. Zverev has been bolstered by his Australian Open quarterfinal run, but he’s on a three match losing skid in ATP play since, four if you count a Davis Cup loss. His 2-5 record at Indian Wells won’t breed much confidence either. He opens against Joao Sousa or Diego Schwartzman. Both Sousa and Schwartzman only have one win each in their careers at this tournament. It’s a toss-up whether Mischa survives his opener in my eyes. Thiem should have little excuse not to have himself in position to play for a quarterfinal spot.

The other half sees Monfils as the lead seed with a rougher potential out in John Isner (20). Those two have split eight career meetings, but none have come since 2014. Isner has made the fourth round or better in four of his last five times visiting the desert. He hasn’t progressed past the fourth round however since a 2014 semifinal run. Monfils as previously laid out, made the quarters last year, but that was his lone good experience here. He failed to take advantage of some big losses last week in Dubai, but again has the look of a potential threat this week based on his draw. He gets a qualifier to start and then perhaps Isner in the third. Isner faces either Jordan Thompson or Dmitry Tursunov in his opener. Isner’s results in 2017 have been poor at 4-4, but he should at least get the shot at Monfils.

Bottom Line
This quarter also looks made for a seed to advance, but it could well be one with double digits next to his name. I’d favor Thiem of the top tier seeds to advance, but he’s no shoe-in to get there. Berdych could sneak through this quarter if someone does the business of taking out Wawrinka for him. The Stanimal has won six straight against the Berdman. If not, perhaps this is Thiem vs Monfils for a quarterfinal spot. Thiem is 2-0 against La Monf.

Quarter #3 Seeds
Kei Nishikori (4)
Marin Cilic (6)
Grigor Dimitrov (12)
Lucas Pouille (14)
Jack Sock (17)
Sam Querrey (23)
Gilles Muller (25)
Marcel Granollers (32)

Breakdown: Top Half
A tough task here for Cilic in this half with Dimitrov, Sock and Granollers as the other seeds. Cilic does arrive in better form and has the quarterfinal finish to build off from last year, but he’s still normally had some issues at Indian Wells (9-9). An opener against the survivor or Benoit Paire and Taylor Fritz won’t be easy. Cilic beat Paire earlier this season in Rotterdam to move to 3-1 against the Frenchman, but he’s been taken the distance each time they have played. Paire has only played IW three times, losing twice in his opener. Fritz seeks his first main draw win here. He lost a three setter to Tiafoe last year. The California native could be keyed up to get his season boosted with a win. If Cilic can avoid defeat early, then he could roll to the fourth round with only Granollers as a seed in his way. Nicolas Mahut or Malek Jaziri would face the Spaniard first.

The other section sees more difficulty to the seeds with Dimitrov and Sock having some real talent to contend with in order to advance. This has been a rough tournament for Dimitrov traditionally with the third round being his exit point as his best finish in five tries. He’ll have one of two Russians to open against, either Mikhail Youzhny or Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev is an uber-talented 21-year-old who already has made his first ATP final this season along with two quarterfinals. Expect him to be in position to push Dimitrov out the door if the Bulgarian can’t find his game here. Sock looks likely to play Borna Coric in his opener with the Croat getting a qualifier to open. Sock’s best finish at IW was the fourth round in 2015. Last year, he lost to Thiem in round three. He’s 1-1 vs Coric with that stinging defeat coming in Davis Cup play on home soil for the American.

X-Factors: Daniil Medvedev and Borna Coric
Pick your poison between these two. I think both will have their chances to score a scalp this week and advance to at least the third round. If both pull off that job, they could face each other there with a fourth round trip on the line. Medvedev has been the more consistent player, but he’s also got perhaps the tougher potential foe in Dimitrov. Still, the Russian has got game and is getting more and more experience against Top 20 players. A win isn’t that far off for him.

Breakdown: Bottom Half
Nishikori and Pouille are the lead seeds with the heavy serves of Querrey and Muller as the other two seeds in this section. Querrey of course is coming off a shocking, yet phenomenal title run in Acapulco. Querrey is 13-11 at IW, but has not made it as far as the fourth round since 2013. Muller has lost his first match here two of the last three times he’s visited. He could have a tough start with Jiri Vesely likely to face him. The Czech must beat Renzo Olivo to earn that spot. As for Nishikori, difficulty lies in round two with either Daniel Evans or Dustin Brown. Evans and Brown play for the second straight week after Evans dusted Brown in Dubai in straights. Evans and Nishikori have split two meetings with Nishikori winning in Davis Cup play in straight sets last year, while Evans stunned Nishikori at the U.S. Open in 2013. A good battle could be seen if that is indeed the match-up.

If Nishikori avoids an early loss, he should have a good chance to get in position for a quarterfinal berth. Muller is the only seed who could block him from the fourth round and Nishikori is 3-0 against the lumbering lefty. Pouille and Querrey are in the other section as the seeds with Pouille to open against a qualifier or Jan-Lennard Struff. Pouille has turned his season around with a final in Marseille and a semifinal last time out in Dubai. He’s short on experience with one match, a loss last year, as his only time at Indian Wells. Querrey will contend with Donald Young or Stefan Kozlov to start. Young has made the third round twice, but also has been a first-up casualty three times in five main draw appearances. Don’t sleep on Kozlov, although he’s just 3-8 in limited ATP appearances.

Bottom Line
There’s some room for upheaval in this quarter. Maybe not to the point of an unseeded player getting through, but there are a couple who could contend for a quarterfinal spot if all things fall well for them. Medvedev, Coric and perhaps even Paire if he can summon the off switch in his #FrenchBrain. Cilic could slide through here by verge of a more favorable draw. Nishikori-Pouille could be a very intriguing fourth round possibility. Nishikori has had adequate to regroup from the difficult loss in Buenos Aires to Dolgopolov in the final and subsequent lightning quick turnaround and loss in Rio’s opener to Thomaz Bellucci. I think if he wins early, he rolls late and gets through.

Quarter #4 Seeds
Novak Djokovic (2)
Rafael Nadal (5)
Roger Federer (9)
Nick Kyrgios (15)
Alexander Zverev (18)
Steve Johnson (24)
Fernando Verdasco (26)
Juan Martin Del Potro (31)

Breakdown: Top Half
Group of Death anyone? Holy Cow. Djokovic. Nadal. Federer. Respect the randomness of the draw because organizers certainly would rather see all three of those guys playing late in the tournament than fighting each other for one spot in the semifinals. On top of that, there’s also Kyrgios, Sascha Zverev, Dubai finalist Fernando Verdasco and Del Potro! This almost seems like a Trump-made draw, doesn’t it? We’re doing big things with this quarter, it’s going to be heavy on big names, names so big that they are going to bigly blow your mind. They have and this quarter rightfully should be labelled the “Group of Death.”

After getting our first #Fedal clash in about 14 months earlier this season in the Australian Open Final, could we get a second this week? It’s possible. Nadal and Federer are seeded here to meet in the fourth round. Rafa will have had time to shake off the Acapulco disappointment and an opener against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Guido Pella will do nicely. GGL and Pella have had trouble picking up wins, but both have had some success at Indian Wells. Pella made round three last year. They’ve split two career meetings, both coming on clay. Nadal is 3-1 vs GLL, but has never played Pella. Verdasco is the other seed in this section. He’s got Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Thomaz Bellucci first-up. ‘Nando has been good at Indian Wells with a 15-13 mark and has only lost his opener twice in 13 visits. Nadal-Verdasco is a distinct possibility with Rafa beating him their last meeting in 2016 at Indian Wells. Verdasco still owns all three of his career victories vs Rafa over the last five meetings. He is 3-15 against him overall.

Federer tries to put the Donskoy disappointment from Dubai in the rear-view this week as he opens against either Stephane Robert or Dudi Sela. That should be a relative cake walk for the Swiss. Round three would be a shade tougher with Steve Johnson, Kevin Anderson or a qualifier waiting. Fed has won comfortable against Johnson and Anderson in the past however. I think Federer will do his part to make #Fedal meeting #2 of 2017 possible. It’s up to Rafa as to whether or not he gets there. Verdasco being the biggest road block.

