before the draw, chris’ preview of the men

by Chris Phillips

We’re taking a break form the Davis Cup ties to think about how the guys will fare at Indian Wells. Weather forecasts showing that day matches will be played in the low 80s and night matches’ll dip down into the 50s. Brr. (Yes, CHILLY. Some of you might consider that a heat wave, but anything below 65 causes us to bundle up and set fire to anything that can keep us warm). Players also have to factor in some unpredictability in the form of gusty winds, which rattles even the steadiest of players. Here are our thoughts on the guys in the top 10 and some other notables:

Rafael Nadal: This will be the Spaniard’s first test after that injury at the Aussie Open. This weekend’s Davis Cup matches don’t count since his toughest Belgian opponent will be Olivier Rochus. At Indian Wells, Rafa is Rafa but I predict that he’ll lose to a top 20 player in the later rounds but make a better run — if not win — Miami.

Roger Federer: Other than Monfils at Bercy (3 tiebreak sets) and Murray in Shanghai and Toronto, the only guy who’s been able to beat Roger in the past 6 months has been Novak Djokovic (and even so Nole is still down 3-4 since the beginning of 2010). But while these stats are in R-Fed’s favor, consider this one that isn’t: Roger hasn’t taken Indian Wells since 2006. I predict that he’ll extend that streak through 2011.

Novak Djokovic: His is probably the only case where winning a Davis Cup turned someone around. After Serbia took the 2010 title, Nole’s been 12-0 (titles in Melbourne and Dubai). This BNP Paribas Open is his title to lose.

Robin Soderling: If anyone’s had as good a year as Nole, it’s Soderling who’s 17-1 already capturing three titles in just as many months (Brisbane, Rotterdam, Marseille). That being said, the only success the Swedish Sod has had at Indian Wells was last year when he took out Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in route to losing to Andy Roddick in the semis. Depending on draws I think you can pencil him into the quarters or semis again.

Andy Murray: Oh Andy, Andy, Andy. You made it to the Aussie finals in rather convincing fashion and you’ve lost your last two matches in an even more convincing fashion. A lot of pundits think you have a slam in you, but I’m not one of them. We’re putting our money on you making the quarters, none better. And if we’re thinking up an early upset special (without seeing the draws), you’d be the main ingredient. That Australian Open loss is still in your head and will take a while to work itself out.

David Ferrer: Two titles in 2011 already? Do not collect $200 on your way to the semifinals.

Tomas Berdych: He’s only had one good win on the year (d. Verdasco). We expect him to match his best IW performance — which was getting to the quarters last year.

Andy Roddick: He’s got finalist points to defend here from last year (and that match against Ljubicic was his to lose). So far Andy’s 12-2 on the year with losses only to Soderling and Wawrinka. He looked good in his win in Memphis (over Raonic) and his Indian Wells track record ain’t bad: semis 4 of the last 6 years here (and quarterfinals 6 out of 8 here). Depending on how the draw plays out, Roddick’s got a good chance to reach the semis but I think defending those finalist points will be a tall task.

Fernando Verdasco I let out a shriek of sadness when they dismantled FeVer’s CK billboard on Sunset Blvd. (but now we have Rafa’s Armani ad, so life is good!). With his best win of the year being over 49th-ranked Istomin, we’re putting Fernando to fall in the Round of 32.

Jurgen Melzer: We see him doing just as good as his seeding. And after based on this past weekend’s Davis Cup performance, maybe even earlier.

Nicolas Almagro:: Sadly, one can’t leverage great clay court performances for a hard court title. We’re putting down money for him to the get to the quarters. Maybe.

Juan Martin Del Potro: If any player can make some noise in this tournament it’s Delpo (taking the reins from another persistent IW troublemaker, David Nalbandian). He impressed us with his play (even in his losses) during this early spring swing on the American hard courts. One concern: fatigue; this’ll be his fifth tournament of the year. We’re picking him to upset Roger or Rafa — if the draw pans out.

Mardy Fish: If he’s healthy, we’re expecting him to go deep. Remember: he took out three top-ten players (Roger, Kolya, and Nalbandian) before pushing Nole to three sets at this tournament in 2008.

Sam Querrey and John Isner: We got nothin’. Hoping Isner can shake off those Capdeville nightmares before his first round match.

Alexandr Dolgopolov: Even with wins over Soderling and Tsonga in Melbourne, we’re wondering if Dolgopolov will adjust to the hard courts of Indian Wells after spending the last month on clay.

Milos Raonic: Ahh, that other young canadian making folks swoon south of the 49th. Let’s hope taking a week off (for good reason) doesn’t ruin your mojo coming in.

Kevin Anderson/Ivan Dodig/Tommy Robredo: We’re wondering how to read the tea leaves for these guys, each of whom have bagged titles in 2011. Anderson’s big-serving pony is getting boring. We’re already waiting for what Wayne Ferreira‘s offspring will do for South African tennis. This will be Dodig’s first time playing Indian Wells, so we’re watching. And we mention Tommy a bit for nostalgia’s sake. The top 20 just isn’t the same without his consistency; he always lives up to his seeding — never loses before he should and never wins matches he shouldn’t.