The path to the 2022 BNP Paribas Open men’s singles title got a whole lot clearer on Tuesday afternoon at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, during a draw ceremony that featured a trio of Californians: UCLA alums Marcos Giron and Mackenzie McDonald, and 21-year-old Sacramento native Jenson Brooksby.
Daniil Medvedev had just come off the court, his wounds still fresh from a nearly five-and-a-half-hour loss to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final, a hard-court epic that saw his two-sets-to-love advantage (and his would-be second major singles title) vanish into the Melbourne night. It was well past 1 a.m. local time and the 26-year-old, miffed at the crowd, surprised the gathered press with a post-match eulogy for his inner-child. “The kid stopped dreaming,” he informed us. Medvedev has since assumed the No. 1 ranking, breaking up an 18-year-long Federer-Nadal-Djokovic-Murray stranglehold, a turn of events that might just resurrect that dreamer who first picked up a racquet at the age of nine. The tournament’s top seed a will look to better his career-best fourth-round showing of 2021. Should the seeds hold up, Medvedev would face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals, but he has his work cut out for him. He could meet resurgent Frenchman Gael Monfils in the third round, and either 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz or Roberto Bautista Agut in the Round of 16.
He may be the all-time Slam king, but Rafael Nadal says it’s not about the record books; it’s about being healthy enough to fight for big titles week in, week out. He returns to Indian Wells looking a whole lot like the player who won his first BNP Paribas Open title a decade-and-a-half ago. Now 35, he’s seemingly covering the court as well as he ever has, and now owns a tour-best three titles on the year (Melbourne, Australian Open, Acapulco). The No. 4 seed bookends the second quarter of the draw with No. 8 seed Casper Ruud of Norway. The Spaniard could face recent practice partner Sebastian Korda in Round 2; Daniel Evans in Round 3; and the likes of American Reilly Opelka or Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the Round of 16, the latter a potential rematch of their epic five-set Australian Open quarterfinal (won by Nadal, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3).
There were a lot of firsts for Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2021: The Greek captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, broke through to his first major final at Roland Garros, climbed to a career-high ranking of No. 3, and reached the final four in Indian Wells for the first time. But the owner of seven career titles is still seeking his first of 2022. Will it come in the Southern California desert? For that to happen, the free-swinging 23-year-old would have to survive a quarter headed by none other than newly minted No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, one that also features defending champion Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, 2021 runner-up Nikoloz Basilashvili, the determined Brooksby, and Karen Khachanov.
All the London-tabloid attention was on a surgically-repaired Andy Murray and surprise US Open champ Emma Raducanu, but when all was said and done it was Cameron Norrie who was the last Brit standing at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open, the first player from his nation to win a title of any kind at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The former TCU standout won more matches last year (52) than he had in four previous years on the ATP Tour (51). Ranked a career-high No. 12, he returns to defend the biggest title of his career, having proven that he has the weaponry to raise trophies on the sport’s biggest stages. Last month, Norrie scalped Americans Sebastian Korda, Tommy Paul and Reilly Opelka in succession to take the Delray Beach title, and followed that with a runner-up finish in Acapulco (l. to Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 6-4). The way the draw shakes out, we could be in for a Round-of-16 clash between Norrie and Tsitsipas, a repeat of last month’s Acapulco semifinal won by Norrie in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
He’s been under the spotlight since winning the boys’ singles title at the US Open in 2016, an uber-talented 16-year-old with an uncanny ability to seemingly cover every inch of the court. But after going winless in his first eight finals at the tour level, some began to wonder if the personable Canadian had the stuff to deliver on his obvious promise. His breakthrough last month in Rotterdam, where he downed Tsitsipas, 6-4, 6-2, to capture the first ATP title of his career, should help ease those concerns. The 21-year-old would follow with a runner-up finish in Marseille (l. to Andrey Rublev, 7-5, 7-6(4). FAA is looking to get past the third round in Indian Wells for the first time in 2022. He landed in the middle of a quarter populated by such heavyweights as Matteo Berrettini, Alex DeMinaur, Taylor Fritz, Pablo Carreno Busta, Marin Cilic, Lloyd Harris and Alexander Zverev, whom he upset earlier this year at the ATP Cup in Melbourne.
Five Standout First-Rounders
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) vs. Sebastian Baez (ARG)
Richard Gasquet (FRA) vs. Oscar Otte (GER)
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs. Brandon Nakashima (USA)
Marcos Giron (USA) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)