The BNP Paribas Open delivers a manic day of tennis on Wednesday with all fourth-round singles matches to be played at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Twenty-year-old Jannik Sinner, a man in a hurry, is the youngest player in the ATP Tour’s Top 10. In 2020, the Italian was the youngest male quarter-finalist at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic 14 years earlier. Sinner reached the quarter-final of this year’s Australian Open, becoming the youngest to do that since Nick Kyrgios in 2015.
Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Sinner and Kyrgios meet in one of the eight tantalising round of 16 matches in Indian Wells. Sinner needed three sets against Benjamin Bonzi to make this happen, while the unseeded Kyrgios achieved a greater degree of difficulty, upsetting No. 8 Casper Ruud in straight sets.
The two have never met.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 15, 2022
The big-serving Australian had split two matches in 2022 coming into Indian Wells, but has found his happy place in the desert, tripling that win total in less than a week. In the back of his mind, Kyrgios probably carries a sense of unfinished business. In 2017 he staged upset victories here over Alexander Zverev and Djokovic before withdrawing with an illness with Roger Federer lined up as his quarter-final opponent.
Sinner, on the strength of his performance in Melbourne, is 13-2 this year – and a sporty 92-45 (.672) for his young career. And to think, he almost chose a career in professional skiing.
“Skiing is just go one and a half minutes down the hill,” Sinner told reporters. “If you make one mistake, the whole thing is over. In tennis you can still make some mistakes but still win. This is why I chose tennis.”
After winning 21 major titles, including this year’s Australian Open, it’s clear that ultimately tennis chose Rafael Nadal. Despite a series of injuries – the latest a chronic foot issue – and advancing age (he’s 35), Nadal has shown remarkable consistency.
No. 4 seed Nadal is eyeing a quarter-final berth when he meets No. 17 Reilly Opelka. The Spaniard won their only match, in straight sets, in the semi-final of last year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome. Rafa is working on a Tour-best 17-match winning streak to start the season.
According to the seeding, World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev was supposed to play Roberto Bautista Agut. Instead we have No. 19 Carlos Alcaraz versus No. 26 Gael Monfils, a dashing pair of players coming off upsets. Monfils took down Medvedev in three sets, while Alcaraz hammered countryman Bautista Agut in two.
For Monfils, it was his second victory over a World No. 1, going back 13 years to Doha where he beat Nadal in the quarter-final. The 35-year-old Frenchman knows that the 18-year-old Alcaraz – 10-1 for the season, including the title in Rio de Janeiro – will be a tough out.
“He’s full of confidence, young, hitting the balls big,” Monfils observed. “I just have to play my game and be there and try to find a solution. I’ve never played him, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Cameron Norrie vs Jenson Brooksby offers this intriguing question: Who will feel more at home on the courts of Indian Wells? Norrie, the defending champion – or Brooksby, who grew up nearby and attended the tournament as a kid?
“I definitely have an appreciation for it,” Brooksby said. “In my process and everything, I don’t think about it now because that can’t be my focus. At the same time, it is in the back of my head how special it is and how cool it is.”
Brooksby Says His Superpower Is…
World No. 6 Matteo Berrettini, who defeated No. 30 Lloyd Harris 6-4, 7-5, is up against Miomir Kecmanovic, a 7-6 (3), 7-5 winner over Botic Van de Zandschulp. The Italian had won only a single match in three previous appearances at Indian Wells but will be looking for his third this week against Kecmanovic. Berrettini hit 12 aces against Harris and won 36 of his 41 first-serve points (88 per cent), according to Infosys ATP Stats. In 2019, Kecmanovic reached the quarter-finals in his first try at Indian Wells – as a lucky loser. It will be the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting.
As they both come off matches featuring pivotal tie-breaks, No. 20 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 29 Alex de Minaur are certainly battle-tested for their fourth-round meeting. They have, as they say, a history.
They’ve already met five times, with the Australian de Minaur winning the first four, beginning with victories at an ATP Challenger Tour event and the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2018. The results were the same in 2019, in Atlanta and Basel, both in straight sets. But at last year’s US Open, Fritz finally got on the board with a first-round victory, taking the opening tie-break and winning in four sets.
FOLLOW THIS WEEK’S ACTION
The John Isner vs Grigor Dimitrov matchup is difficult to read. This will be their fourth meeting – and all four have come in Masters 1000 events (in Miami, Cincinnati, Paris, and now Indian Wells). Isner is up, 2-1. The caveat? They haven’t played in nearly five years.
Rounding out the fourth-round action are No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev and 2021 Miami Open presented by Itau champion Hubert Hurkacz. Rublev has impressed on his way to the fourth round for the first time, completing straight-sets wins over Dominik Koepfer and Frances Tiafoe. His No. 11-seeded opponent seems to thrive in the desert conditions, however, and is seeking a third quarter-final in as many appearances in Indian Wells.
An indication of how tight an encounter to expect is the pair’s most recent meeting in the semi-finals in Dubai last month. World No. 7 Rublev recovered from dropping the opening set to squeeze through via a tie-break in the decider. That Dubai title run forms part of Rublev’s current 11-match winning streak and he is looking forward to another high-level encounter against a player who leads him 2-1 in their ATP Head2Head series.
“I was thinking after the Dubai match, when am I going to see him [Hurkacz] again?” said Rublev after the win over Tiafoe. “But it’s tennis, it’s fun, we cannot control this, so we have to face each other tomorrow again and hopefully it’s going to be another good match.”
SCHEDULE – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2022
Not Before 3:00 PM
WTA –  Simona Halep (ROU) vs Petra Martic (CRO)
STADIUM 2 Starts at 11:00 am
ATP –  Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB)
ATP –  Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs [WC] Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
ATP –  John Isner (USA) vs  Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
STADIUM 3 Starts at 11:00 am
WTA –  Cori Gauff (USA)/Catherine McNally (USA) vs  Asia Muhammad (USA)/Ena Shibahara (JPN)
Not Before 1:00 PM
WTA – Marie Bouzkova (CZE)/Lucie Hradecka (CZE) vs [OSE] Alizé Cornet (FRA)/Leylah Fernandez (CAN)