Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2017 BNP Paribas Open.

They unofficially call the BNP Paribas Open the sport’s fifth Grand Slam.

Which is to say: they do things bigger at the event. Year after year, the folks in Indian Wells welcome the world’s top tennis players, puts them in a big, big, big tennis stadium and treat them as royalty, giving the winner 1,000 points, a whole lot of prize money—and all with a tournament director that’s probably worth a lot more than your tournament’s directory.

There’s also the matter of this tournament being combined for men and women, and having 96 spots on their two main draw.

All in all, the BNP Paribas Open is a bigger tournament than just about any other one on the planet. And this year, tournament director Larry Ellison and his team gave us quite a gift on the men’s draw.

What a clusterf**k!!!

I mean, have you seen this main draw??? 😀 In one single corner, among the 24 players of the bottom section, you find Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios and Juan Martin Del Potro. Not that we’re counting, but that’s a tally of 45 Grand Slam titles and, as they’ve noted at Deadspin, 12 of the past 13 Indian Wells winners.

Djokovic, who’s spent the past six years mostly a cloud above the rest of the pack but appears more down-to-earth and decidedly vulnerable in 2017, is the favourite in the section in name only. If he just overcomes Del Potro in his second match, then it’s Kyrgios looming. And from there, maybe a quarterfinal against Federer? By then, the Swiss Guy will have already overcome his toughest assignment yet.

You had ONE JOB, Andy Murray!

Through it all, it’s Andy Murray who must have laughed under his grin, correct? There was only a potential match against David Goffin in the quarterfinals, then Stanislas Wawrinka in the semis… but, like, what else? “In terms of the number of Grand Slam titles you have in that section and some of the younger up-and-coming players that are likely to be at the top of the game for a long time, it’s pretty exciting for tennis fans. There will be some exciting matches early on in the tournament for sure,” Murray said, perhaps too focused on another section of the draw than his own. “It’s definitely tough on the guys in that section. It’s obviously a section that ideally you’d want to be avoiding if you can.”

Only, nothing’s come easy this year at the BNP Paribas Open and instead, the flameout happened right for Murray’s first match against Vasek Pospisil and, if you listen to him, a decidedly pro-Pospisil crowd.

So…. who wins now?

So then if not Murray, who wins? Maybe it’s a new and surprising face, a player who’s been in form this season like Goffin or Grigor Dimitrov? Maybe it’s Djokovic and his 18-match unbeaten streak in Indian Wells, or whoever emerges unscathed from the bottom section of the draw?

I guess I don’t know? We’ll ride the one man enjoying a 19-match unbeaten streak in Indian Wells in Djokovic. Who do you have?

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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