2018 BNP Paribas Open R2 Preview: Grigor Dimitrov vs Fernando Verdasco


(3) Grigor Dimitrov vs Fernando Verdasco

Dimitrov Looks to Avoid Early Trouble

Grigor Dimitrov comes to Indian Wells off a disappointing first round exit at the hands of Malek Jaziri in Dubai. Dimitrov had a dozen double faults in the loss as he struggled to find a consistent rhythm. The Bulgarian said after the loss that he felt his movement was not good in the match. He’ll need to fix that against Fernando Verdasco who had a bit of a renaissance during the Golden Swing in South America on clay. The Spaniard made the Rio final before losing to Diego Schwartzman with big wins over Dominic Thiem and Fabio Fognini.

He’s also got a match under his belt at Indian Wells, beating Guido Pella 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 in round one. Verdasco was slightly uneven due to the second set, but ended up with win rates on 1st and 2nd serve at 70 and 57 percent. He was broken twice on three chances. This will be the third meeting between Dimitrov and Verdasco with Dimitrov leading 2-1, but all three going three sets. The last came on clay in Monte Carlo in 2015. Verdasco’s lone win came in Bastard in dirt in 2013.

The Formula

Verdasco can blame a lack of converting break points as a big reason that he has not been able to score more wins against Dimitrov. In their last meeting, Dimitrov saved 15 of 17 break chances. Overall in the three meetings, Dimitrov has broken the Spaniard ten times on 36 chances. Verdasco has just seven breaks on 33 opportunities. Four of those breaks came in their initial meeting in Bastad. Verdasco has topped a 70 percent win rate on first serve just once and you guess it – it came in his lone win against the Bulgarian. That will be a big key if the lefty is to score the upset on Saturday.

The Spaniard’s first serve fuels his ground game, which is stocked with a huge forehand and a still decent double handed backhand. Verdasco showed he still has the wheels on defense during his Rio run and I’d still rank him one of the more fit guys on tour, even at 34. Verdasco went after the Dimitrov backhand in return quite a bit in their last meeting. The courts in Indian Wells usually play slow, but not quite as slow as Monte Carlo. That will give Verdasco a little more bite on serve. He will need that to provide some better depth on serve to push the Bulgarian back. Dimitrov was able to maintain very neutral position in return, normally keeping himself tuned in start the rallies in his favor.

Dimitrov certainly will go after the Verdasco backhand on serve. The Spaniard doesn’t get as much good contact off that wing, so it will give Dimitrov an opportunity to be aggressive on the next ball. He’s shown the ability and willingness to move in on those balls and finish well at the net. Verdasco will need to keep from getting stretched off the backhand returns, which pushes him off balance. He may take a deeper return position to help. Off the forehand side, I think he needs to be very aggressive in return and push Dimitrov back with the return ball. Dimitrov isn’t as comfortable when the action comes right back at him.

Neither man is shy about playing long rallies and you’ll see quite a few of them surely in this match-up. Dimitrov again provides better variety and shot making off the backhand side. He can go with the flat one hander or use the slice to give himself time to better his court positioning for the next shot. He will try to keep the exchanges more backhand to backhand, but his slice can help neutralize Verdasco’s power a bit off the forehand side. The slice will keep the ball lower and out of the Spaniard’s wheel house.

The Pig-nosticator

I think whomever is willing to rev up their aggressiveness in rallies is going to have the better shot in this one. Dimitrov is perfectly content to exchange from the baseline and know his variety will win out quite a bit. Verdasco has less room for error if that is how this one plays out, which is why I think he should take more chances early in rallies. If Verdasco keeps his first serve win rate in the high 70s and does a better job of pushing Dimitrov back in return, he will have a chance in this one.

Dimitrov needs to avoid too many second serves were the Spaniard can tee off with bigger returns. The third seed has been prone to some untimely double faults in his losses this year and some of that comes with increased pressure on having to win off second serve in crucial times of a match. If he serves well, he usually is in position to win – so seeing his numbers on serve will be big. He’s been huge in the head-to-head saving break chances, but continuing to give anyone a lot of chances is a recipe for disaster.

Given their history and Verdasco already having a win to his credit this week, I think this could be yet another competitive Dimitrov-Verdasco match. I talked about the propensity of top ten seeds to get beat in their openers here in recent times and this definitely has some possibilities. The Indian Wells-Miami double hasn’t been kind to Dimitrov for the majority of his career. He has avoided opening match losses well though, but this is one of his tougher draws. If Verdasco can stay away from Dimitrov’s backhand better, he could have a real shot to get the scalp.

Prediction: Verdasco wins in three sets


2018 BNP Paribas Open Men’s Doubles Preview


Doubles Race Takes Shape in Indian Wells

The next month is set to shape the doubles race on the ATP World Tour with stops in Indian Wells and Miami. Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic are still atop the rankings with almost a 1500 point cushion. Masters 1000 points could quickly change that or see Marach-Pavic run further away. They head to Indian Wells as the third seeds and making their debut together at the BNP Paribas Open. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo slot in at #1 in this week’s draw. They lost last year’s Indian Wells final to Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram, who are no longer partnered up. The second seeds are Henri Kontinen and John Peers. Kontinen-Peers has yet to find much luck in 2018 as they come in ranked 21st. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares round out the top four seeds. They come in fresh of winning the Acapulco titles and will be looking to improve on their semifinal run in 2017.

Rounding out the seeds in this year’s Indian Wells doubles draw are Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut at #5. The French duo won the titles in 2016, but were outsted in round two last year. The sixth seeds are Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau. They are just 2-4 as a tandem at Indian Wells, but did make the quarters last season. They’ve rocketed to fifth in the rankings and come in with the Dubai titles in their pockets. The Bryans come in at #7 as two-time winners here, but haven’t made it past the quarterfinals since winning their last Indian Wells title in 2014. The 8th seeds are Ivan Dodig and Rajeev Ram, a first time pairing at this event. This will be their fourth tournament together in 2018. They have made the semifinals of their last two.

Recent History Shows Top Seeds Struggle

The Bryan Brothers’ last title run at the BNP Paribas Open marks the last time that the top seed has been as far as the semifinals at this event. The top four seeds have had a habit of finding themselves as early upset victims the last few years. Last year, the Bryans were seeded second and lost their opener. In both 2015 and 2016, two of the top four seeds followed suit with round one defeats. Amazingly, if you track all the way back to 2006, there has only been one year where a top four seed has not fallen in their opener.

