PREVIEW: For the first time in several years, there is a sense of hope among the rest of the field thanks to Stan Wawrinka’s Australian Open triumph. Tennis’ “Big Four” no longer look invincible. Andy Murray does not look to be quite over his back surgery. Novak Djokovic has not won a tournament so far in 2014. Rafael Nadal was beaten in a Grand Slam final (when he was supposed to win handily) and injury concerns linger for the Spaniard. Only Roger Federer has looked impressive thus far this year, but he’s 32 and who knows whether his back acts up again. Could this be the tournament where the top four names re-establish their dominance? Three of the four (Nadal, Murray, Federer) are all in the top half of the men’s draw – good news for the rest of the field!
QUARTER #1: Last year, Nadal returned from a long injury layoff to win this tournament (his first hard-court tournament of 2013) and it propelled him to perhaps the best season of his career. This year he is going to have to work for it. He may have to go through the veteran Radek Stepanek, the in-form Alexandr Dolgopolov (who lost a tough final to Nadal on clay recently), and then either Gael Monfils or Fabio Fognini just to get to the quarterfinals. Waiting for him could be Andy Murray, but the Scot has just as difficult a path to navigate with young guns Milos Raonic and Jerzy Janowicz lurking.
Quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal vs Andy Murray
Winner: Rafael Nadal
QUARTER #2: Stan Wawrinka is entering this tournament in an unfamiliar position as one of the top seeds. There may be some pressure on the world number three but he should find some comfort from his draw. It should be smooth sailing to the quarterfinals. The other top seed in this section is Wawrinka’s countryman Roger Federer. Federer’s game and confidence looks as good as it’s ever been after winning at Dubai last week. The only possible hiccup would be veteran Tommy Haas who always seem to play Federer tough. But it would be difficult to envision anything other than an All-Swiss quarterfinal.
Quarterfinal: Stan Wawrinka vs Roger Federer
Winner: Roger Federer
QUARTER #3: This might be the weakest quarter of the men’s draw which is good news for Tomas Berdych. The top seed here has had a great start to 2014, making the Australian Open semifinals as well as the finals in Dubai. Furthermore, the other top seeds, Richard Gasquet and John Isner, have shown nothing to indicate that they have a deep run in them. If Berdych gets to the quarterfinals he should advance. If there’s anyone who should concern the big Czech, it should the fast-raising Bulgarian Grigor Dimitorv. The 22-year old won his second career ATP title last week in Mexico is is up to a career-best 16th in the world ranking. It would make for a very interesting fourth round match. Remember Berdych has never done well historically at Indian Wells, and “Baby Fed” looks like he’s ready to take that next step in his tennis career.
Quarterfinal: Grigor Dimitrov vs Richard Gasquet
Winner: Grigor Dimitrov
QUARTER #4: Juan Martin del Potro has had a miserable season, as he continues to struggle with a bothersome wrist. He has decided to go ahead and play this tournament but how effective will be big Argentine be with a wrist that seems heading to an operating room? That should make this section of the draw even more favorable for Djokovic. Not only has he avoided Federer and Murray in his half of the draw, but the main threat in his quarter of the draw is less than 100%. That leaves only Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the other top seed here. Djokovic currently enjoys a 11-5 career record and has won the past seven meetings against the Frenchman.
Quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Winner: Novak Djokovic
SEMIFINAL #1: It doesn’t matter how poorly Nadal plays or how healthy he is coming into this meeting. Something clicks for the Spaniard whenever he faces Federer. Seeing the Swiss maestro across the net always seem to bring out the best in Nadal. Besides this will always be a terrible match up for Federer (10-23 lifetime head to head). His backhand just can’t hold up against the Nadal forehand. Nadal has also won the last five meetings.
Winner: Rafael Nadal
SEMIFINAL #2: Grigor Dimitrov looks like he has a very promising future and I expect this match to be go three sets. In the end I think Djokovic has been at this stage several more times than the young Bulgarian and I believe his experience will win out in the end.
Winner: Novak Djokovic
FINAL: A Nadal – Djokovic match is usually a long, grueling, physically-taxing affair with one or two points determining the match and this match should be no different. Which player will be the fresher one heading into this match? I’m expecting both semifinals to go three sets so there shouldn’t be too much of an advantage. I’m giving Djokovic the edge because the match is on hard-court and he should be extra motivated to win his first title in 2014. Also, how healthy really is Nadal?
Champion: Novak Djokovic
Who will win the men's singles title at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open?
- Roger Federer (44%, 4 Votes)
- Rafael Nadal (22%, 2 Votes)
- Novak Djokovic (22%, 2 Votes)
- Stan Wawrinka (11%, 1 Votes)
- Andy Murray (0%, 0 Votes)
- Someone else (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 9