The BNP Paribas Open Quarter-finals in Indian Wells have been invaded by new faces. While there are a couple of former champions and an old finalist, it is the new names which stand out. Some of them are tour veterans, some of them are names fans have been expecting to see in the later rounds of big tournaments for a while.
Milos Raonic and Alexandr Dolgolpolov are two of the faces tennis fans have been waiting to make statements in the big events, and the two will face each other for a place in the semi-finals. The two made the last eight beating two of the game’s “big four”, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Those two names have been seen in plenty of last eight draws over the years, with Nadal being a three time champ and Murray the 2009 finalist. For Dolgopolov and Raonic, this Indian Wells is a tournament of firsts: Dolgopolov’s final set tiebreaker win over Nadal was his first over the Spaniard, and both men have never made it to the last eight at Indian Wells.
The two men make a fascinating match up. First, their styles are as contrasting as it gets. Raonic has his big serve and attacking game, which has rarely looked better than it did against Murray, while Dolgopolov is all touch and shotmaking. Second, with both men still young for today’s veteran-ruled tour (Raonic is 23, Dolgopolov 25), and two of the game’s most talented young players, these two could be meeting frequently in later rounds of important events, and with their clash of styles, those meetings could be some of the future highlights of the tour.
Ernst Gulbis is the third of the new faces to invade the Indian Wells quarter-finals. Gulbis is not a new face to ATP 1000 events, making the last eight in Cincinnati in ’08, the Rome semi-finals in ’10, and the last eight of Montreal ’12. Gulbis also made the last sxteen at last season’s Indian Wells. But some of those results were a long while back in the days when Gulbis was one of the next bright young things of the tour. The Latvian, currently ranked 22, is finally living up to expectations, winning the tournament in Marseilles last month and reaching a career high of 18. In the quarters, he will come up against a man no stranger to success in Indian Wells: John Isner. The American will have the advantage of knowing what it takes to win big in the Californian desert-he beat Djokovic in the ’12 semis-and will have the homecrowd on his side. Gulbis though is in the form of his career and the medium-slow surface gives him the time he needs to set up those huge ground-stroke winners.
Julian Benneteau, aged 32, is not stranger to the tour, having competed on it since 2000, but he is new to the last eight of Indian Wells. In his nine previous appearances, he made the last sixteen once, in 2007. The Frenchman, ranked 65, will face Novak Djokovic in the last eight. Benneateau won their first ever meeting in 2006 but Djokovic won the next five, dropping only one set along the way. Djokovic, meanwhile, is anything but new to the last eight of Indian Wells-this is his seventh appearance. The world number two, however, has been anything but at his best this event, and Benneteau, who boasts a win over Roger Federer on his C.V, might be able to take advantage of his shaky form. The Serbian dropped a set to 91st ranked Gonzales and was thrashed to the tune of 1-6 in the first set against Cilic in the last sixteen. Djokovic did survive that contest, but Cilic’s first set showing showcased that the new faces were not afraid of invading the later stages of big events.
While the Indian Wells quarter-finals have been invaded by new faces, there is one face who everyone will recognize: Roger Federer’s. The Swiss has won the tournament four times. He will look to make his seventh semi-final when he comes up against Kevin Anderson. Anderson made his quarter-final debut at Indian Wells last season and is fresh off the back of runner-up placings in Delray Beach and Acapulco. Their encounter will be yet another fascinating one in a tournament which is seeing new faces invade and old ones fighting to keep their status in the status quo.
BNP Paribas Open
ATP World Tour