Let’s take a quick glance at the top four seeds this year and which ones might be in danger of joining that trend. (1) Kubot-Melo will battle Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer in round one. Don’t dismiss the Spaniards as a random pair up, they’ve played together nine times the last two seasons, going 6-3. One of those losses as a straight sets whipping by Kubot-Melo at last year’s event in Halle on grass. Kubot-Melo have cooled off after a hot start, going 2-2 in their last two tournaments. I would not be surprised if they had to work a super tie break to escape round one and RBA-Ferrer certainly are capable of causing an upset.

The second seeds, Kontinen-Peers, will obviously be the ones many are watching and expecting to flop. Since making the Brisbane final, they are 1-2 with stunning losses at the Australian Open to Radu Albot and Hyeon Chung and then last week in their opener in Dubai to Damir Dzumhir and Filip Krajinovic. They draw Adrian Mannarino and Fabrice Martin in round one. The Frenchmen haven’t played together since 2015, but both have experience. Martin is a regular doubles player at the ATP level. Still, even with Kontinen-Peers struggling a bit, this would be a real shocker. I think the seeds fend off the challenge in this spot.

Marach-Pavic arrive as the third seeds with a little of their luster worn off. They have lost two of three since their 17 match winning streak to start the season ended. Neither was a poor loss, but they will want to find that winning feeling again early. They start against Steve Johnson and Daniel Nestor. Johnson-Nestor played once last year and were overwhelmed by Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus in Cincinnati. Nestor has been switching partners about every week with little success at 3-8 this season. It’s difficult to see Johnson-Nestor winning this match against a team with better chemistry.

That leaves us with the fourth seeds, Murray and Soares. They open against the pairing of Philipp Petzschner and Dominic Thiem. Murray-Soares have been pretty consistent at 10-3 in 2018 with two finals appearances out of the four tournaments played. Petzschner and team have never played together, but once upon a time, Petzschner was one of the top doubles players along with Jurgen Melzer before injuries stonewalled Petzschner. The German is a two-time Grand Slam champ, having won the U.S. Open titles with Melzer in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2010. He won his 7th doubles title in Bastad last season alongside Julian Knowle. Thiem hasn’t had a ton of doubles success the last couple of years, but his matches are often very close. This is the one that sticks in my brain as a possibility, even if it seems a bit far fetched.

If I had to rate them in order of best shot at losing round one: I’d go 2-4-1-3.

Doubles Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Kubot-Melo
(8) Dodig-Ram

There are some dangerous floaters in this section that could definitely help continue the top seed curse. If Kubot-Melo survive Bautista Agut and Ferrer in round one, round two could be just as tough. They play the winners of Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Fernando Verdasco vs John Isner and Jack Sock. Isner-Sock are 11-3 in the last two seasons with a title in Shanghai in 2016 and a finals appearance in Beijing last year. I’d rate them the tougher out of the two. In the bottom of this quarter with Dodig-Ram as the seeds, the winner of an opening round barn burner between Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus vs Juan-Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah loom as big threats.

Klaasen-Venus seem to have finally gelled together after winning the titles in Marseille. They did lose in the quarters in Dubai last week, but are 5-1 in their last six matches after a 2-3 start to their partnership. Cabal-Farah are 9-4 and showed they are hard court threats with their run to the Aussie Open final. They don’t have a ton of experience surprisingly at Indian wells despite their lengthy partnership, so Klaasen-Venus might be the team two watch. Dodig-Ram start against Ben McLachlan and Julio Peralta. Two good doubles players, but they’ve never played together before this week. So edge to Dodig-Ram.

The Pig-nosticator

I think it’s safe bet that one or both of the two seeds here won’t see the quarterfinals. I think Dodig-Ram might actually be the safer shot to squeeze through this quarter. I won’t be surprised at all to see an unseeded team make a run out of this bracket and into the semifinals. An unseeded duo has made the semifinals each of the last four years. Look to the survivor of that Klaasen-Venus v Cabal-Farah match as a good shot to join that club.

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Marach-Pavic
(6) Rojer-Tecau

Marach-Pavic should get out of round one against Johnson-Nestor, but round two could have a huge speed bump in their way. Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya look to be the probable team in that spot. Mektic-Peya open with Fabio Fognini and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi. I won’t totally discount an upset there, but chemistry is better with the regular pairing of Mektic-Peya. Mektic-Peya have made two finals this year and beat Marach-Pavic in Acapulco last week. Revenge may be on the minds of the third seeds, but that won’t be an easy match at all.

The bottom half with Rojer-Tecau is interesting. The seeds here come in hot after winning in Dubai, but they haven’t had a ton of success here outside of their 2017 quarterfinal run. They open with a mish mosh pairing of Ryan Harrison and Max Mirnyi. Having lost in the first round two of their last three trips to the desert, watch out for the big serves of Harrison and Mirnyi to potentially add to their wores. The survivor gets either Juan Martin Del Potro and Grigor Dimitrov of the Lopezes, Marc and Feliciano. Team Lopez made the semis in 2016, but lost in round one last year. They lost their opener in two of four tournaments this year and despite the lack of playing together, DelPo and Dimitrov could be tricky.

The Pig-nosticator

Marach-Pavic have the motivation and could get back on a roll if they exact some revenge on Mektic-Peya along the way. Rojer-Tecau could be the sneaky pick here if they avoid the upset in round one. That’s the big question mark for them. Mektic-Peya is the unseeded threat for sure in this quarter.

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Murray-Soares
(5) Herbert-Mahut

Murray-Soares have the tougher path to the quarterfinals. If they get out of round one against Petzschner-Thiem, they could face Rohan Bopanna and Eduoard Roger-Vasselin. Bopanna-ERV have yet to break out at 6-6 this season, but they’ve made two semifinals this year and rarely been an easy out. Bopanna-ERV will need to skirt past Gilles Muller and Sam Querrey in round one and that may be a tight match. In the Herbert-Mahut half, the French have Dzumhur-Krajinovic to contend with in round one. Look no further than their win over Kontinen-Peers to show that the French need to be on point from ball one.

The winner of that first rounder gets either Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos or Nicolas Monroe and Santiago Gonazalez. Cuevas-Zeballos are solid veteran duo with experience and while Monroe and Gonzalez are teaming up for the first time, both are solid doubles guys with track records of winning with multiple partners. Either one could provide a tough test in round two for either Herbert-Mahut or Dzumhur-Krajinovic. This part of the draw could blow wide open if a seed falls early.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this one could fall to a seed vs seed scenario in the quarterfinals. Both teams do have some pitfalls early though. I think Murray-Soares would be the likelier to not get to the quarters because of Bopanna-ERV. That’s my unseeded team to watch in this quarter with Cuevas-Zeballos also a dark horse team.

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Kontinen-Peers
(7) Bryans

Kontinen-Peers have a lot to prove during this Indian Wells-Miami swing. They’re off to a sluggish start and this swing has not been good to them during their previous two seasons together. As such, I don’t think they’ll be involved in the mix for a semifinal slot. They may escape round one against Mannarino-Martin. Round two would see either Diego Schwartzman and Marcus Daniell or Philipp Kohlschreiber and Lucas Pouille. Those are mix and match first time teams, but all with players who are pretty decent at doubles. I mean I have a hard time picking a team here to beat Kontinen-Peers based on talent and teamwork, but they just have not found their groove. I’d say IF they get past the French in round one, then perhaps they can work to the quarters.

It’s an all-brothers showdown in round one with the Bryans taking on the Zverevs, Mischa and Alexander. The Bryans got in a nice groove in Acapulco with a finals run and I think that carries over to start this week. A win would then likely get them a date against Pablo Carreno Busta and David Marrero. The Spaniards open against Kyle Edmund and Franko Skugor. PCB-Marrero do have some history together, but their best results have come on clay. Edmund is 1-10 all-time in ATP doubles matches, so even with a good partner like Skugor, tough to see them winning.

The Pig-nosticator

I think this quarter sets up nicely for the Bryans. The intrigue could come if Kontinen-Peers find some rhythm and we get an all-seeded quarterfinal. Kontinen-Peers have owned the Bryans with a 3-0 head-to-head record, including not dropping any sets against the American twins. That would be the big road block for the 7th seeds.


Your last three men’s doubles champions have been seeded 6th, 7th and 8th. 2012 was the last time an unseeded pair took home the titles with Marc Lopez and Nicolas Mahut doing the honors in an all-unseeded final against John Isner and Sam Querrey. If there is some unseeded magic this week, I think the mix of potential dark horses include Klaasen-Venus, Cabal-Farah and Mektic-Peya. My brain though is stuck on the Bryans this week, who haven’t won a title since last summer in Atlanta. If a top four seed breaks the curse, Marach-Pavic seem to have the best road in my estimation.

2018 BNP Paribas Open Preview


Absentees Mean Federer, Djokovic Expected to Peak Interest

The first Masters 1000 event of 2018 is set with Roger Federer leading the field in Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open. The tournament also marks the return of Novak Djokovic, who has been sidelined by continued elbow problems since his fourth round Australian Open exit courtesy of Hyeon Chung . Djokovic is seeded 10th in the 96 player field, the “Mini Major” in Indian Wells features one of the largest fields of players outside of the four Grand Slams. It takes on a Slam type of vibe with the event stretching for more than a week with main draw play beginning on Thursday. Federer is back as the defending champion and top seed. He will be seeking his sixth title at Indian Wells, tied with Djokovic for the most career titles at this event. That’s good for event organizers with some recognizable names out this week in the form of Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet. All are sidelined with injury issues.

There are 32 seeded players in the draw overall. All the seeds get a first round bye. Rounding out the top ten behind Federer are Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro, Kevin Anderson, Jack Sock, Lucas Pouille and Novak Djokovic. Djokovic is the obvious intrigue of the week. The Serb looked like he was rounding back into form in Melbourne, before the Chung defeat and subsequent announcement that the pain in his right elbow had returned. He’s had a medical procedure done since then, so this tournament will be a huge test of how healthy that elbow is now.

Top Ten Seeds With Iffy Histories in Indian Wells

Djokovic is obviously a player whose return to health can be a real game changer to the landscape of the ATP World Tour. He’s 49-7 all-time at Indian Wells with the five titles. His exit in the fourth round last year was the first time since 2010 that he had not made at least the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open. Among the rest of the top ten, it’s been hit and miss for most of them in the desert. Cilic’s best run was a 2016 quarterfinal finish, but he lost his opener last year to Taylor Fritz. Third seed Grigor Dimitrov has never been past round three and Zverev is making just his third trip, with a fourth round finish in 2016 as his best so far.

Red hot Juan Martin Del Potro is the most experienced top ten seed outside of the Federer and Djokovic with an 18-7 record at Indian Wells. A lot of that has come well in the past though with the 2013 finals run as his best. He’s struggled some since then at Indian Wells, but that was due mainly to poor draws that pit him against seeds early as he built his way back up in the rankings the last few years. This time, he is the hunted. The interesting high seeds to watch are Sock and Pouille for me. Sock had the semifinal run here last year, but has been pretty poor to start the season. Pouille has had a hot start, but as I mentioned in the Ocho, he doesn’t have a top 20 win this year. He has a lot to prove in big tournaments like this one.

Other Seeds to Watch

The seeded field outside of the top ten offers a bit of everything from grizzled veterans like Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer to up and comers like Kyle Edmund and Hyeon Chung, and more first timers like Andrey Rublev. Pablo Carreno Busta is the first seed outside the top ten at #11. The 26-year olf Spaniard has had his issues escaping his openers at tournaments since last Fall, but comes in as a surprise semifinalist from last year.He had only been out of the first round once in his previous three trips. Berdych is 21-13 at this event, but has only been as far as the quarterfinals once since 2014. Roberto Bautisa Agut slots in at 13 and comes in with form after winning in Dubai. His track record here though suggests he may have a tough time making a deep run with three straight third round finishes.

Diego Schwartzman is the 14th seed, but also is short on success with a 1-3 record at Indian Wells. John Isner and Sam Querrey are the only Americans outside of Sock to be seeded, they come in at #15 and #18. Isner in particular would normally be one to watch with a 21-10 mark at this tournament. He’s been to the fourth round or better in three of the last four years, including a semifinal run in 2014. He is ice cold in 2018 though at just 2-5. Fabio Fognini at 16 has shown better recently at Indian Wells with a third round run last year and fourth round run three years ago. He comes off a title in Sao Paulo, but is just 7-8 overall here in his career. As always, he seems boom or bust from round two onward.

