Hailed as the fifth grand slam, the opening master’s 1000 tournament of the year erupted into the tennis stratosphere at Indian Wells this week. The very best that tennis has to offer have once again flocked to the vast tennis garden in California to showcase their exuberant racquet abilities. Who are the semi-final hopefuls?
Top half semi-final: Roger Federer v Borna Coric
Having struggled to break through onto the biggest tennis stages; Coric has remained incognito for the last few seasons.
That said, however, he has landed some stunning victories over Top 10 players in recent years. At last year’s US Open, he thwarted Zverev in four sets successfully conducting one of 2017’s biggest upsets. Earlier that year, he obliterated Andy Murray, who held the No.1 ranking at the time, from the Madrid Masters. Coric has the skill, the aptitude and ability to steamroll his way through any draw, but unfortunately, that is yet to materialize.
His form, so far at this Indian Wells tournament, has been nuclear. He catapulted his way into the fourth round only losing nine games by nuking every opponent in the process. It will take a masterclass to take down the fresh zest that’s coursing through Coric’s racquet. But as ever, we leave the masterclass to the maestro…
It’s become somewhat of a cliché to relentlessly speak of Federer as the favorite for another title; he’s simply the best player in the world by some considerable margin. His triumphant return from injury in 2017 will go down as one of the greatest sports comeback stories of the 21st-century. Federer is playing better today than he did ten years ago; how is that possible at 36 years of age? Like a fine wine or cheese, the older he gets the tastier he becomes.
Roger Federer has had an astronomical year thus far, winning both tournaments he has entered; one of which was his record-extending 20th grand slam. Many tennis pundits and commentators have claimed they’ve never seen Federer move as well as he does now. Some have even gone as far as affirming he’s playing better now than he was in 2006… the year he won just about everything there was to win.
Bottom half semi-final: Milos Raonic v Juan Martin del Potro
The last twelve months for Raonic have been peppered with injury woes and ruinous performances. The pinnacle of Milos’ career came in the summer of 2016 when he reached his first grand slam final by beating Federer the round previously in a five-set epic. Conversely, those days of glory are far beyond the grasp of Raonic today as his ranking has collapsed to an almost unearthly 38 in the world. A large handful of the top players have fallen into an eerie tennis underworld in recent months; it appears Raonic has been plagued by the same curse.
But, the tides are turning. Indian Wells has been the epicentre of tennis renaissances with Raonic finally reviving his extraordinary game. Raonic has been able to impose his pre-injury dominance with ease and sweep aside his victims with vigorous pace.
The competition on the other side of the net for Raonic hasn’t been too challenging, however, the Hulk from Argentina might have something to say about that.
Fresh off a huge win on the hard courts of Acapulco last week, del Potro has thunderous levels of confidence at this year’s Indian Wells championship. This last year, we’ve seen del Potro raise his game to pre-injury levels. His monstrous forehand has served him in the last six months, particularly during the US hardcourt swing. It was put to good use against Federer in the US Open quarter-final resulting in a rare 2017 loss for Roger. Del Potro has the artillery to assert his dominance when facing the strongest titans of tennis. In a matchup with Raonic, del Potro should have the firepower to frustrate the might of one of Canada’s most ferocious talents. But, will he flourish in the dry Californian desert?
Winner: del Potro
Who Will Win it All?
It’s impossible to place anyone above Federer for the Indian Wells title. A lot is at stake this tournament, Roger could lose a lot of ranking points and subsequently squander the world No. 1 ranking. The ecstasy of regaining the top spot a few weeks ago will still be very raw in Federer’s memory. His drive to defend titles will be biblical this season as he has a lot to protect.
Given their recent H2H matches, Federer hasn’t had it easy when playing del Potro. Both players engaged in two tight three-set battles in Shanghai and Basel late last year, with Federer coming out on top in both. Previous to that, Federer lost their quarter-final meeting at the US Open in four sets. But, the unadulterated drive and incredible form are why Federer will win Indian Wells for a record-breaking sixth time and continue to rewrite tennis history.
- Calvin brings The Slice from Scotland. Find him on social media @calv_hill.