Breakdown: Bottom Half
Let’s start with poor Novak Djokovic, who just cannot escape the shadow of Del Potro. Yep. There he is again, looming as a third round hurdle for Djokovic with this draw. A win by the Serb over DelPo in Acapulcio won’t really ease his anxiety of that potential blockbuster as DelPo was in that match for the duration with chances to win. Djokovic more so will need to have recovered mentally from the laser show put on by Kyrgios who beat him in the next round in Acapulco. The 2nd seed should be afforded a good start with either Kyle Edmund or Gastao Elias in round two. A win there sets the stage for the Del Potro rematch if DelPo gets past either Federico Delbonis or Andrey Kuznetsov. Indian Wells has been great for DelPo over the years with a 17-6 record with two quarterfinal finishes, one semifinal and a final in 2013. Last year he had a tough draw with Berdych in the second round, where he lost in straight sets. He should best that by at least a round.

In the other section, young studs Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev look to be on a collision course for a third round clash. Kyrgios played one of his best matches in years in beating Djokovic in Acapulco, only to falter against Querrey in the semifinals. He’ll need to reverse bad luck here early as he’s gone just 1-2 in three career matches at Indian Wells. His losses came to Dimitrov and Ramos-Vinolas. He will start against either Horacio Zeballos or a qualifier. You’d think that should net him a win. Zverev also looks like a good candidate for a winning start with Facundo Bagnis or a qualifier as his first foe. Sascha played well in his main draw debut here last year and really should have beaten Nadal in the fourth round. The Aussie won against Zverev at the Hopman Cup in 2016 in their lone meeting at this level.

Bottom Line
The only thing I think I know about this quarter is that the emerging semifinalist should be one helluva player. Given Djokovic’s still iffy form from match to match, it’s hard to see him surviving all the pitfalls here. Beat Del Potro, maybe you have Kyrgios or Zverev waiting. Beat them, you could have Rafa or Roger waiting. He’ll earn it if he can make it through. I just dont’ have the confidence in his game or mental state right now to pick him here. To me, the more logical choices would be Nadal or Del Potro. With all due respect to Federer, Nadal’s desire has been very apparent this season and all that is missing is a marquee win.

Rafa is 8-5 against Del Potro if that happens to land as the quarterfinal, but it was DelPo who won that grueling Olympic match last year. I don’t think Del Potro will quite be up for the task of beating several big name players this week, especially given the physicality that Djokovic would demand and then having to likely beat Kyrgios or Zverev and then Rafa or Roger. I’d trust Rafa more to make it through the obstacle course of Verdasco, Federer and then Del Potro or Djokovic. That’s my pick here, but really there are five or six guys who could definitely take this semifinal slot and not be considered a massive surprise.

Early Bird Specials

Indian Wells has been a slaughterhouse for seeds in their first matches the last few years. Dating back five years to 2012, at least nine seeds have been upset in their Indian Wells’ openers each year. Three of the last five years, the number of seeds going home early has been in double digits with a high of eleven in 2013. High seeds have not been immune to this trend either with a top ten seed falling in four of the last five years. Last year strayed from that path with 19th seeded Benoit Paire as the highest seed to go down in their opener. You can of course attribute plenty of this trend to the fact that all 32 seeds in the field see first round byes. That gives their second round opponents at least one round of on-court conditions in their favor. With the tricky winds that often prevail in this tournament, that can be a big boost for their unseeded foes.

Here are the players I see as being the most prone to upsets in their openers.

3. Stan Wawrinka
This is all predicated on Robin Haase beating Paolo Lorenzi in round one. Should the Italian get the job done, I think Stan will rest easier and probably have a smoother shot at winning his opener. If it’s Haase, it should be a tough match and potential big scalp for the Dutchman.

6. Marin Cilic
I put Cilic here really only if Paire advances to round two. I think Cilic could take care of the more one dimensional Taylor Fritz, but Paire has been a tough out for him.

12. Grigor Dimitrov
Medvedev will be the more likely guy to score the upset in round two. If Youzhny is there instead, I think that should play better in Dimitrov’s chances of avoiding an early loss.

17. Jack Sock
If it’s Borna Coric in round two, keep Sock on this list. If not, look for the American to be immune to an upset.

22. Albert Ramos-Vinolas
ARV has actually been pretty consistent on this slower court with two straight third round finishes. Still, Dzumhur or Harrison can give him a run. Both of those guys are playing confident tennis right now.

24. Steve Johnson
Stevie J got some needed momentum in Delray Beach and Acapulco with consecutive quarterfinal showings. A right foot injury in Acapulco could be troublesome though and bears watching. Johnson could face Kevin Anderson first-up which would be a bigger issue. Anderson has a 4-3 edge over Johnson, although the American has won the last two meetings. All have been exremely competitive.