Among the back half of the seeds, the ones that catch the eye are Nick Kyrgios at 17, Kyle Edmund at 21, Kei Nishikori at 22 and Hyeon Chung at 23. Kyrgios made the quarters last year after two lackluster trips prior to 2017. Health is the key issue for NK as he plays for the first time since picking up an elbow injury in Davis Cup play in early February. He’s a big time threat to do damage if he’s near 100 percent and finds form. Edmund too is battling back from injury, missing time due to a hip injury. He hasn’t played since Melbourne and is will be playing just his fourth match at the BNP Paribas Open. If the Brit is fit, it will be interesting to see if he can follow up on that Australian Open run and re-establish himself as one to watch.

Nishikori was a disappointing early exit to Denis Shapovalov in Acapulco last week. This is the time of year that the man from Japan had proclaimed would see his physical form round into its best shape in returning from last year’s wrist surgery. He’s a back-to-back quarter finalist in 2016 and 2017 and needs to get a big run here or in Miami you feel to get his confidence back up. As for Chung, his next match in Indian Wells will be just his second. He lost last year in round one to Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Chung looks fit since returning from his blister issues with back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in Delray Beach and Acapulco. This is a step up and where people are going to put some loftier expectations on the 21-year-old. It’s a great opportunity for him to show he’s a big tournament player and a consistent threat.


The Eliminati have had a large presence in Indian Wells in recent times. At least seven seeds have been dumped in their openers. There have been at least nine seeds ousted early in five of the last seven years here and top tier seeds have not been immune. Last year, you might remember that Andy Murray flopped as the top seed in his opener against Vasek Pospisil. Along with Cilic and Tsonga, he was one of three top ten seeds to fall in round two last year. Outside of 2016 when Benoit Paire was the highest seed to lose his opener at #19, at least one top ten seed has lost their opener every year since 2011.

Let’s take a look at the players who may well add more seeds to the list this week. Here are the Eliminati!

Benoit Paire
This is contingent of Paire not having French Brain in round one against a qualifier. The winner of that match gets a shot at 25th seed Filip Krajinovic. The Serb has been a rapid riser into the top 30, but is playing the main draw here for just the second time. He’s 0-1. Krajinovic is in off a semifinal run in Dubai, but he has zero top 50 wins this season.

Julien Benneteau/Jeremy Chardy
This is a better spot for Benneteau with the winner of the All-French first rounder getting a shot at 16th seed Fabio Fognini. Chardy has been free falling for a while now and is just 2-4. Benneteau took Fognini to five sets in Australia in their third round clash and is 1-1 against the Italian. Fognini arrives in good form, but it’s Fognini and that means nothing.

Ivo Karlovic/Maximilian Marterer
Karlovic would have the big chance against 12th seed Tomas Berdych if he gets there. Ivo is 5-3 against the Czech although they haven’t met since 2015 on grass in Halle. Karlovic’s first order is getting his first opening round win in Indian Wells since 2014. Marterer is another riser in the rankings now at #73. The German has a Challenger title under his belt this season along with solid third round finishes in Melbourne and a quarterfinal run in Sofia. Givern Berdych’s up and down play, perhaps Marterer would have a shot to get the scalp too.

Denis Shapovalov
El Shapo makes his Indian Wells debut this year against qualifier Ricardas Berankis, A win gets him a date with 30th seed Pablo Cuevas. Cuevas was a surprise quarter finalist here last year, where he picked up half of his six career wins in Indian Wells. This is a tough draw for the veteran though and Shapovalov’s electric game could certainly cause an upset if he gets it going early.

Fernando Verdasco/Guido Pella
Given third seed Grigor Dimitrov’s brain lock at this event in his career, it probably doesn’t matter if it is Verdasco of Pella in this spot. Both have a win against him with Pella’s coming last year in Miami. Verdasco’s win over Dimitrov came back in 2014 on clay and they have not met since 2015. Still, he has taken Dimitrov to three sets in all three meetings and he’s shown some good resiliency early on this season. Dimitrov will likely be pressed in his opener and could easily go down early yet again.

Taylor Fritz/Reilly Opelka
Both Americans will have some hope against 30th seed Andrey Rublev. The Russian has never played on the courts at Indian Wells, so either player will have match play in conditions in his favor. Fritz has been playing better early this year and will have good vibes in his home state, where he sprung upsets of Benoit Paire and Marin Cilic here last year. Opelka’s serve alone will make him dangerous. Rublev has been solid early on, but got worked over by David Ferrer in Acapulco and now faces the challenges of playing Masters events in a heavy early season workload.

Borna Coric/Donald Young
Coric will be favored to be in this spot as he is 2-0 against Young, who has struggled to find his best play in 2018. The winner faces 19th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas. ARV has normally been able to avoid opening round losses in Indian Wells, but could face a stiff challenge after a lackluster Golden Swing in South America. He made the Quito final and then struggled to get consistent results.

Jared Donaldson
The American comes in off his first ATP semifinal in Acapulco. If he can stay hot, he’ll have an excellent shot to improve his record against 11th seed Roberto Bautista Agut to 2-0. Donaldson beat RBA in straights last August in Cincinnati. RBA is in good form though, so this could potentially be a very good and competitive match. Bautista Agut has been all or nothing this year with five tournaments played – two times he’s won the title and the other three, he has gone down in his opening match. Donaldson faces Evan King in round one.

Horacio Zeballos/Yuichi Sugita
The winner gets 11th seed Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard continues to have issues getting past his opening match. He’s now lost his first match in eight of his last eleven tournaments played. Sugita beat Carreno Busta in their lone meeting last year, while Zeballos has never played PCB.

Steve Johnson/Daniil Medvedev
A tough draw for Nick Kyrgios with either of these guys in his way to start his Indian Wells campaign. Medvedev is 2-0 against Johnson with both wins coming against SJ during his tailspin in 2017. Johnson pulled out of Acapulco with an ankle injury, so his fitness could be a concern. That could give Medvedev even more of an advantage. Kyrgios has never met the Russian and is 0-1 against Johnson, retiring in Shanghai against him last year after dropping a tie break in the opening set. Either guy could pose a big threat to the Aussie.

Karen Khachanov
Khachanov has to get by fellow Russian Evgeny Doskoy in round one, which may not be so easy. If he does though, he could present a tough out against Kevin Anderson. Anderson would probably love nothing more than to see Donskoy in this spot instead. He’s 3-0 against Donskoy. This is Khachanov’s second trip here beating Tommy Robredo last year, before dropping out against David Goffin in three sets.

Frances Tiafoe/Ernesto Escobedo
This is a big moment for Tiafoe. This will be his first match since winning his first ATP title in Delray Beach last month. Getting consistent wins at this level has been a key issue for the young American and Escobedo has beaten him twice at the Challenger level. Tiafoe is 1-2 at this event. The winner gets #28 Feliciano Lopez, who lost his opener here last year after making the fourth round or better three straight previous trips.

Gael Monfils
Monfils has to get past Matthew Ebden in round one, but if he does, he has a great shot of knocking off an out of form John Isner. Monfils has won four of their last five meetings, including their last which was at Indian Wells in 2017.

Viktor Troicki/Marton Fucsovics
The survivor gets 2nd seed Marin Cilic. Troicki is 4-5 against the Croat with Cilic breaking a five match losing skid against him when they last met in Cincinnati in 2016. Fucsovics was impressive in making round four in Australia, but has played in just one Challenger event since that tournament. Troicki might have the better shot to shock Cilic, but the Serb hasn’t won at Indian Wells since 2011 – a streak of five straight opening round losses will be on the line when he faces Fucsovics.

Peter Gojoczwyk
The German needs to get past Denis Istomin in round one to be relevant, but if he does – then Kyle Edmund beware. A rusty Brit will be facing a guy who already has made his first ATP final this season and has a couple of top 20 wins in 2018. I like Edmund’s power, but the downtown since January could be the big X-factor against a guy on a roll.

Draw Preview

Quarter #1 Seeds
(1) Roger Federer: 57-11 (W – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2017)
(5) Dominic Thiem: 7-4
(12) Tomas Berdych: 21-13
(16) Fabio Fognini: 7-8
(20) Adrian Mannarino: 6-5
(23) Hyeon Chung: 0-1
(25) Filip Krajinovic: 0-1
(30) Pablo Cuevas : 6-5

As if Roger Federer needed any favors, he seems to get one with this part of the draw. Krajinovic is the other seed in the top half with Fed. The Swiss will get either Ryan Harrison or Federico Delbonis in round two. Harrison owns one win against the Argentine back in 2014 in Miami. Delbonis did make the fourth round here in 2016, so he’s not a pushover. Harrison has had problems with big serves this year. Delbonis can produce that, but struggles with consistency. Even though Delbonis beat Federer on clay in 2013, you’d have to say this is a nice path for Fed to get to the third round. Krajinovic goes against Paire or qualifier Mitchell Krueger. Paire would be a danger, depending on what version of the Frenchman shows up.

In the bottom portion of this top half, Fognini arrives in form and has Mannarino as the only seed to go through. He does have a potentially tough opener against either Julien Benneteau or Jeremy Chardy. I think Benneteau would provide the stiffer competition. Fognini has played reasonably well here, where I THINK he gets through still. Mannarino comes off the bye to face the winner of Marius Copil and qualifier Peter Polansky. Polansky is 0-4 in main draw matches at this level in 2017. Mannarino is 6-5 at Indian Wells and hasn’t lost his opener since 2014. Much like Fognini, I THINK he gets through, but Mannarino is dodgy at times. If this plays out to a Fognini-Mannarino showdown for a spot opposite of Federer in the fourth round,

As for the bottom half led by Thiem, the Austrian might have a little bit of a risky opener against either Radu Albot or Stefano Tsitsipas. Both have been playing reasonably well, but also likely won’t ask Thiem to alter his baseline bashing style. If he gets through, he likely won’t see Cuevas in round three. Cuevas has to go through Denis Shapovalov or qualifier Ricardas Berankis and I don’t like his chances to do that. It would be nice to see Shapovalov get an immediate chance for revenge after Thiem pummeled him in Acapulco last week. I expected more of El Shapo there and I always like to see if young players can learn quickly from their mistakes the first and second times they play the upper echelon guys. Berankis got a hard court win over Cuevas in 2015, so he might have a shot to take him down regardless of who moves to round two.

In the other portion of this half, Hyeon Chung and Tomas Berdych are the seeds. I’ve talked Berdych already about being potential upset fodder against either Ivo Karlovic or Maximillian Marterer. Should the Czech skirt that danger, it should be Chung that he faces for a shot to go through to round four. Chung will play either Lukas Lacko or Dusan Lajovic to open. Chung has looked solid since returning from the layoff due to the blisters he suffered in Melbourne. I do like him to get through to round three and honestly, as long as his serve doesn’t totally desert him – he should be in position to possibly get a healthy shot against Federer.

The Pig-nosticator

It’s difficult to see Federer tripping up before the semifinals. I think the one interesting match here would be the rematch against Chung in the quarterfinals. We didn’t get to see a healthy Hyeon Chung in their Australian Open match. Federer might still dismantle him, but it’d be nice to see the Korean get a chance to prove himself one way or the other at full health.

Hyeon Chung

Filip Krajinovic
Pablo Cuevas

Quarter #2 Seeds
(3) Grigor Dimitrov: 5-6
(7) Kevin Anderson: 10-8
(11) Pablo Carreno Busta: 4-4
(13) Roberto Bautista Agut: 5-4
(17) Nick Kyrgios: 4-2
(19) Albert Ramos-Vinolas: 8-5
(26) Damir Dzumhur: 1-2
(27) Andrey Rublev: 0-0

There is not much history among the seeds here making deep runs. Outside of Kyrgios’ quarterfinal run last year, the seeds have all been unable to be involved in the tail end of this tournament. Dimitrov will open against the winner between Fernando Verdasco and Guido Pella. He’s going to have a tough time against either one and might not have to worry about the third round jinx if he’s not careful. Should he survive, things might actually get better as the draw wears on. Opposite of him is Rublev, who will face either Taylor Fritz or Reilly Opelka. It is feasible the third round could be two seeds against each other or two seeds not even involved.

In the other portion of this top half, two Spaniards – Bautista Agut and Ramos-Vinolas are the seeds. RBA gets the winner between Jared Donaldson and Evan King. If it’s Donaldson, I already looked at that one for you in the Eliminati and I think there is upset potential for the American. Ramos-Vinolas faces either Borna Coric or Donald Young. Young has actually had some nice runs at Indian Wells, but not in even numbered years. He’s been one and done in 2012, 2014, 2016 and could well make it 2018. Ramos-Vinolas might get the nod in this section. He crushed Donaldson in straights at the Australian Open this year.

