Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open is only a couple of weeks away and as I start packing I am starting to ponder what the event holds.
First of all I am sure the desert weather will be a relief from the bitter cold winter that continues to grip Toronto with another round of snow forecast for this week. However you never know what the desert will hold, extreme hot days and frigid nights make packing a challenge.
The venue for this tournament is first class. Not only do you get to watch great tennis, but the backdrop of palm trees fading into mountains glistening in the sun is a whole level of awesomeness on its own.
The women’s draw appeared to be wide open, that was until a couple of weeks ago when Serena announced that after an absence of 14 years she would be returning to the California desert. I am not sure if she is a guaranteed trophy holder as there will be several players taking a direct aim at her. Furthermore many of these players have been playing tournaments and staying match tough, whereas Serena has not played any competitive matches since her win at the Australian Open. Not only could she face tough challenges from some of the new power hitters in the game including Garbine Muguruza and Madison Keys, but an unseeded, quickly returning to form Victoria Azarenka is lurking in the field.
Keep an eye out for the Czechs including Doha winner Lucie Safarova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova to do some damage, as well as newcomer Karolina Pliskova. Dominika Cibulkova could also be a factor if she has sufficiently recovered from her achilles injury. Kvitova would have been a factor but apparently she has just withdrawn from the tournament and no reason has been provided as of yet.
Taylor Townsend of the USA was granted a wild card into the main draw and after watching her at the French Open I will not be surprised to see her post some impressive wins. Hopefully a physically healthy Bettanie Mattek-Sands can have a great run close to home.
Unfortunately I don’t expect much from Canadian Eugenie Bouchard who has not played well yet in 2015. After hiring Sam Sumyk as her new coach she has withdrawn prior to her last two tournaments, and i have heard a few rumblings about an arm injury.
Of course the ultimate final would be another Serena and Maria match up, but I think they will both have to work hard to make it to the final.
On the men’s side of things we could be heading toward another Roger-Novak final as in last week’s Dubai event where Roger came out the winner. A win in Indian Wells by Roger would certainly have everyone talking about him regaining the number one ranking. Nadal played well on the clay courts of South America the past couple of weeks, but i don’t think he is up to the challenge of a Masters 1000 level hard court tournament yet. Kei Nishikori is now the number 4 ranked player in the world and the hard court suits his game so i certainly think he will be around until at least the quarter finals. Andy Murray hopes to answer a few questions about his play after some early round losses this year have resulted in him now occupying the number 5 ranking.
As far as upsets go I don’t expect any major upsets involving the top five. But the new wave of players including Nick Kyrgios, Thanes Kokkinakis, Borna Coric and maybe even Ryan Harrison could present some problems for Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and perhaps even Thomas Berdych.
The American men will feel the pressure to perform at home especially John Isner or Sam Querry. Might be hard for Querry to focus after all the attention surrounding his millionaire matchmaker appearance.
Predictions are always fun, but how the tournament unfolds is always a surprise. Can’t wait for play to start.