• Joseph Marino

Indian Wells Masters Preview: Djokovic, Federer, and Zverev Handed Tricky Draw

The "Fifth Slam" has finally arrived. As tennis fans begrudgingly wait several months between the Australian Open and Roland Garros, it is the Masters 1000 events that keep us going, and the first one begins this Thursday, March 7th. The Indian Wells Masters is set to kick off in the California desert with 19 of the top 20 players in attendance, with the defending champion Del Potro having pulled out with a knee injury.

The tournament is lauded as one of the greatest tournaments of the year, and one that is often compared to majors rather than other Masters 1000 events. This is because the tournament offers all that the majors do; a strong field of competitors, seven rounds of tennis, a seven-figure pay-day for the champion, and one of the largest stadiums in tennis to boot. It's a spectacle of sport, not even just in the tennis world.

The tournament has released the draw and it has fans and analysts alike buzzing. Despite the qualifying rounds not being complete, the other players have been delegated and matchup's decided.

The the most eye-catching matchup seen in the draw is a potential Djokovic v. Kyrgios in the third round. It is a worrisome contest for the world No. 1 as he has lost both of his previous encounters with the Aussie. Both of the matches came early in 2017, as Djokovic was in the midst of injury and coaching adjustments. Though Kyrgios may have taken advantage of a deficient Djokovic, it should be noted that his last win came in the fourth round at this very event. And with Kyrgios on a high after his triumph in Acapulco a week ago, it will surely be anything but straight forward for Djokovic.

Another matchup that has fans excited is a potential third-round rematch of the 2017 Indian Wells Masters final of Federer and Wawrinka. The two have a one-sided head-to-head record with Federer leading 21-3 and none of those wins coming on hardcourt for Wawrinka either. Despite this, the two have had their fair share of epic contests, most recently at the 2018 Cincinnati Masters. Their previous matches always consist of world-class one-handed backhands, impeccable shot making, and camaraderie between the pair that creates a unique atmosphere. Fans will surely be delighted.

The tennis gods have also blessed us with a potential third-round matchup between Zverev brothers. A familial matchup like this, on one of the biggest stages in the sport, is a fortuitous encounter that can't be missed. The only meeting the two have had on tour came last year at the Citi Open where Alex won in straight sets. Their matchup is not only interesting for their brotherly bond but also for their contrasting styles. The 6'3" Mischa is a lefty who is known as a dying breed of serve-and-volley players on tour, while the younger, 6'6" Alex is a righty who is known for his fearsome baseline game. These factors make this match check all of the boxes, another must watch.

The first Masters 1000 event of the year is about to get under way, with numerous storylines and points of interest, it will surely be another memorable two weeks under the scorching desert sun.

Matches that the four top seeds can face if the draw goes to chalk:

1. Djokovic:

R1: Bye

R2: Qualifier

R3: Kyrgios

R4: Cecchinato / Monfils

QF: Thiem / Coric

3. A. Zverev

R1: Bye

R2: Klizan / M. Zverev

R3: Dimitrov

R4: De Minaur / Raonic

QF: Anderson / Tsitsipas

4. Federer

R1: Bye

R2: Gojowczyk / Seppi

R3: Fucsovics / Wawrinka

R4: Fognini / Edmund

QF: Nishikori / Cilic

2. Nadal

R1: Bye

R2: Qualifier / Donaldson

R3: Schwartzman

R4: Medvedev / Goffin

QF: Isner / Khachanov

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