Indian Wells men's preview: Federer-Nadal matchup looms in semifinals
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The 2015 BNP Paribas Open draw is out and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could meet for the first time in over a year in the semifinals. Federer, a four-time champion in the desert, and Nadal, a three-time champion, were drawn into the the bottom half of the bracket. Defending champion and No. 1 Novak Djokovic drew No. 4 Andy Murray in the top half, meaning the two could meet in the semifinals in a rematch of the Australian Open final, which Djokovic won in five sets.
The highlight of the first round pits Mardy Fish in his comeback match against Ryan Harrison. Fish is playing his first tournament since August 2013 after a heart problem and the concomitant psychological stress derailed his late-career resurgence. Harrison is coming off one of the best results of his career, reaching the semifinals in Acapulco and beating Grigor Dimitrov en route. The winner will play No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the second round.
With the top 32 seeds given byes into the second round, Djokovic will open his title defense against either Marcos Baghdatis or Jiri Vesely. Djokovic is projected to play No. 17 Kevin Anderson in the fourth round and the streaking No. 8 David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. Ferrer is the only player on the ATP Tour to win three titles this season, going 18-1 and winning his last ten matches. Ferrer could play Bernard Tomic in the third round.
Andy Murray followed up his run to the Australian Open final by making the quarterfinals in Rotterdam and Dubai. That's the good news. The bad news is he played two surprisingly poor matches, losing to Gilles Simon and Borna Coric. He could have a tough opener against Vasek Pospisil if the Canadian beats Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round. On the opposite side of Murray's quarter is Nishikori. The two could play in the quarterfinals.
In the bottom half of the draw, Federer, a finalist here last year, will play either Jerzy Janowicz or Diego Schwartzman in the second round. He could get a chance to avenge his Australian Open loss to Andreas Seppi in the third round, with an all-Swiss quarterfinal against Stan Wawrinka looming. Nadal, coming off his first title of the season at the Argentina Open, will play either Igor Sijsling or a qualifier in his opening match, with a potential fourth-round meeting with the 13th-seeded Simon and a projected quarterfinal against Milos Raonic.
Nick Kyrgios returns to the tour in his first tournament since making the Australian Open quarterfinals in January. He opens against American Denis Kudla in the first round, with the winner to play the 11th-seeded Dimitrov. Also returning to the tour is U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. The No. 10 seed has not played a match this season due to a shoulder injury. He will play either Juan Monaco or Teymuraz Gabashvili in the second round.
As for the American prospects, No. 20 John Isner has been drawn into Djokovic's section and will open his tournament against a qualifier. He could then play No. 17 Kevin Anderson in the third round with a fourth-rounder against Djokovic looming. Isner has always played Djokovic tough on American hard courts, notching wins over him here in Indian Wells and in Cincinnati, but the top American has been slumping to start the season. He's 3-5 in tour matches this year and coming off a disappointing Davis Cup, where he went 0-2 on the weekend, including a loss to No. 111 James Ward.
In addition to Isner, Fish and Harrison, Donald Young looks to continue his good run of form against Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round. Steve Johnson opens against Marcel Granollers, and Sam Querrey plays Sergiy Stakhovsky. Jack Sock, playing his first match of the year after undergoing hip surgery in December, faces Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round.
The first round of the men's tournament begins on Thursday.