Jannik Sinner faces John Isner while Gael Monfils faces Kevin Anderson in the Indian Wells Masters. Damien Kayat previews.
2021 ATP Tour 2021
Masters 1000 Series
Indian Wells Gardens, Indian Wells, California Hardcourt
Selected Round of 32 – 12th – 13th October
Jannik Sinner (10) (47/100) vs John Isner (33/20)
This is primed to be a classic clash between a NextGen star and veteran crowd favourite. Jannik Sinner continues to justify his reputation as a potential future World Number One. He is the youngest player in the world’s top 15 and he has been in sparkling form post-Wimbledon. Sinner won the Washington Open and reached the final 16 at the US Open. He then went on to defend his Sofia Open without dropping a set. Sinner just obliterated John Millman in straight sets to reach the 3rd round here. John Isner has also enjoyed a fairly strong post-Wimbledon run. He made it to the semi-finals of the Los Cabos Open prior to capturing the Atlanta Open. More critically, he would go on to reach the semi-finals of the Toronto Masters. He came through a challenging opening clash against Yoshihito Nishioka.
The Verdict: Sinner to win- Isner actually leads their head-to-head 1-0, overcoming the Italian earlier this year in Cincinnati. But the courts at Indian Wells this year are much slower than those in Cincinnati. This means that there will be less cheap points for the veteran Isner. He won’t be able to dominate on serve in quite the same manner. Sinner has shown tremendous versatility at such a young age and I think that he should get past this test.
Gael Monfils (14) (44/100) vs Kevin Anderson (7/4)
You have to admire the way that Gael Monfils has rediscovered his form in the latter part of the season. The 35-year-old has enjoyed a largely forgettable campaign, currently sitting 7-6 on hardcourts this year. But he has been far more consistent over the past month. After being eliminated in the 3rd round of the US Open, he made to the semi-finals in Metz. He then followed that up with an appearance in the Sofia Open final. His opponent will be fellow veteran Kevin Anderson. Anderson has endured a horrendous year of injuries and poor form. Usually a hardcourt specialist, Anderson has an 8-9 win-loss record on hardcourts this year. But his form this week has looked surprisingly impressive. A straight sets victory over Jordan Thompson was one thing. But to beat the rapidly rising Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets was an altogether different story.
The Verdict: Monfils to win in three at 26/10- Monfils holds an impressive 5-1 head-to-head record against Anderson. He seems to absorb his power brilliantly. This should only be aided by the slower surfaces at Indian Wells. I think there’s a real positive energy surrounding Gael Monfils. But I still think that this will be an extremely tight affair.
Pablo Carreno Busta (12) (88/100) vs Karen Khachanov (24) (89/100)
World Number 16 Pablo Carreno Busta is actually chasing his career-high world ranking of 10th- last achieved in 2017. This could yet become the most successful year of Carreno Busta’s career. He has already won two titles this year, winning his maiden ATP 500 title at the Hamburg Open. But undoubtedly his greatest achievement of the year was his Bronze Medal at the Olympics. Carreno Busta actually beat Novak Djokovic in the process. Karen Khachanov has really only performed on the bigger stages this year. Firstly, he made his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon. He then picked up an incredible silver medal at the Olympic games. So, this is really a clash of two Olympic heroes. They have a ridiculously tight head-to-head record, with both sharing the spoils 3-3. The three meetings that have come on slower surfaces have been won by the Spaniard. Khachanov tends to prefer the harder surfaces where he can keep the points shorter. This was evident in his semi-final victory in Tokyo earlier this year.
The Verdict: Pablo Carreno Busta to win- I think that the pattern should continue this week. Carreno Busta tends to fare better on slower surfaces. Indian Wells is honestly playing more like a clay-court than a hard surface these days. I expect him to enjoy the intensely long rallies that are sure to come in this encounter.