The ATP Tour reaches the picturesque setting of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden this week, with first round action in the BNP Paribas Open starting on Thursday, writes Sean Calvert...
There are 16 main draw men’s matches on the card for today in this joint ATP/WTA event that is played on one of the slowest outdoor hard courts of the year – a Plexipave surface that is gritty, high bouncing and ensures that the balls become fluffed up quite quickly.
The dry, thin desert air compensates for this a little, but most players regard it as more akin to playing on clay than a hard court and consequently Rafa Nadal loves it here, as do many of his clay court leaning fellow players.
The action begins at 19.00 UK time today, with an intriguing contest that involves one such clay courter.
Alejandro Falla 1.65, Federico Delbonis 2.18 – starts at 19.05 GMT
The Argentine landed his first tour level title last week when winning on the clay in Sao Paulo and that has brought his price in to shorter than it should be against Falla, who is a decent player on hard courts.
Delbonis is making the tough switch from clay to hard and his record on this surface is terrible, with zero wins at tour level to his name so far in his career.
His two attempts on a hard court so far this season have been woeful, with a straight sets loss to Donald Young in Auckland followed up by another such defeat to world number 128 Blaz Rola in Melbourne and although his confidence will be up Falla should take this battle of the lefties.
The Colombian isn’t in the best of form right now, but he has been playing on hard courts since week five and he tends to play much better at the bigger tournaments.
He won the only previous career meeting between the pair easily and Falla looks good here at 1.75.
Juan Monaco 1.75, Peter Polansky 2.04 – BET and WATCH on Unibet TV from 21.35 GMT
Monaco foiled one of my bets last week when falling over the line in a dreadful match with Albert Ramos on the clay of Sao Paulo, but he looks a very sketchy favourite on current form against Peter Polansky.
The Argentine followed that somewhat fortunate win over Ramos up with a defeat to Paulo Lorenzi and he looks some way from the Pico that we’ve seen on tour in his long and successful career.
Much of this could be down to a wrist injury that, for me, he hasn’t really recovered from and Polansky will be the more attuned to conditions here after winning two matches in qualifying – the latter of which against another Argentine clay courter in Guido Pella last night.
It’s a tough ask for Pico to come here from clay and take down Polansky – who beat Monaco at the US Open on hard in their only prior career meeting – in the form he’s in.
Radek Stepanek 2.10, Denis Istomin 1.70 – BET and WATCH on Unibet TV from 20.05 GMT
Steps has a truly woeful record here at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with just two wins lifetime from 12 matches at this event and it’s a fair assumption that at the age of 35 he’s likely to save himself for Miami in a fortnight, where his results have been much better.
Indeed, Stepanek won’t be coming into this match full of confidence after choking away a likely win over Roger Federer in Dubai and he has only three wins in 2014 so far.
Istomin has a better 4-3 record at Indian Wells and has had some good matches here, including a straight sets win over David Ferrer and a tough loss to Juan Martin Del Potro in 2012 and he comes here with a 6-6 record for the season, with two of those losses coming to Novak Djokovic.
This is the first meeting between the pair, but on current form and previous form at this venue I’ll be siding with the Uzbek at 1.75.
Back Falla to beat Delbonis at 1.75
Back Polansky to beat Monaco at 2.04
Back Istomin to beat Stepanek at 1.75