In the bottom half of the quarter, Kevin Anderson is the lead seed. If he can get by his opener against either Karen Khachanov or Evgeny Donskoy, then his road opens up. A third round match likely would come against 26th seed Damir Dzumhur. Dzumhur would play Nicolas Kicker or Jiri Vesely in round two. I think those are both favorable for the Bosnian. I get the feeling that either Dimitrov or Anderson is going to join that top ten seed club. The club where a top ten seed has lost in their opener at Indian Wells consistently over the last seven years. Dimitrov seems more obvious, which might mean Anderson is the one who loses.

In the other part of this half, Carreno Busta and Kyrgios are your seeds. PCB is so hard to trust these days with his early struggles at tournaments. Neither Zeballos or Sugita inspires as a big threat, but playing Carreno Busta says they do. Kyrgios also has a potential landmine in his opener with either Steve Johnson or Daniil Medvedev on tap. A long layoff for NK means he will need to find his serve early with both Johnson and Medvedev capable of matching him in that category. I would not be surprised to see this part of the draw open up for maybe Medvedev if his first serve is popping. I think between the Russian and Kyrgios, you probably have a likely fourth round candidate.

The Pig-nosticator

Anderson is the form guy here and the most consistent guy, but he’s drawn tough early. I think if he escapes from his opener unscathed, then he’s got every reason to believe he can at least get to the quarters and maybe one step further. Dimitrov looks to be in a similar spot, where if he avoids early trouble then he could find a groove. The guy who could sneak through this quarter if he avoids the early upset is obviously Bautista Agut.

Daniil Medvedev
Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Grigor Dimitrov

Quarter #3 Seeds
(4) Alexander Zverev: 4-2
(8) Jack Sock: 8-6
(9) Lucas Pouille: 1-2
(14) Diego Schwartzman: 1-3
(18) Sam Querrey: 13-12
(21) Kyle Edmund: 1-2
(28) Feliciano Lopez: 12-15
(32) Milos Raonic: 16-6

There is a lot of young talent among the seeds, but also plenty of question marks surrounding those players. Let’s start with Zverev. The knee injury he sustained in Acapulco I am thinking is not a huge issue at this point. If it was, Sascha had nothing to lose by skipping this tournament to rest for Miami where he has more points to defend. He will open against Mikhail Youzhny or Joao Sousa. I could see either one at least making Sascha earn everything in round two, but if healthy, he should pass through.

Milos Raonic is the seed in the other portion of this top half, the all-Canadian top half. Raonic has been unable to recapture any sort of form with a disappointing 1-3 record this season. He takes on one of two qualifiers – Vasek Pospisil or Felix Auger-Aliassime. Pospisil has been playing well in Challengers, but is still seeking win #1 at the ATP level in a main draw this year. Felix is still hunting for ATP win #1 and he’s looked a bit unsteady in transitioning to Challengers and ATP main draws. Against a player he is familiar with some though, it could be an entertaining round one with Pospisil. Tough to feel confident with Raonic, but he’s better than both of these guys if he can find his rhythm. That’s been a big issue though, so anything is possible.

Opposite of that quadrant, you’ll see a tasty looking section with Edmund and Schwartzman as the seeds. Schwartzman looked good on clay, but now has to transition that back to hard court success. Diego gets either Marcos Baghdatis or Yoshi Nishioka in round two. That’s winnable despite his lack of success at Indian Wells. It would be disappointing for him to not advance to round three. Edmund gets either Denis Istomin or Pete Gojowczyk in his opener. Gojo has much better form and would be a tougher out for the Brit. Gojo is 11-6 this season with wins over Sock, Krajinovic, Isner and Steve Johnson. He won’t go quietly.

In the other half of this quarter, it’s Sock and Pouille with some possibilities. Sock should be afford a good start against either Thomas Fabbiano or Bradley Klahn. A first-up loss should have him really evaluating his preparation, technique, everything. Opposite of him is Lopez at #28. He will have his hands fill with either Frances Tiafoe or Ernesto Escobedo. This is a huge chance for Tiafoe to continue his momentum from winning in Delray Beach. A Sock-Tiafoe third rounder would be big for American tennis.

In the other portion of this half, Pouille also should get off on the good foot with either Yuki Bhambri or Nicolas Mahut first-up. Sam Querrey is the seed opposite of the Frenchman. Querrey gets the winner between Mikhail Kukushkin and Mischa Zverev. Kukushkin does have two wins over Querrey, but they came ages ago on clay. Querrey has lost his opener at Indian Wells in two of the last three years, but I think he comes through in this spot. Querrey could go further with a 2-0 record against Pouille, who as I have beat into the ground, has not really scored too many impressive wins despite his runs to three finals this season.

The Pig-nosticator

This quarter could take on a decidedly American look by the business end. Sock’s draw is conducive to him perhaps getting his game together after a sluggish start to 2018. Querrey also looks to be in a prime spot to make a run with favorable match-ups. Zverev’s half looks wide open with so many health and form questions about Sascha, Edmund and Raonic. Could Schwartzman sneak through here? Seeds have had a death grip on the quarterfinals and beyond the last three years with no unseeded players making the quarters since Benneteau did it in 2014. Raonic is a deep sleeper is he can rediscover a consistent forehand.

Sam Querrey

Kyle Edmund

Quarter #4 Seeds
(2) Marin Cilic: 9-10
(6) Juan Martin Del Potro: 18-7
(10) Novak Djokovic: 49-7 (W – 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016)
(15) John Isner: 21-10
(22) Kei Nishikori: 10-9
(24) Gilles Muller: 5-7
(29) David Ferrer: 10-12
(31) Philipp Kohlschreiber: 14-11

This is a loaded quarter that could provide some of the bigger moments of this tournament. Cilic does not have the greatest history here and his opener against either Viktor Troicki or Marton Fucsovics won’t be an easy win by any means. Should he advance, things could pick up with Philipp Kohlschreiber as the other seed in this quadrant. Kohlschreiber starts with Tim Smyczek or Laslo Djere. The German has made the third round each of the last three years and in spite of a poor start this year, might have a shot to get there again. Kohlschreiber is 6-4 against Cilic, so he won’t be hopeless if those two square off.

Opposite of that section, things could be open for seeds to fall with Isner and Muller as the seeds in that quadrant. Isner has done well here, but likely could face Gael Monfils in round two. That could spell curtains for the American. Muller will face either Pierre Hugues-Herbert or Gilles Simon. Neither Frenchman is tearing it up currently, so Muller should feel good about his chances. Simon does have a couple of wins against Muller back in 2014 and 2015, so perhaps he will make things rougher than expected. If Cilic wants to make a run for #1 as he’s talked about, this is the type of draw he needs to take advantage of and make at least the quarterfinals.

