Thursday, October 7, 2021 - Daniil Medvedev practices on day 5 of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, CA. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
The men’s seeds are ready to go – and so are we. After an eventful first round of ATP action wrapped up on Friday, the top 32 ranked players know who will be playing, and it’s the top half of the draw in action at the BNP Paribas Open.
There’s lots to watch on an absolutely packed Order of Play, but here are three matches you won’t want to miss in Tennis Paradise today.
Unseeded at the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in over a decade, Kei Nishikori was always going to be a landmine for a top player in Indian Wells no matter where he fell in the draw. Unlucky for Dan Evans, who has been playing at a high level all season and will be looking to better his 1-2 record in the Palm Desert.
Unfortunately his record against Nishikori is identical to his one at this tournament – a losing 1-2 – although their last encounter was a thrilling five-setter at Roland Garros last year.
In a rare match-up between two players shorter than six feet tall, Evans’ guile and all-court play will need to be at its top level if he’s to overcome the speed and world-class backhand of the Japanese superstar, who is still working his way back to his Top 10 heights of a few years back.
After bursting onto the scene in 2017 with a career-igniting win over Rafael Nadal in Montreal, it’s been a slower, more steadied rise for Denis Shapovalov as he looks to cement himself as a week-in, week-out competitor for the sport’s biggest titles. Although the Canadian No. 2 made a breakthrough run at Wimbledon this year, reaching the semifinals, he has struggled to find his best at the Masters 1000’s this year, failing to reach beyond the third round at all five contested.
With two 1000 events remaining this season, including this week’s BNP Paribas Open, he’ll be looking to take advantage of an open draw that lacks the presence of most of the game’s perennial champions.
But compatriot Vasek Pospisil will hope to have something to say about that. Although it’s hardly been a standout season for the charismatic Canadian from Vernon, British Columbia, he battled through his opener against JJ Wolf in three tight sets, finding some of his best attacking tennis in the clutch moments to survive. Shapovalov owns the better head-to-head record, but with the slow, high-bouncing conditions in the Palm Desert, this one could be a ‘Clash of Canadians’ toss up.
Is there anyone more primed to take over the top spot in men’s tennis than Daniil Medvedev? Although the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are still competing, their schedules are sparse and they now longer hold a monopoly on the Grand Slams. One of the men to break their claim to the biggest prizes was Medvedev himself, who emphatically halted Djokovic’s claim to the calendar-year Grand Slam in New York this September.
The crowd-charming Russian has proven to be an especially tough out on hard courts this year, using his unusual groundstrokes and defensive positioning to outfox all forms of opponent, from big-serving behemoths to baseline grinders.
Former UCLA standout Mackenzie McDonald will not only have his hands full with an in-form No. 1 seed and recent Grand Slam champion, but also with an opponent against whom he has an 0-5 record against. McDonald is quick and covers the court with tenacity, but will need to bring his very best (and maybe a bit of luck too) if he’s going to pull off the upset of the tournament.