If you believe Juan Martin Del Potro, and he certainly seemed sincere, a possible $1 million more in his bank account does not really motivate him.
At least not when it comes to playing doubles at the BNP Paribas Open.
The tournament offered the cash bonus as an inducement for more players to enter both singles and doubles with the payday going to the man or woman who captures both titles.
The feat has actually been pulled off six times before, most recently when Vera Zvonareva won singles and doubles (with Victoria Azarenka) in 2009. Before that, Lindsey Davenport achieved the sweep twice — in 1997 (with Natasha Zvereva) and 2000 (with Corina Morariu). The remaining three on the list were men — Jim Courier in 1991 (with Javier Sanchez), Boris Becker in 1988 (with Guy Forget) and Roscoe Tanner in 1978 (with Raymond Moore).
But Del Potro, seeded No. 6 in singles and teamed up with No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov in doubles, shook his head when asked if he was going for the million bucks.
“No, we love to play together,” said Del Potro, who is unseeded with Dimitrov in Indian Wells. “He’s a great guy, we have a good relationship and also it’s good practice for us before a singles match. You never know what could happen, but we are playing just for our tennis and that’s the only reason.”
Del Potro and Dimitrov will meet Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez (no relation), who reached the semifinals in 2016.
Compelling as the Del Potro/Dimitrov pairing is, the first-round matchup between two brothers’ teams with Americans Mike and Bob Bryan facing off against Germany’s Alexander (seeded No. 4 in singles) and Mischa Zverev is also a must-see.
The No. 7 seeded Bryans, who have won 16 Grand Slam titles overall, are playing their 20th straight BNP Paribas Open and are two-time champions (2013-14).
But despite the 39-year-old twins’ many accomplishments, they’re not considered the favorites here. No. 3 seed Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, the Australian Open champs who have won 18 of 20 matches this year and also titles in Doha, Auckland, face wildcard pairing Steve Johnson of the U.S. and Daniel Nestor of Canada.
Of course, there is also the top-seeded team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, who will play Spaniards Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer in the first round. And not to be overlooked are Americans and Davis Cup teammates Jack Sock (seeded No. 8 in singles) and John Isner (seeded No. 15), who will play another Spanish pair in Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Fernando Verdasco.
It’s just what tournament director Tommy Haas seemed to have in mind when he announced the $1 million prize.
“While we have traditionally had great participation by singles players competing in doubles,” he said, “we know how much our fans love to watch doubles at our tournament and we want to give them the best possible doubles fields over the fortnight.”