27. Pablo Cuevas
Despite the slower conditions that you might think would aid Cuevas, this has not been his tournament. I think if Klizan get through round one, he’s got an opportunity to knock off the seeded player in that match-up.

28. Philipp Kohlschreiber
Getting the Dolgopolov-Troicki survivor as his opening opponent is going to be tough for the German. Kohlschreiber does have winning records against both however, so he may be able to avoid the upset bug.

29. Mischa Zverev
The feel-good story of the Australian Open is over. Zverev now must prove himself again every tournament and he has not done that since Melbourne. Sousa or Schwartzman have real upset potential in that second rounder.

30. Feliciano Lopez
Watch out if Tiafoe can put it together in round one and get through to meet Lopez. His free swinging style could bring the Spaniard down.

32. Marcel Granollers
At 2-5 on the season and just 2-6 for his career at Indian Wells, Granollers has to be looked at as a potential upset victim. He gets Mahut or Jaziri. He’s never lost to either in multiple career meetings, but both played him pretty close and can win on this surface.

Outsiders Edge

With the larger field, this definitely plays more like a “mini Major” and that isn’t good news for the unseeded players. Since 2012, just three unseeded players have made it as far as the quarterfinals. You have to go back to Juan Martin Del Potro in 2011 to see an unseeded player in the semifinals. That can be taken with a grain of salt as DelPo was a top tier player with a lower ranking due to one of his many injury layoffs.

If you climb into the way-back machine, you’d find the last unseeded player to reach the final in 2008. That was Mardy Fish. Honestly, It’s not a stretch to say it would be monumental to see an unseeded player in the semis or final this year. Only three have made it to the semifinals since 2006; Del Potro in 2011, Fish in 2008 and get out your Google search, Paradorn Srichaphan in 2006.

The more appropriate “Outsiders” to look over here might be the qualifiers to see how they fare. In 2016, qualifiers went 4-8 in round one action. None advanced to round three. They went 6-6 in R1 in 2015, but did see Michael Berrer advance to round three. In 2014, qualifiers went 3-9, but did see a young Dominic Thiem also push through to round three. 2013 was the most successful run for qualis in recent memory as they went 8-4 in round one with Ernests Gulbis advancing all the way through to round four before losing. 2012 was another poor year at 3-9 in round one matches for the qualifiers, but it did see Matthew Ebden make a surprising run to round four.

So are there any surprises lying in this year’s draw? Here are a few to monitor.

Damir Dzumhur
The Bosnian has a good track record against Top 10 players at 3-5 and heads to Indian Wells with his latest scalp from Dubai, where he beat Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. The 24-year-old also took a set off of Del Potro in Delray Beach. He is 5-5 in his career at Masters 1000 events, so the spotlight isn’t too bright for him. He has Ryan Harrison to open and then would go against Ramos-Vinolas. Goffin might be his end point in round three, but Dzumhur figures to be a tough out along the way.

Alexandr Dolgopolov
A hip injury might preclude him from doing much in California, but he’s played since then. He lost to Cilic in Acapulco, losing in three sets. He’ll have Viktor Troicki to open and then Kohlschreiber. If he gets past those two, he could see Stan Wawrinka in round three or he could have been done a favor by someone else. Berdych would be in the mix to prevent him from going to the quarterfinals, but Dog beat him last time they played in Cincinnati in 2015. He’ll need help, but you never know when the hot streaks come with the Dog.

Daniil Medvedev
The Russian has shown good promise this year with a couple quarterfinal finishes and an ATP final. He has to get past compatriot Mikhail Youzhny in round one to get to Dimitrov in round two. Although Dimitrov has only lost twice this season, Indian Wells hasn’t been his best site to play. That could open the door for Medvedev to make a bigger name for himself this week.

AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE BECAUSE THE PIG SAID SO ….

The draw looks more beneficial for Andy Murray than anyone. Depending on results, there is definitely an above-average chance to me that the world number one might not face a Top Ten player before the final. That’s a huge advantage if Murray is economical with his wins. Whoever gets through the bottom half of this draw is really going to have gone the extra mile barring some massive upsets. That’s not really where you want to be heading into a final against the fittest player on tour.

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