The draw for the 2012 edition of Indian Wells pits the two gladiators from the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic
and Rafael Nadal
, against each other at the top of their respective halves of the draw.
Of course, these are not the only players playing, and an upset could occur at any time.
It can be difficult to predict a single match much less an entire draw.
This said, here is my forecast (assuming all players are playing at or near their best:
Indian Wells hard court playing conditions are one of the slowest on the tour.
If the players that favor slower/high bouncing playing conditions, like Nadal and Djokovic, play near their best level, they should beat anyone, especially the ones that favor faster/low bouncing conditions, such as Federer. Someone like Andy Murray, is better in slower/high bouncing conditions than Federer, but not as good as Nadal or Djokovic.
Let's take this quarter by quarter:
I think Djokovic's biggest challenge on his side of the quarter will be Phillipp Kohlschreiber.
In their most recent H2H at Indian Wells 2010, he lost to Djokovic in the final set tiebreaker (7-3). That effort was likely buoyed by his 2009 straight set win over Djokovic at 2009 Roland Garros. In their only other H2H in 2008, Djokovic straight setted Kohlschreiber at Indian Wells.
However, Mr. Kohlschreiber's recent form has not been that good. He has losses to Sela and Seppi. An upset is possible, but look for Djokovic to pull this out here. I don't see Gasquet offering much of a challenge to Djokovic.
In the other part of the quarter, I feel 7th seed Tomas Berdych is going to have a difficult time in these conditions. I think Nicolas Almagro has the best chance in this portion, despite his rather poor record at Indian Wells. His clay form has been pretty good this year.
Djokovic vs. Amalgro:
I think Djokovic
will take this one unless he plays poorly or conditions are very very slow.
Murray's draw is not easy. His immediate side of the quarter shouldn't be too bad. I think his toughest challenge will come from the youngster Ryan Harrison. His biggest challenge on his half of the quarter should come from Wawrinka. Wawrinka is too tough for Simon in slower conditions. I think Stan Wawrinka can beat Murray here. Wawrinka plays decently in slow conditions, beating Murray on clay and in Miami. The other half of the quarter should be interesting with Isner and Fish the top competitors. I think Fish prefers faster courts compared to Isner. Isner has shown that he can win on higher bouncing slow surfaces. So I think Isner will come through there.
Isner vs. Wawrinka:
Tough match to call. Isner beat Wawrinka in a very close match in Paris in 2011. He also beat him on clay in 2010 Belgrade, but fell to him in Tokyo 2009.
I think Stan Wawrinka
can beat Isner. Wawrinka plays decently in slow conditions. Wawrinka has also had very good results at Indian Wells, losing some tough matches to Djokovic in 2009 and 2008, and losing to Roger Federer in 2011. But it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Isner
Rafael Nadal has to be careful of falling early due to his recent lack of activity.
His top challengers in his portion of his half of the QF are likely to be Mayer, and Haas. Mayer hasn't played well recently, so I think that to be an unlikely upset. Haas is capable of upsetting Nadal, has played well at Indian Wells in the past, losing to Djokovic in 2009, beating Murray in 2008, but is getting older, lost to Nadal this year in the Australian Open, and it will be tough for him. Nadal should pull through.
In the other part of Nadal's half of the quarter, there are some tough players in Lopez, Baghdatis, and Dolgopolov. I see Baghdatis beating Lopez here. Baghdatis has played well at Indian Wells, beating Federer in 2010, and Lopez not. Dolgopolov vs. Baghdatis will be more interesting. They've split their last two H2H, Dolgopolov in Metz and Baghdatis in Moscow. Dolgopolov has only played once at IW, losing to del Potro. Tough to call as also Dolgopolov can be inconsistent. I'm going to flip a coin and say Baghdatis. If Baghdatis faces Nadal, he has a chance to upset, depending on Nadal's match fitness.
The other half of Nadal's quarter is interesting with Jo-Wilfied Tsonga heading the list.
I think Tsonga will handle Llodra. But Xavier Malisse might prove tough. He beat Tsonga last year at IW. Tsonga's has generally not done well in IW, with his best showing a very close loss to Nadal in 2008. Tipsarevic has not handled IW or Muller. Look for an upset there. Nalbandian should handle Cilic, but Muller vs. Nalbandian might be tough. On a hunch, I'll go with Nalbandian to face Malisse. If Malisse gets through to Nadal, he also has a chance to upset Nadal.
