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PREVIEW: 2024 ATP Tour – Indian Wells Masters selected Ro128 matches

The ATP Tour’s Indian Wells Masters gets underway this week. Damien Kayat two selected round of 128 ties as Rafa Nadal faces Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka takes on Tomas Machac.

Rafael Nadal

The ATP Tour’s Indian Wells Masters gets underway this week. Damien Kayat two selected round of 128 ties as Rafa Nadal faces Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka takes on Tomas Machac.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2024 ATP Tour
Masters 1000
Indian Wells Masters
Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Indian Wells
Selected Ro128 Matches- 6 March

Rafael Nadal v Milos Raonic

Rarely will a match pitting the World No.652 against the World No.222 garner top billing. But that is certainly the case this week, as two of tennis’ most injury-plagued players go head-to-head in a match that has a distinctly 2014 vibe to it.

22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be hoping for a positive showing during the ‘Sunshine Double’ as he eases his way into action leading up to the clay-court section of the season. Nadal missed almost the entirety of last season due to a hip injury sustained at the Aussie Open.

This saw him drop outside the top 10 in the rankings for the first time since April 2005 (insane) and he ultimately finished the year ranked outside the top 100. He returned to action at this year’s Brisbane International but he suffered a small muscle tear in his quarter-final defeat to Jordan Thompson.

That forced him to miss the Aussie Open and this will be his first match since then. The Indian Wells conditions are extremely slow and it’s little wonder he has thrived here in the past, winning the title three times and finishing runner-up as recently as 2022. But can his body hold up this week?

33-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic has been riddled with injuries throughout his career and it’s actually been quite a shame. The former World No.3 possesses one of the most explosive serves in the history of the sport and I’m sure he would have collected many more impressive Grand Slam runs had his body held together.

He returned to action after two years during last year’s grass-court swing and he slowly started to reacquaint himself with the rigours of the tour. This year he has looked quite impressive in his two outings though his body has predictably betrayed him.

At the Aussie Open he split sets with in-form de Minaur before retiring in their third-round clash. And he pushed current wunderkind Jannik Sinner to a first-set tiebreak before retiring in their Rotterdam quarte-rfinal. So, his form has actually been quite impressive when he has been on court.

Also, Raonic actually has a pretty impressive record here in the desert, with one final, three semi-finals and one quarter-final in his last five outings. Sure, the courts are slow. But the ball moves quickly through the thin air and devastating serving can still be a huge asset here (Isner reached the final in 2012).

Verdict: Raonic to win in three sets

Nadal holds an 8-2 head-to-head advantage over the Canadian. But the Canadian emerged victorious in a thriller when they met here back in 2015. I don’t think Raonic will get a better chance to improve his record over Nadal than this. He has a really commendable record here and his serve mitigates some of his lingering physical issues.

He has broken down deeper into events this year and he may feel quite fresh in these opening rounds. Still, Nadal is a true competitor and this one should go the distance (provided their bodies hold together).

Stan Wawrinka v Tomas Machac

It feels like the playing days of former Indian Welles finalist Stan Wawrinka are coming to an end. I know, that isn’t much of a hot take considering the three-time Major winner is 38 years of age. But I get the impression that the durable Swiss would play into his forties if he remained competitive.

He has just looked a shadow of his former self this season. He is currently 1-3 for the season, going out in five sets to Mannarino at the Aussie Open before early defeats in Buenos Aires and Rio. His straight-sets defeat to Diaz Acosta in Rio was particularly worrying.

His movement has obviously slowed down a bit and he seems to have lost a bit of pop in his groundstrokes (even off that famously sweet backhand wing). But history tells us not to doubt the staying power of the Swiss.

He broke back into the top 50 in the world last year, reaching back-to-back Grand Slams 3rd rounds at Wimbledon and the US Open. He also reached his first ATP Tour final in five years at the Croatia Open. Was that a final hurrah or could we expect a similar resurgence this season?

You get the impression that this is going to be a crucial year in the development of 23-year-old Czech Tomas Machac. The right-handed baseliner enjoyed a really solid 2023 campaign, winning two Challenger titles and reaching his first two ATP Tour quarter-finals (more on that later).

He also drew admiration from Djokovic after he pushed the Serb to three sets in a thrilling Dubai encounter. But he caught my attention with an impressive 3rd round run at this year’s Aussie Open. He eased past lucky loser Mochizuki before picking up the biggest win of his career against 17th seed Frances Tiafoe.

He also pushed Khachanov to four sets in their third-round match. He followed that up with a quarterfinal run in Marseille before he lost a nail-biting first-round match against Alexader Bublik in Dubai. Machac is an aggressive baseliner with one of the most promising backhands in the game.

Verdict: Machac to win in straight sets 

Machac actually leads the head-to-head 1-0, comfortably seeing off the Swiss star en route to the quarterfinals of last year’s Stockholm Open. I think that Machac is starting to develop into a well-rounded player and he could be too much for this version of Wawrinka.

These surfaces are slow and will put a premium on athleticism. Wawrinka is touching 40 and his form has been pretty dreadful. Machac needs to win this match to be taken seriously.

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