First Quarter: Can Djokovic double up again?
Watching Dubai, you could almost tell that Novak Djokovic was a little less interested in winning. He had a comfortable break between the Australian Open and The Dubai Tennis Championships, and he seems content getting the necessary match play he needs in order to be ready to defend his Indian Wells/Miami double.
What strikes me as most interesting is his comfort level with losing his first match of 2012. In 2011, Novak Djokovic proved to the world that he was not interested in losing, and went off to his improbable 43-0 start to the season. In Dubai, following his loss to Andy Murray, he smiled, basically brushing off the loss. To me it comes off as arrogant, and once again, just like in Cincinnati in 2011, he treated the loss to Murray as nothing more than a hiccup, in his world-beating tour.
Will he play better in the slower conditions at Indian Wells?
He has a very favorable quarter.
His potential third-round opponent Kevin Anderson has defeated Djokovic before (Miami), and just last week won the title in Delray Beach. Anderson is ranked a career high 30th in the rankings. Djokovic could face Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, but that truly depends on Berdych and his willingness to string together some consistency.
Andy Roddick also found his name drawn in this quarter, perhaps gaining some confidence by beating Roger Federer at the exhibition match at Madison Square Garden, but after a first-round bye, he could land Ivo Karlovic. His road is tough.
One thing I am looking forward to is the potential rematch between Tomas Berdych and Nicolas Almagro. I look for Almagro to skip the handshake.
Second Quarter: Can Murray make it past the 2nd Round?
Murray’s win over Novak Djokovic should provide a shot of confidence, and also tells us that Murray will not fall in the early rounds of both Indian Wells and Miami in 2012. He is defending a minuscule 20 points between the two Masters 1000 events. If he plans on making a run at the Big 3, now is the time.
His two matches against Djokovic in 2012 provide a good sampling of what he is capable of accomplishing in 2012. However, he still needs to put it all together for a complete tournament. Murray has had previous successes at the Masters 1000 level, I fully expect him to be in the mix on the slower courts of Indian Wells.
In Murray’s potential third-round match he might face American Ryan Harrison, who pushed him at the Australian Open, or Viktor Troicki, who is very capable. In the fourth round is Stanislas Wawrinka, who usually gives Murray fits.
John Isner, should flourish on a slow hard court. He is approaching the top 10 and is coming off a very impressive win against Federer in Davis Cup. His American Davis Cup teammate, Mardy Fish will look to get his disappointing season back on track as he attempts to keep his top 10 ranking. The two Americans should meet in the fourth round.
It is my gut feeling that Isner will meet Murray in the quarterfinals. That should be an epic battle, as Murray will have to find a way to break the tall American’s heavy serve.
Third Quarter: Will Federer continue his torrid run?
Federer’s quarter is my choice for the toughest section of the draw. It is loaded with players that have a chance to come through to the semifinals. Federer comes into the California desert with an 18-2 record having won his last two tournaments.
Federer defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the final at Rotterdam, and then beat del Potro again before claiming the Dubai title over Andy Murray. Federer is the man to beat at this early stage of 2012, as he looks to recapture the magic that led him to back to back Indian Wells – Miami doubles in the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
In his section, potential quarterfinal matchups are, David Ferrer who is 18-1 this year, Juan Martin del Potro coming in at 16-4, and Jurgen Melzer who won the title in Memphis.
Federer has to be liking his chances against those three, however, they are all very capable of pulling off an upset. Juan Martin del Potro just can’t seem to avoid running into Federer, although I am sure he would like a shot at redemption. He has lost all three matches against Federer since January, and is yet to take even a set.
Federer’s biggest test could come in the form of a missile in the third round, where he’ll most likely meet Canadian Milos Raonic for the first time.
Ferrer and del Potro should meet in a blockbuster fourth-round. In the end, I think Federer’s current form, and ability to adapt to the unique weather conditions at Indian Wells, will see him navigate through a tough section.
Fourth Quarter: Where has Rafa gone?
Rafael Nadal has been in hiding since his Australian Open loss to Novak Djokovic. One would imagine he was hitting balls at a target of Novak Djokovic across the net.
The slow courts of Indian Wells suits his game well. Nadal has won the tournament twice, and Nadal also seems to adapt well to the wind.
Nadal has a fairly easy first two matches, potentially against Alejandro Falla and Jarkko Nieminen, which should help him get his match legs back, following the extended break.
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga is the potential quarterfinal opponent for Nadal, and briefly spent a few minutes as the world No. 5. He has the ability to defeat Nadal, however, on these courts Nadal shouldn’t be too worried.
Nadal should find his friendly rival Federer standing across the net in the semifinals.
Semifinals: Murray def. Djokovic, Federer def. Nadal
Final: Federer def. Murray