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 2019 BNP Paribas Open.
Welcome to, as they say, the big one—or rather, one of the big ones.
The tennis world descends on California this week for what is always a fun and fairly major deal in the form of the BNP Paribas Open. This 2019 edition profiles as yet another big one for the world’s “fifth Grand Slam,” a joint ATP/WTA event that attracts all the big stars of tennis and which will crown one worthy champion, changing their whole entire lives in the process for having outshined their competitors, even if only for a single week but what a week it was—and so on, and so forth.
Seriously, we bet the event booklet probably has a handful of such inspiring descriptions like the one above.
For the purpose of this column, we’re keeping our usual tradition going of looking at how the main singles draws of (fairly) big tournaments of the season will unfold. We’re typically not that great in nailing our predictions, but we’ll be damned if we let it stop us from completing this recurring exercise.
Here we are, finally at long last, with the start of the rest of Naomi Osaka’s life as a tennis player and all-powerful force in women’s tennis. Lest we forget, it is on this ground that the Japanese foretold her coming reign and lordship, coming out of nowhere to grab this Indian Wells title a year ago. She arrives in 2019 as the central force on tour and, though we don’t think she’ll defend her title, she’ll still be fine.
Elsewhere on this main draw, there’s a nice mix of potentially great and thrilling matches along with a great chance that the bigger names will probably make the latter stages of the tournament. Just, you know, maybe don’t bet the house on Serena Williams, who it should be noted, got dealt an absolutely hellish draw.
Fairly nightmarish projected draw for Serena in Indian Wells:
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 4, 2019
Seriously, how do you get through such a gauntlet of opponents? We have a feeling she just might find a way—though her run through this section won’t quite get the Cinderella ending.
If things unfold the way we predict it, we foresee Sloane Stephens and Simona Halep emerging from the bottom section, and Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova from the top. And in a bit of a twist, it would be the Czech Pliskova who hoists the trophy this time, avenging her loss in the 2017 final at this very event.
Quarterfinals: Karolina Pliskova over Naomi Osaka; Aryna Sabalenka over Petra Kvitova; Sloane Stephens over Serena Williams; Simona Halep over Caroline Garcia
Semifinals: Karolina Pliskova over Aryna Sabalenka; Sloane Stephens over Simona Halep
Final: Karolina Pliskova over Sloane Stephens
Over on the men’s side, this Indian Wells event could be yet another occasion for the current best player in the world Novak Djokovic to further help his chances of finishing the 2019 season where he started it, i.e. atop the rankings. We’ll recall that the man barely has any points to defend before Wimbledon this year, which is a good thing because he has entirely too many afterward.
Top seed ?? @DjokerNole is in the top quarter of the draw.
His projected @BNPPARIBASOPEN draw (based on ATP Rankings):
? R1: Bye
? R2: Qualifier
? R3: ?? (31) Kyrgios
? R4: ?? (15) Cecchinato
? QF: ?? (7) Thiem
? SF: ?? (3) Zverev
? F: ?? (2) Nadal pic.twitter.com/ibbRF390Oi
— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) March 5, 2019
This isn’t exactly an easy draw for the Serb, but most things are easy for him these days if we’re being honest, so he’ll be fine. Just pencil him in to the final after he overwhelms Kevin Anderson, and save everybody some time really.
Joining him there will be winner of what we envision as every living and breathing tennis fan’s dream semifinal between the irresistible Roger Federer and the indomitable Rafael Nadal. Hell, we’ll even go full-on “happy ending” and give the people what they want, a Federer title against the Djoker in the final.
Can’t say we never think of you guys, smh.
Quarterfinals: Novak Djokovic over Borna Coric; Kevin Anderson over Milos Raonic; Roger Federer over Denis Shapovalov; Rafael Nadal over John Isner
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic over Kevin Anderson; Roger Federer over Rafael Nadal
Final: Roger Federer over Novak Djokovic
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG