With Indian Wells approaching the half way point and the tour heading straight in the direction of Miami, the players going deep into the second week in the Californian desert will have little time to prepare for the now joint ‘fifth major’. Every year it comes around and I simply don’t fancy players to generally back up in this scenario, they are mostly, after all, human. Indian Wells and Miami have the same importance now, in terms of prestige and prize money. We probably need to get a bigger gap between these two! Djokovic’s form has been exemplary here in the past, as it has at a lot of venues in the last few years, he has backed up here 4 times previously, though. He will actually have to flank the form to do that this year based on what we have seen. Vika Azarenka actually did it last year as well, but it is a huge ask. I’m certainly not saying players are throwing matches but you have to think how hard it is going into peak condition for tournament after tournament, week in week out. In this day and age, the physical side of the game is unreal and players are asked to play week after week at times unless they want to avoid the fines. Some players blatantly over schedule, other simply can’t afford to they need to look after themselves and in truth, both are understandable. But the demands on the body are at an all time high right now and players as much if not surely more than ever are carrying injuries with regularity, it just depends on to what extent. You hear footballers mention the same for example. I certainly don’t see anyone winning back to back titles here right now. Expect to see a fair few of this week’s performers get beat in the early stages in Key Biscayne, some may argue the faster court surface may also play a part in this, I think that’s less of a factor. Players not being robots would have more to do with it. Also for some, the Slams will be the priority and again you can’t argue with that.
I don’t think Muzza will be that bothered by his early loss here. Pospisil has now been added to a list of losses that now includes Donald Young, Garcia-Lopez and Federico Delbonis. No disrespect to any of the above, the fact he has lost to all four there suggests that its just one of those tournaments for Muzza. He said himself he’s not sure what it is, conditions etc but he’s not been in the winner’s enclosure here yet. It’s now a big opportunity for Goffin or Thiem to step up in that half. Stan’s inconsistency means they have to fancy their chances, Tsonga also getting beat by Fognini in the top half, in fairness his wife is expecting their first child, so preparations probably weren’t spot on for the inform Frenchman. The bottom half is packed and we have some potential crackers there this week with Nole, Nadal, Fed, Nick, Sasha, Delboy, Dimitrov and Sock all in the mix for the second week. I’ll be keeping a tab on Dimitrov/Sock tonight as these are two of my favourite operators on this surface currently. The winner of that will really fancy making the semi-finals then, as Nishikori has expressed in interviews that he doesn’t think the courts really suit him. Kei hasn’t been in the best of form in the last few weeks either, very poor particularly against Bellucci in Rio.
With SW now pulling out of both events with a knee injury, it gives a few of the young guns and old skool Ladies a big chance to come through and win these events right now, though I haven’t put my money where my mouth is. It’s certainly not going to be Simona Halep who has gone right off the boil, particularly this year. She looks shot of any confidence right now and to me, it seems like she’s struggling to motivate herself amid rumours she’s also not fully fit, a pretty bad combo if right! Mladenovic put in another bullying performance against the Romanian but Halep is getting overpowered even more than in the past of late. Errors have even crept into her game now when you would expect her to be a lot more solid. Kerber still fails to impress me and it was just her mental strength that got her through against Parmentier, who was a challenge away from leading 5/2 in the decider. She just looks a little burnt out from last year right now does Angie and I’m still not sure the knee is 100%. Madison Keys is playing her first event of the season and looks to be in good nick. It’s a big ask after not playing since the end of year finals in Singapore in October but this is wide open. She certainly hasn’t lost any of her power on returning to the game, Wozniacki will show us where she is at next up. The Pliskova/Svitolina match up in the top half is the one I’m looking forward too, though the Ukranian hasn’t beaten her opponent in five attempts as of yet. Both have had scares this week, Wang served for the match against Svitolina, Pliskova edged out Puig before having a mid-match lapse against Begu. The slower lower conditions should suit the Ukranian’s game, so let’s see if she can mentally up it as well.
Andy Del Potro