With No Big Three, BNP Paribas Open Is Medvedev’s To Win Or Lose

Daniil Medvedev (photo: Michael Dickens)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The last time the BNP Paribas Open was held, in March 2019, Dominic Thiem defeated Roger Federer in the final, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. It was Thiem’s first ATP Tour Masters 1000 title, a big breakthrough triumph for him. He became the first Austrian since Thomas Muster won the 1997 Miami Open to win a Masters 1000-level crown. Both will be among the missing in action this year due to injuries (Thiem wrist, Federer knee). For that matter, none of the men’s Big Three will be present at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the Coachella Valley this year. Suddenly, this year’s penultimate Masters 1000 event takes on a different tenor. That’s because there are no former Indian Wells champions in the draw.

Indeed, fast forward to this year following last year’s gap year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in the absence of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, a five-time Indian Wells champion (2008, 2011, 2014-16), the top seeds are World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia and World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. Both will be pursuing their first BNP Paribas Open title. They are part of a very talent field that has converged on Tennis Paradise, which includes most of the biggest men’s stars plus the best and brightest emerging stars.

Sixteen of the current Top 20 players – all except Djokovic (fatigue), Rafael Nadal (foot injury), Thiem and Federer – will be competing in the southern California palm desert for this year’s Masters 1000 title. The 11-day event (Oct. 7-17), normally held in spring, was postponed from March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for the first half of October. The ATP/WTA combined 1000 event fills a big void left by the cancellation of the Asian Swing through Japan and China.

After winning last month’s US Open, the biggest title of his career, Medvedev will be chasing after his second Masters 1000 title of the season. He’s already won four ATP Tour titles – at Marseille, Mallorca, Toronto and the US Open – but remains unproven at Indian Wells, where he brings a 3-3 lifetime win-loss record into this year’s competition.

Following a first-round bye, Medvevev will oppose either Citi Open finalist Mackenzie McDonald of the United States or Astana Open finalist James Duckworth of Australia. He could face No. 27 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia in the third round and big-serving No. 16 seed Reilly Opelka in the fourth round. No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, a recent winner at Metz, or No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada looms in the quarterfinals, and No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia or No. 6 seed Casper Ruud, who won the San Diego Open on Sunday, are possible semifinal opponents.

Among some of the more intriguing first-round matches include: wild card Andy Murray of Great Britain vs. Adrian Mannarino of France; Benoit Paire of France vs. Frances Tiafoe of the United States; Albert Ramos-Vinolas of  Spain vs. Lorenzo Musetti of Italy; Jack Sock of the United States vs. John Millman of Australia; Kevin Anderson of South Africa vs. Jordan Thompson of Australia; and Tommy Paul of the United States vs. Feliciano Lopez of Spain.

While anything can happen as the 96-player draw plays itself out round by round, if the seeds hold, potential quarterfinal matchups could include: Medvedev vs. Hurkacz, Rublev vs. Ruud, No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany vs. No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, and Tsitsipas vs. No. 7 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.

Tuesday’s BNP Paribas Open results

Wednesday’s BNP Paribas Open order of play

Thiem will not need wrist surgery

World No. 8 Dominic Thiem of Austria revealed on social media Monday that he will not need surgery to repair his right wrist injury.

Thiem, 28, who has been idle since sustaining the wrist injury during a first-round match against Adrian Mannarino at the Mallorca Championships last June, was unable to defend his US Open title last month and will miss defending his 2019 BNP Paribas Open crown in Indian Wells, which begins Thursday. He compiled a 9-9 win-loss record before pulling the plug on his 2021 season in August. His best result this year was reaching the semifinals at Madrid in May.

“I had a very important thing today,” Thiem said in his social media post. “I was in Belgium to decide if I need surgery on my wrist or not and luckily I have very, very good news. I won’t need the surgery. It’s really stable and it’s looking good, my wrist.

“The next week I have to make it more flexible and strengthen my wrist, do everything to prepare to slowly start playing tennis again. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been a pretty long time without a racquet and I honestly miss it.”