Indian Wells 2014: Day 4 Schedule, Matchups, Bracket and Predictions

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2014

Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, speaks during a news conference at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Friday, March 7, 2014, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Although the tournament is still in its relative infancy, the first three days of action have helped prove why the BNP Paribas Open is one of the premier non-Grand Slams in all of tennis.

With a field more befitting Melbourne or London than southern California, Indian Wells has already been host to its fair share of excitement. Day 3 saw fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber downed on the women's side, while Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray both needed thrilling third-set victories to advance.

Even more stars litter the field on Sunday, leaving fans again checking the scoreboard to see if their favorite has been ousted.

There is something to having an unpredictable tournament that makes it captivating—right until the point the world's best are eliminated. Tournament organizers are likely happy with the relative unpredictability thus far but wouldn't want it to stretch much further.

Casual fans can be talked into a Wimbledon final with two players they've barely heard of. Good luck doing the same for a non-Grand Slam. It's always easy to forget that the casual fan is where even these tournaments make their money. Big names sell tickets, drive television ratings and—OK, hardcore fans love the big names just as much.

Don't lie.

There's nothing better than the history of Federer-Nadal or the sheer competitiveness of Djokovic-Murray—or frankly any matching of the world's most famous handful. With that in mind, let's check in on the Day 4 action and highlight some of the best matches.

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Sunday's Order of Play (Notable Matches)
CourtPlayerPlayerTime (ET)
Stadium 1Roberto Bautista Agut[4] Tomas Berdych2 p.m.
Stadium 1Yaroslava Shvedova[10] Caroline Wozniacki4 p.m.
Stadium 1[6] Juan Martin Del PotroFeliciano Lopez6 p.m.
Stadium 1Julien Benneteau[9] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga8 p.m.
Stadium 1Victor Hanescu[2] Novak Djokovic10 p.m.
Stadium 1[7] Jelena Jankovic[31] Magdalena Rybarikova11:30 p.m.
Stadium 2[6] Simona Halep [26] Lucie Safarova2 p.m.
Stadium 2[8] Richard GasquetTeymuraz Gabashvili6 p.m.
Stadium 2Annika Beck[2] Agnieszka Radwanska8 p.m.

*Click here to view Sunday's complete tournament schedule/matchups. 

*Click here to view updated draws. 

Day 3 Predictions

Djokovic, Radwanska Cruise to Victory

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Following Nadal's near-loss to Radek Stepanek, it's fun to imagine similar things happening with other elite players.

Stahhhp. It's not happening.

Both No. 2 seeds are in action Sunday, and there's little reason to think either Novak Djokovic or Agnieszka Radwanska will have any trouble in their matches.

Djokovic takes on Victor Hanescu, an unseeded Romanian who has lost all six of his previous attempts to take down the world No. 2.

Hansecu has taken Djokovic to a third set in half of those matches, but he has a strange habit of retiring early. He retired down 3-1 in their second-round matchup in Madrid six years ago and ahead 3-2 at the 2011 French Open. In fact, two of the three times Hansecu took Djokovic to a third set, it came on clay.

Indian Wells isn't exactly what you'd call a Roland Garros tuneup. And even if it were, Djokovic's current focus makes it hard to picture him losing this early. Since failing to win a fourth straight Australian Open, Djokovic has played a relatively sparse schedule. There have been murmurs ever since about his confidence level, which Djokovic admitted is at a different place this season. 

“It's a different feel, definitely,” Djokovic told reporters Friday. “I won the Australian Open title three consecutive years and that has significantly affected the confidence level in the start of the season and all the tournaments that were following up. This year it's not the case."

Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

The clay-court season is rapidly approaching. These are the types of confidence-building wins Djokovic needs to feel he has a chance at taking down Nadal in France. Don't expect anything short of unbridled excellence on Sunday.

As for Radwanska, a similar story should play out against Annika Beck. She and Beck are yet to play, but the 20-year-old German is yet to show any real up-and-coming promise. Beck is yet to go beyond the second round of a Grand Slam, has only one WTA finals under her belt and is generally considered an easy out—though that might change as she reaches her prime.

Radwanska is just playing far too well right now for this even to be a consideration. 

Upset Pick: Julien Benneteau over [9] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 07:  Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain hits a return to Julien Benneteau of France during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 7, 2014 in Indian Wells, California.  Lepchenko won 6-3, 6-2.  (Photo by Stephen
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

If history is any indication, this match is almost certainly going an extra set. The last time the two Frenchmen didn't push each other at least one extra set was at the 2009 U.S. Open, when Tsonga defeated Benneteau in straight sets. They've met three times since, each one featuring highly competitive and respectful brands of tennis.

But the reason we're going with an upset here is mainly because you can barely call Benneteau defeating Tsonga an upset at all. Tsonga holds just a 5-4 career record over his countryman, and though he's won each of the last two matches, all four of Benneteau's victories have come on a hard surface or carpet.

What's more, it's typically hard to call any early exit from Tsonga a surprise. One of the world's best players on sheer talent alone, the world's 10th-ranked player has battled mental mistakes throughout his career—ones that have irreparably harmed his ceiling. It's almost tragic that someone of Tsonga's talent doesn't have a Grand Slam on his mantle and a relatively disappointing 10 titles overall.

Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

"He (coach Thierry Ascione) is trying to make me mindful, and to learn to look at things relatively," Tsonga told the L'Équipe sports newspaper (via Al Jazeera's Paul Rhys). "Basically, there is always a war within me, and I find it hard to relax."

Benneteau, knowing Tsonga's game so well, can pick at the facets that make him crack. While it's possible that Tsonga comes out and looks like the world's best player—it can happen at any moment—it's equally plausible that Benneteau wins the first, flusters Tsonga and finishes the job in a highly contested third set.

Picking upsets is always a losing proposition. If you play this match 10 times, Tsonga would win eight or maybe even nine. That said, with the pressure of only one chance, Benneteau has a good chance to advance.