The other half of the quarter is star studded. Del Potro leads the way after his Acapulco title and should carry the swagger of a player in super form. DelPo has a good draw to at least get through to round four. His opener will come against either Jan-Lennard Struff or Alex de Minaur. De Minaur’s defense might make a Del Potro meeting interesting, but I’m not sure the Aussie teen can keep pace with the Argentine’s power. Opposite of Del Potro is David Ferrer. The Spaniard will contend with either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Tennys Sandgren in round two. Even though Ferrer’s form has been sketchy, he could have a shot to get to round three with this draw.

The other quadrant here is sure to attract all eyes with Djokovic and Nishikori. Djokovic returns for the first time since Melbourne, looking to re-establish himself. The Serb will play Cameron Norrie or Taro Daniel to open. You’d favor him if his elbow is healed, but we’ll have to see. As for Nishikori, it’s time for him to put up or shut up. He’s had a month of play to get the rust off and this looks like the time to surge or be prepared to struggle. Nishikori will need to beat Victor Estrella Burgos or Leonardo Mayer to set up a clash in the third with Djokovic. Djokovic leads the head-to-head 11-2 with the last full match coming at the Tour Finals in 2016, a win for the Serb. Nishikori hasn’t beaten Djokovic since his shock win at the 2014 U.S. Open

The Pig-nosticator

This is very difficult to call without knowing what Djokovic is going to bring to the table. Despite Cilic’s lack of recent success in Indian Wells, his draw screams quarterfinals. Del Potro will be the big pick of most to make the quarters and possibly go further. He will have to earn it, especially if Djokovic is fit and finds form. The Serb is 14-4 against him and a big roadblock. For me, I think this is Djokovic or Del Potro if Djokovic proves fit.

Juan Martin Del Potro

John Isner


So is this just another week of As Roger Wins? It very well could be, but there is some potential to see Federer pushed this week. Del Potro comes in hot, but will have some pressure on him to perform with the consistency shown in Acapulco. Djokovic’s return could ignite several rivalries with Federer of course being the big one, but only one we would see in a final. It’s still tough to go against Federer with a better draw, while Del Potro or Djokovic would likely have to go through the other and more to get to the final.

The Ocho v.7


“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, injuries again feature plus the dust up from proposed changes to the Davis Cup.

1. Juan Martin Del Potro
The 29-year-old Argentine won his biggest title in years, taking the title in Acapulco over Kevin Anderson. The 500-level win pushed DelPo up to #8 in the latest rankings. That is his highest ranking since August 2014. He showed a great combination of power and defense at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in making his second final of the season, the other coming in Auckland. With Indian Wells and Miami missing some name players, DelPo could be poised for a big month. He will have to overcome a poor history in both Indian Wells and Miami in recent years to do so. The last time he did anything of note at either tournament was making the Indian Wells final in 2013.

2. Nicolas Jarry
The 22-year-old has gone from relative unknown to promising up and comer during the course of the last month. It was highlighted by making his first ATP final in Sao Paulo this past week. he would lose to Fabio Fognini, but the Chilean’s 9-3 run in Quito, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo combined have boosted him up to a career high ranking of 61. Not too shabby for a guy who started the season ranked 113th.

Nicolas JARRY (CHI)


3. Kevin Anderson
Anderson was on the losing end of the Acapulco final, but he has quietly become perhaps the one of the top five most consistent players on tour. His ranking slips one notch to #9 this week, but he’s now made three finals in four tournaments played. His lone disappointment coming due to a tough draw in Melbourne, where he lost an opening round thriller against Kyle Edmund. When you’re looking at options not named Federer to put into the title mix in Indian Wells and Miami, Anderson is a guy you have to consider a threat to at least be around in the semifinals.

4. Lucas Pouille
Speaking of close calls and one title, that’s exactly where Lucas Pouille finds himself right now. He too has made three finals in 2018, including the final in Dubai this past week where he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut. Pouille has one title in Montpellier to his credit as well as a career high ranking at #12 this week. After shaking off his opening loss for the year at the Australian Open, the Frenchman has found probably the best consistency of his young career. He will be interesting to watch this month as the competition level steps up in Indian Wells and Miami. Pouille has just one top 20 “win” this year and that came against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who was leading him In Montpellier when he was forced to retire. So perhaps this is a little smoke and mirrors-ish by the Frenchman.

5. Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares
Murray and Soares got their first title of the season in Acapulco and 7th as a team to make it two straight years winning the doubles titles in Mexico. It was a critical win for Murray-Soares who take a big jump up from #9 to #4 in the rankings ahead of the Indian Wells-Miami double. There figures to be a lot of reshaping of the doubles rankings in March outside of the top spot where Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic still hold nearly a 1,500 point lead on second place Jean-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. There are big points to be had in Indian Wells and Miami though and Murray-Soares could be heating up just at the right time to continue working up the ladder.


6. Alexander Zverev
Sascha makes the list for the wrong reasons unfortunately. Just when it looked like he was rounding into his best form of the season, Zverev suffered a knee injury in Acapulco against Del Potro. He was able to finish the match, losing in straights, but said afterward that the pain in his knee got worse as the match wore on. That’s not promising news for the world #5 whose status is up-in-the-air for Indian Wells. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to skip Indian Wells and not risk anything. Zverev only earned 45 points at Indian Wells in 2017 and has more to defend after making the quarters in Miami last year.

7. David Goffin
Another bad add to “The Ocho” this week. Goffin will be one of the many missing Indian Wells as the Belgian said his vision is still not 100 percent after the freak accident in Rotterdam. If you missed it, Goffin was hit in the eye by a ball off his own racquet in a match against Grigor Dimirov. It doesn’t sound good that Goffin has also already announced himself unavailable for Belgium’s Davis Cup tie with the United States in April. Of course that is good news for the Americans who now figure to be the favorites to advance to the semifinals in that match-up.

8. Davis Cup Reformat
I had to throw this at the tail end of the list, even though it’s close to a week old now in discussion and has been pushed out of he news cycle. There’s going to be a lot more time to digest this before the ITF officially votes on the proposed changes, but the one thing that has come out of this flawed proposal is that it has sparked discussion. Discussion about the Davis Cup/World Cup of Tennis. When is the last time you were talking about your fellow tennis fans about the Davis Cup? Not often I would guess. So, there’s that.

