Tennis Elbow: 2014 BNP Paribas Open: Men’s and women’s draw preview and analysis
March 5, 2014 · Print This Article
Here we are, the granddaddy of them all after the actual four granddaddies. The BNP Paribas Open is not exactly a Grand Slam event, because it can’t possibly be, but it also certainly feels a wee bit bigger and better than other Masters 1000 events. For one thing, its director is none other than Larry Ellison, he of the $48-billion fortune that ranks fifth (!!!!) in the entire world! For another, it’s a tournament of 96 players—a draw of 128, except that the 32 seeds get a bye.
It’s not fully Grand Slam, but it’s neither fully Masters 1000. It’s like a sphere of its own. A fifth wheel, if you will, only in this case it’s certainly a good thing to be stuck as the proverbial fifth wheel.
My esteemed editor-in-chief Nima Naderi asked me to contribute a few more tournament previews this year, and this is my first crack at it for the season. Just know that, like, if you bet the rent money, respect that “don’t kill the messenger” routine…
It would have been fun to just say “Serena Williams” and keep it moving, but she has withdrawn from the event. And maybe that’s for the best, because the last time I ran with Serena she didn’t exactly meet the expectations I had set out for her.
So instead of Williams, we have Na Li—and I definitely will not pick her without explaining some of my rationale. (In fact, I actually am not picking her to win the tournament…or am I? Read on!) The draw is fairly easy for the Chinese and but for a match against No. 15 seed Sabrine Lisicki, her place in the quarterfinals is likely assured. And since this is Indian Wells and not Wimbledon, the German shouldn’t be a problem. Expect the No. 1 seed to waltz in to the last 16…where she will meet Dominika Cibulkova, the little one who could. With a final in Australia and a title in Acapulco, the Slovak is playing as well as anyone on the WTA Tour.
In the second quarter, I find it a shame that Sloane Stephens and Ana Ivanovic may meet as early as the third round because this is a match-up worthy of bigger and better things. But alas, it’s the little things in life… I see Stephens winning that match, and then meeting and beating Russian Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals—neither of the two has played much this season, but I think this could be the year the young American breaks through in a big way.
I’m Canadian so I will of course look for any possible reason to give Eugenie Bouchard the upper hand, but I feel like this draw breaks perfectly for her and that I barely need to stretch the truth. Sara Errani is certainly within the Canadian’s grasp and, from there it’s Simona Halep? Are we sure that the Romanian is that good? She’s playing as well as just about anyone, but she entered the 2013 season ranked No. 47. In the quarterfinals, Bouchard will lose to Victoria Azarenka, and she shouldn’t be ashamed of it if that’s how it unfolds.
Caroline Wozniacki always seems to reach the later stages of tournaments but not win, doesn’t she? So let’s say this hold true—Wozniacki reaches the quarterfinals, and even beats Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in a match where both combine for all of three unforced errors. Remember when you were younger and you watched your dad play tennis against the wall, and how the wall never missed? That’s how this quarterfinal will feel.
Quarterfinals: Na Li over Dominika Cibulkova; Sloane Stephens over Maria Sharapova; Victoria Azarenka over Eugenie Bouchard; Caroline Wozniacki over Agnieszka Radwanska
Semifinals: Na Li over Sloane Stephens; Victoria Azarenka over Caroline Wozniacki
Final: Victoria Azarenka over Na Li
***See the main draw here.
Doesn’t it feel like this year, the ATP World Tour may be more open than any other in the previous decade? This sure should help the accuracy of previews like this one, only the exact opposite.
The Great Golden Odyssey starts now for Rafael Nadal, as he must defend no fewer than 10,110 of his 14,085 points to defend between now and the U.S. Open. (And you thought you had it rough!) To make matters worse, the powers that be dealt him a fairly rough draw here, with Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka all in his portion. It’s not fair, but it doesn’t have to be. To reach the quarterfinals against Murray however, the Spaniard could play right-handed and still be fine.
I know that “Crazy” Stan has won the Australian Open and that he’s been playing as well as anyone for about six months, but it still feels weird to see a  next to his name in the main draw of a relatively large tournament, which this BNP Paribas Open certainly is. Likewise, a  seems a bit harsh for the way that Federer is currently playing. While the tour isn’t King Roger’s kingdom anymore, I think he’ll get to prove he’s still top dog in Switzerland in an all-Swiss quarterfinal. (Please, tennis gods, make this happen. I don’t ever ask you for much.)
The third quarter of this main draw is a weird one, and it’s usually these conditions that allow for a random “Wait, it’s a quarterfinal between Ernests Gulbis and Grigor Dimitrov? How did we get here?” realization from the tennis fan. Alas, we will not get there, the two players slated to meet in the third round. I say this quarter is weird, because there isn’t one player I am confident in predicting a Final 8 berth. Could it be Richard Gasquet or Philipp Kohlschreiber? Sure, why not? I could see Dimitrov or Fernando Verdasco also making it—so instead I’ll predict good things for Tomas Berdych and Dimitrov. But I don’t feel good about it!
I have two things to say about this portion. First, it’s a ridiculously easy draw, on paper, for Novak Djokovic. Before the quarterfinals, he will likely play against three players against whom he has a career 14-1 record in Victor Hanescu, Ivan Dodig and Tommy Robredo. Also, the match between Canadian wunderkind Vasek Pospisil and Juan Martin Del Potro deserves better than the third round. It’s a shame.
Quarterfinals: Rafael Nadal over Milos Raonic; Roger Federer over Stanislas Warinka; Grigor Dimitrov over Tomas Berdych; Novak Djokovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Semifinals: Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer; Novak Djokovic over Grigor Dimitrov
Final: Novak Djokovic over Rafael Nadal
***See the main draw here.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG