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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Reigning Indian Wells champion Roger Federer was a big winner in the draw, while Grigor Dimitrov, Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic all face challenges.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

INDIAN WELLS—Applause greeted Roger Federer on multiple fronts in his BNP Paribas Open return today.

Wearing a green Nike t-shirt without his trademark headband, Federer practiced with new British No. 1 Kyle Edmund before a packed house cheering him on practice court 1, while the sight of Federer’s name popping up in the BNP Paribas Open draw elicited excitement from fans watching the live draw outside Stadium 1.

Watch: Sock Chases Federer Around Court

The field is chasing Federer again, while Federer works to stay ahead of the field.

Though the 20-time Grand Slam champion was preoccupied with practice, Federer should enjoy the view from the top of the field.

The 36-year-old Swiss will play either Ryan Harrison or Federico Delbonis, who famously gave Federer the boot, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4), on red clay to score his biggest win and reach his first ATP final at the 2013 Hamburg.

No. 25-seeded Serbian Filip Krajinovic is Federer’s first possible seeded opponent in the third round.

The top quarter also features fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem, Sao Paulo champion Fabio Fognini, 12th-seeded Tomas Berdych and 23rd-seeded Hyeon Chung, who defeated Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic in succession to reach the Australian Open semifinals before bowing to Federer—and severe blisters on his feet.

Buenos Aires champion Dominic Thiem faces a possible tricky test in Canadian lefty Denis Shapovalov, who plays a qualifier in the first round before a potential second-round match with Pablo Cuevas.

ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov will try to shake off his 12-double fault implosion in a stunning loss to Malek Jaziri in his Dubai opener, but it won’t be easy.

The third-seeded Bulgarian headlines the second quarter of the draw and will play either Fernando Verdasco or Guido Pella in his opener, followed by a possible third-round clash with NextGen star Andrey Rublev, who dismissed Dimitrov in straight sets at the US Open last summer.

Buddies Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka shared the stage for the draw and will share the court squaring off in the first round. Fritz upset former US Open champion Marin Cilic at the 2017 Indian Wells while Opelka took down American No. 1 Jack Sock in Delray Beach.

No. 7-seeded Kevin Anderson could face hard-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov, who won Marseille last month.

Dubai champion Roberto Bautista Agut, 2017 Indian Wells and US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta and the enigmatic and explosive No. 17-seeded Nick Kyrgios, who returns to the tour, are all players to watch in the second quarter.

Though Kyrgios has not played a tournament match since falling to Dimitrov at the Australian Open, he opened the season winning Brisbane and loves conditions at Indian Wells where he stunned former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic last year.

The bottom of the draw should provide plenty of first-week fireworks.

Djokovic returns to action after an elbow procedure though the draw doesn’t exactly look like a welcome mat for the five-time former champion.

The 10th-seeded Djokovic opens with a qualifier then could see 22nd-seeded Kei Nishikori in the third round followed by a possible fourth-round clash with Acapulco champion Juan Martin del Potro, who reduced the former No. 1 to tears at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

If a del Potro and Djokovic duel in the fourth round the winner could face No. 2-seeded Marin Cilic with a semifinal spot on the line. No. 15-seeded John Isner, a 2012 finalist, may struggle to snap his slump in a challenging bottom quarter.

Isner could face Gael Monfils, who was hitting some one-handed backhands during his practice on court 3 today. Monfils has won five of nine meetings with Isner, including a straight-sets triumph at the 2017 Indian Wells.

The third quarter of the draw could provide a high-octane rematch between fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev and 2016 Indian Wells finalist Milos Raonic, who fought off Zverev in five sets at Wimbledon last year.

No. 8-seeded Jack Sock resides in the same quarter as Zverev, Raonic, ninth-seeded Lucas Pouille, who has contested three finals this year, 18th-seeded Sam Querrey, Diego Schwartzman and Edmund.

Sock, whose endured a disappointing start to the season, could play the winner of the all-American clash between Delray Beach champion Frances Tiafoe and wild card Ernesto Escobedo.

Projected Quarterfinals

(1) Roger Federer vs. (23) Hyeon Chung

(3) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (17) Nick Kyrgios

(4) Alexander Zverev vs. (9) Lucas Pouille

(2) Marin Cilic vs. (6) Juan Marin del Potro


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