Listen, the current format needs tweaking for certain. The hope from here is that players and ITF officials can come together with some frank and productive discussion to tweak the proposal. It’s flawed in the time of year they want to stick it in and it’s flawed in trying to smash what could be a good idea into a one week tournament that doesn’t really set it apart from any other tournament. The World Cup style format though is intriguing if they can figure out a way to satisfy the greed for the money that is being pumped into this proposal and common sense scheduling. Stay tuned.

2018 Abierto Mexicano Telcel Final Preview: Kevin Anderson vs Juan Martin Del Potro


(5) Kevin Anderson vs (6) Juan Martin Del Potro

Anderson Seeks Second Title in 2018

If you can be under-the-radar as a top ten player, Kevin Anderson is that guy. He’s quietly become perhaps the second most consistent winner on tour behind Roger Federer this season. Anderson is in his third final of the season, having won the title in his last finals appearance in New York over Sam Querrey. Del Potro is into his second final this season, losing in Auckland to Roberto Bautista Agut. The Argentine is seeking his first title outdoors since 2014. His last two titles have come indoors.

For Anderson, his run in Acapulco has been built on a vicious first serve and aggressive forehand. He smacked 18 aces in holding off Jared Donaldson in the semifinals 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. His first serve win rate was a bit lower than the majority of his matches this tournament at 75 percent and he was broken multiple times (2) for the first time this week. Anderson’s biggest wobble came late in the second set when he struggled to land his first serve, allowing Donaldson to see quite a few second serves. That led to the American being able to secure those two big breaks of serve, although the second came due to an Anderson double fault.

Del Potro dominated second seed Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals to advance. The 29-year-old was a rock on serve, winning 79 percent off his first serve and 55 percent off his second. He would face just one break point and saved it. Zverev meanwhile struggled with finding the range on his ground strokes with far too many unforced errors. In rallies, I really thought Del Potro showed great range in defense and he hit at least a half dozen ridiculous shots off his slice backhand.

Sascha suffered some sort of knee issue early in the opening set, but appeared to be fine after getting it taped up. His bigger problem came off second serve, where DelPo ate up 13 of 21 points and broke the German three times on seven chances. The sixth seed’s return game was pretty solid and he did a nice job off the backhand side, which could pay dividends against Anderson on Saturday Night.

The Formula

Del Potro is 6-0 against Anderson, but take some of that with a grain of salt. They have met just once since 2013. That was a 6-4, 6-4 win for DelPo in Delray Beack last season. Anderson has certainly elevated his game and confidence since then, making his first Grand Slam final and pushing his way into the top ten for the first time at the age of 31. In that Delray Beach meeting, Del Potro was nearly untouchable on serve – winning 84 percent off his first serve and 74 percent off his second. He faced a lone break point and saved it. Anderson sported win rates of 76 percent and 55 percent. The South African was broken twice on six chances.

Watching the tape of their 2017 meeting in Delray Beach, Del Potro did just about everything right. On serve, he did a nice job of mixing in some body serves to keep Anderson off balance. He also did a nice job of targeting the backhand with Anderson rarely getting to tee off with forehand returns like the one that sealed his win over Donaldson last night. Del Potro will likely look again to target the backhand return of Anderson. Stretching him wide and bodying him will both be effective in DelPo can hit his marks. That will pin Anderson back and give the Argentine chances to move in for the kill at the net. He has been very effective in that manner this week.

Likewise, Anderson is going to go after the Del Potro backhand. Del Potro was impressive in his ability to get a racquet on some of the heaters from Zverev yesterday. Even more impressive was his recovery from bad positions after those returns. He was able to get back into the rally fairly consistently. Del Potro’s slice backhand was very effective against Zverev in the semifinals. I thought that it would be a bad pattern for him to exchange backhands with Zverev, but Del Potro used the slice effectively and Zverev made too many mistakes in those exchanges.

Going backhand to backhand with Anderson likely will be a good tactic against Anderson. Anderson is good with the double hander, but it’s not nearly the weapon his forehand is right now. I think DelPo will feel comfortable slicing it back and then flipping it around to forehands to try and dominate those rallies. Speaking of that slice, Anderson will have to be mindful of that slice backhand lob that the Argentine loves. He’s been so effective with it this week and it was utilized well last time against Anderson too. Really the only thing you can do is not give up on the ball when it goes up in the air – just turn around and run to see if you can get something on it.

This is obviously going to be a match centered a lot around the ability of these two to get to their forehands. Anderson loves to utilize his as an aggressive finisher off of a big first serve by moving forward. Del Potro’s is just a missle from most parts of the court and Anderson is going to have to be patient in attacking the backhand of Del Potro more so and figure out how to timely flip those exchanges to his own forehand. As usual with two big men, any time you can tie up your opponent with low balls – you should. Both are athletic, but lose power when lunging for the ball.

The Pig-nosticator

This is a big match mentally for Kevin Anderson. Going 0-6 against anyone is going to be in your head when you start a match. I think that means getting some positive early vibes for the fifth seed would be big if he’s going to get the win. It could also be big mentally for the player who grabs the first set to know that they could finish the match in two and push all the pressure onto the loser of the first set. With the humid Acapulco conditions, three sets is going to where on you. Del Potro has looked like a third set might really punish him if you can get there in each of the last two rounds. Thiem could not and Zverev couldn’t find a way back either.

Anderson might have a little boost after coming back to win in three yesterday, especially given the struggles he had late in the second set. If he can find a serve rhythm early and find some success against the Del Potro backhand, that’s going to be big for him. I think ultimately this comes down to whether or not Anderson can continue to effectively employ his aggressive strategy. He is much better when he serves big and gets quick points. Del Potro to me is the guy who has shown better in rallies, especially in the semifinals. He wouldn’t mind some shorter points, but I think he feels at this point that his defense is good enough to win those longer rallies too.

I think this is a pretty even match on paper. Two guys with big serves and huge forehands. I think the differences come in whether Del Potro can replicate his success with that slice backhand consistently and who avoids too many second serves. I also think Del Potro could find some trouble if Anderson is able to continue pounding his forehand aggressively and consistently. The Argentine hasn’t faced that sort of power and pace from someone who can consistently win off that wing. Piggy gut check says Big Kev gets win #1 against DelPo, but this should be a great battle either way.

Prediction: Kevin Anderson wins in three sets