I have a tough time seeing Nadal not making it if he his match fit by the time he gets to Bagdahtis or Dolgopolov. The other side is also questionable. I'll go with a QF of:
Malisse vs. Nadal
Malisse could upset Nadal, but they haven't played each other in a long time, since Malisse beat Nadal in 2007 on the hard court of Chennai in India. I'll go with Rafael Nadal
to win here, but again, if Nadal is not match fit, he could lose anywhere along the way.
Mr. Federer might have the toughest draw of the top 4. The conditions here don't really favor him as the faster conditions against the top 2 players, even if he says he likes it. Still he can probably make it at least to the semis. His confidence is high with 33 wins from his last 35 matches.
On his portion of the Quarterfinal half, Federer has Raonic as the main challenger. I think he can dispense with the big serving Canadian. Federer will be able to read his serve, and the slower conditions will help him return. The other portion of Federer's half of the quarter is interesting and tough with Monfils, Melzer, and Davydenko. All of these players are capable on any given day. I liked Melzer's recent win, even with a broken toe. Monfils has never done well at IW. Davydenko has not done well at IW either, but had a tough loss vs. Wawrinka at IW last year and to Murray a few years ago. If he gets through, and faces Melzer, Davydenko has an excellent H2H (6-1) vs. Melzer, though all have been on clay with the exception of indoors in Rotterdam this year and Halle on grass (Davydenko won both). Despite that, I'm going to say Melzer will come through to play Federer. Melzer beat Federer for the only time in their last meeting in 2011 Monte-Carlo on clay. Melzer could pull off the upset, but I see Federer going through to the other half of his quarter.
The other half has an interesting set of players, but almost all of them favor slower conditions. The top competitors will be del Potro, Ferrer, Verdasco, and perhaps Dimitrov.
Dimitrov has never played at Indian Wells. Ferrer doesn't have a good record at IW, losing to bigger servers, but beating other clay court players. Still I look for Ferrer to take young Dimitrov and then Chela. Verdasco will probably take the younger American Ryan Sweeting, but will lose to del Potro. That leaves a Ferrer vs. del Potro matchup to take on Federer.
This should be a good match. Ferrer is coming off an emotional win vs. del Potro in the Davis Cup. But at Indian Wells, del Potro has played well his last 2 times, only to lose to Nadal.
And he beat Ferrer in Miami. So I'm going to give the edge to del Potro, but obviously Ferrer could do it.
Federer vs. del Potro
This would be the 4th matchup in 3 months for these players, with Federer winning all, even though some were close.
Juan Martin del Potro must be getting tired of this. If Federer falters, del Potro could certainly win here. But Federer has so much confidence now, I think he will pull it out.
It's rather unfortunate that these players are playing so often. It makes it easier for one person to get a mental advantage.
wins another tight match vs. del Potro to advance.
Djokovic vs. Wawrinka/Isner
Djokovic vs. Wawrinka should be a great close match. Last time they met at IW in 2009, Djokovic prevailed in 2 hard fought tiebreakers winning them 9-7 and 8-6. But this is the enhanced Novak Djokovic. So I give the edge to Novak Djokovic
if this is the SF matchup.
Djokovic vs. Isner
Difficult to predict. Djokovic leads the H2H 2-0, but they haven't played since 2010 where Djokovic beat him in a tough 5 sets in Davis Cup on clay, and then in 2 sets on hard courts in Beijing. The bounce at IW is higher. If Isner's serve is on, it might make it difficult for Djokovic. I give John Isner
a chance to upset Djokovic here if this is the matchup.
Nadal vs. Federer
Nadal should take Federer in these conditions unless Federer's confidence is so high and Nadal's lack of good match play hurts him. I pick Rafael Nadal
, but a Federer win wouldn't totally surprise me.
Nadal vs. Djokovic/Isner
I think it will be a tough task for Nadal to beat Djokovic here without recent tough tournaments. So, if that's the matchup, I favor Novak Djokovic.
If Nadal faces Isner, then I think Rafael Nadal
can win here.