The world's top tennis stars will begin to separate themselves from the pack during the third round of the 2014 BNP Paribas Open.
Six of the ATP’s top-10 players still remain after two rounds at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It all leaves the door open for some exciting matchups down the road.
Here are the upcoming matchups for some of the top names remaining in the tournament:
|Name||Ranking||3rd Rd Opponent|
|Rafael Nadal||1||Alexandr Dolgopolov|
|Novak Djokovic||2||Alejandro Gonzalez|
|Stanislas Wawrinka||3||Andreas Seppi|
|Andy Murray||6||Jiri Vesely|
|Roger Federer||8||Dmitry Tursunov|
|Richard Gasquet||9||Fernando Verdasco|
After winning just one singles title last year, critics begun wondering whether Roger Federer had finally fallen off.
However, the former No. 1 silenced such talk by taking down the Dubai Tennis Championships earlier this month. His run to the title included victories over Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych.
After making relatively quick work of Paul-Henri Mathieu on Saturday (6-2, 7-6), don’t expect Federer to let up against Dmitry Tursunov.
The Swiss has a 3-0 head-to-head record against Tursunov. The two are also on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of momentum.
In the past, when Federer is on a roll, he's as consistent as can be. This is the same guy who made it to an improbable 10 straight Grand Slam finals at one point in his career.
Federer seems to be putting it all together once again. Meanwhile, Tursunov is heading in the opposite direction, losing four of his last six matches.
Looks like we're in for another quick Federer match.
Andy Murray had a 2013 to remember recording a 43-8 mark in singles while capturing four singles titles highlighted by a triumph at Wimbledon. However, due to injuries, the 26-year-old has already fallen four times this season.
But no matter how rusty Murray is, his third-round matchup with Jiri Vesely shouldn’t prove to be too much of an obstacle.
Only adding fuel to his fire, Murray has the opportunity to jump back into the top five in the ATP Rankings. As tennis journalist Chris Goldsmith notes, Berdych’s surprising loss in the second round has a lot to do with that:
Andy Murray will definitely now move above Tomas Berdych in the new ATP rankings. Andy currently up to provisional ATP number 5— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) March 9, 2014
Although Murray struggled a bit in his own second-round clash against Lukas Rosol (4-6, 6-3, 6-2), look for him to regain his composure with a quarterfinals date with Rafael Nadal looming in the future.
Experience will play a large role in this match.
Only 20 years old, Vesely lacks the experience and pace to keep up with the hard-hitting Scotsman. He's just 4-11 in his career.
Murray should overpower Vesely with his serve. But if that's not enough, Murray's accurate ball hitting will leave the youngster running all over the court and force him into errors.
This one could get ugly.
Thus far, Novak Djokovic’s 2014 campaign has been somewhat of a disappointment. After closing out last season by winning four straight titles and 24 matches in a row, the 26-year-old is still searching for his first finals appearance, let alone title.
Luckily, with Berdych’s surprisingly early loss, only Richard Gasquet stands in his way of appearing in the finals.
Then there’s Djokovic’s third-round opponent Alejandro Gonzalez. Prior to this tournament, he hadn’t won a single match in his career, going 0-6.
The 25-year-old will enter with high hopes, riding a two-match win streak. However, neither Adrian Mannarino (5-7, 6-4, 7-6) nor Ivan Dodig (6-4, 2-6, 7-6) compare talent-wise to Djokovic.
Furthermore, while it's great to see Gonzalez finally put some victories on the board, he just barely escaped those two matches.
On the other hand, Djokovic is an experienced champion who has won several accolades over his career. In fact, he won seven singles titles and 74 matches in 2013 alone.
Gonzalez will definitely come into this meeting feeling confident. However, expect Djokovic to pile it on his opponent early and run away with this one.
It would be surprising if Djokovic surrendered more than five games in this matchup.
Nadal hasn’t let his slip-up during the Australian Open finals slow him down. During his next outing—at the ATP Rio Open 500—the 27-year-old raced to the title, dropping just one set in five matches.
Ironically, his opponent in the finals at Rio de Janeiro, Alexandr Dolgopolov, is also his opponent in the third round at Indian Wells.
Fortunately, Nadal has enjoyed a lot of success at the expense of the Ukrainian. He’s won each of their five previous meetings.
Still, per the BNP Paribas Open’s official site, Nadal isn’t taking Dolgopolov lightly:
[He] is always a very tough player to play. You know, he's a player [who] brings me to the limit, because—not the same like [Radek] Stepanek, but in a way, some ways, a little bit similar because both players are playing not two points the same way.
They are playing very aggressive. They can play four winners and then a few mistakes, so that's very difficult to play against these kind of players. Will be a tough match for me. I need to be ready better than today. I'm going to try.
Sure, Nadal struggled in his previous match against Stepanek (2-6, 6-4, 7-5), but after dropping the first set, Nadal looked a lot more confident and poised over the final two sets.
Don't expect lighting to strike twice in this one. If anything, the setback against Stepanek will only serve as a wake-up call for the world's No. 1-ranked player.
Look for Nadal to rely on his quick footwork to return anything Dolgopolov sends over the net. Dolgopolov will have to really rely on getting points off his first serve and unforced errors on Nadal's part if he wants to stay in this.
But most likely, Dolgopolov is in for a frustrating night.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats and rankings are courtesy of ESPN.com.