The 2012 Masters 1000 season is starting today with the beginning of the main draw action in the desert of Indian Wells, and if the main draw provides us as many surprises and drama as the qualifications have, we are in for a spectacular event. The draw, of course, helps making sure that drama we will likely have. Will we have yet another perfect four round of semi-finals or can surprises make it a more interesting party?
Let’s first make something clear: I know that the top 4 is absolutely dominating and everything, but this is getting a tad tiresome, so of course, I’m hoping for surprises in the draw and for a player to come and ruin the fun of many. Does this mean that I think it will happen? No.
In the top half, Novak Djokovic has a cake draw, and so does Andy Murray (at last, he does). Moreover, Murray showed that there is no slumping this year so both should likely square off again in semis. And if both play like they did in Dubaï, they will with the same result.
There will likely be upsets but I don’t think they will happen to either of the World nos 1 and 4. Not this time in Murray’s case. However, he could very well face a very tricky opponent in the third round, as I believe that Ryan Harrison will cause the upset of slumping Viktor Troicki in round 2. I must say that such an upset would rejoice me, as the match between Murray and Harrison, at the Australian Open, was a very entertaining match and it would be interesting to see a best-of-3 repeat of it. This said, Harrison faces a tricky first-rounder against Flavio Cipolla.
In this half, I will also follow closely what happens to Andy Roddick. The American faces a very tough draw from the start (with the winner of Lukasz Kubot – Ivo Karlovic) and he hasn’t had it easy for quite some time, especially as far as injuries are concerned. The 2010 runner-up has a lot on his plate in this tournament and seeing him do well in this first Masters 1000 of the season would definitely be a good thing for him. A potential meeting with Tomas Berdych awaits him if he reaches the third round.
Of course, I will also keep my eyes on Juan Mónaco, who doesn’t have an easy draw either. The recent Viña del Mar winner (his first title in a little over four years) was defeated by countryman David Nalbandian in the second round in Buenos Aires and was forced to retire due to issues from the heat in the first round of Acapulco. This time, he will face the winner of the match opposing Nicolas Mahut and qualifier Vasek Pospisil for starters, with a potential (and difficult) meeting with his good friend John Isner in the third round. One thing is for sure as far as Pico is concerned: no matter what happens, he will put up a great fight.
Nevertheless, as I mentioned, I don’t think there will be any surprises in the semi-finals in this half, and we should see a third Djokovic – Murray encounter.
In this half, if Rafael Nadal has a very good draw in order to repeat his performance of last year (runner-up), the same cannot be said of Roger Federer, who has a decent draw, but the hardest of the top 4 in this tournament.
The Swiss should not have any problem reaching the third round, but he then might very well meet big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, which will be a good test for him. However, we know that although those matches are very tough (and nerve-racking for his fans), Federer has a knack of feeding off his opponent’s power and use it as his own, which is why I am not overly worried for the World no 3. In the fourth round, Federer could meet Gaël Monfils and although such a match should be highly entertaining, again, I don’t see much of a problem for him.
His opponent in the quarter-finals is likely to be a very tired one, as the other part of the quarter is, by far, the hardest of the draw, whether you look at it from the highest seed’s point of view (David Ferrer) or from last year’s semi-finalist’s (Juan Martín del Potro). If the Spaniard, in splendid form, should reach the fourth round without much problems, the same cannot be said for del Potro, who faces a potential meeting with Fernando Verdasco in the third round, and who knows which Verdasco will show up?
This said, a fourth-round heartbreaker is what may likely happen, with the perspective of a long and difficult match followed by a meeting with Roger Federer just after. Did I say heartbreak? Both are players that I deemed able to do great things during that tournament. Not only will they face, but they will then face Federer, against whom both have losing records.
Hence, this is why I think that we will, indeed, have a Fedal semi-final, and thus another perfect 4. The ones who could have done the most damage, in my mind, were del Potro and Ferrer, and the hazard of the draw made them face off early, and then meet Federer. Tough luck for both and hopefully Miami will bring both a better draw.
Finals? A repeat of the Dubaï final (Federer – Murray) would be nice but I will go with Rafa Nadal instead of Federer, facing Andy Murray.
Indian Wells on TV?
Nothing until Saturday as far as diffusion of the tournament is concerned. Indian Wells may have Hawk Eye on all courts now, but where TV broadcast is concerned, it is still a dinosaur of a tournament. Many very interesting first-round matches and none to be seen again this year, even though main draw action starts in a couple of hours.
Yet another retirement
We did not have enough retirements (and the sadness that comes with them) since the beginning of the season. With Fernando González playing his last tournament in Miami in two weeks, it was the turn of one of the best-liked players on Tour, Ivan Ljubicic, to announce his retirement yesterday. Ljubicic will play his last event in Monte Carlo next month.
Ljubicic is the fourth player to announce his retirement since the beginning of the year. He joins Feña, but also Argentines José Acasuso and Juan Pablo Brzezicki.
I fear saying “Who’s next”…