Perhaps last year, after Federer had claimed the Australian Open an then followed that up with the ‘Sunshine Double’ winning Indian Wells and Miami back to back, few thought he would be able to back up such a remarkable year.
However, fast forward to a similar start to the year, with him successfully defending his Australian Open title, and reclaiming the World No. 1 spot – and with the withdrawals from the field of Rafael Nadal and compatriot Stan Wawrinka, not to mention the continued absence of Andy Murray, who would bet against him doing the same?
His draw seems favourable too with Serbia’s Filip Krajinovicas a possible third round opponent, Fabio Fognini(who has been in form, albeit on the clay) in the fourth round, and a potential Australian Open rematch against Hyeon Chung in the quarter-finals.
So often Cilic flies under the radar, yet we could be in for a repeat of this year’s Australian Open final, where the rangy Croatian cast aside the memories of crying in the Wimbledon final after blisters inhibited his ability to mount much of a challenge to Federer on the grass. He put paid to that by reaching a third Grand Slam final, and this time taking Federer to five sets, so should he make the final – you would not count against him putting the pressure on Federer.
Although it has not been an especially bad start to the year for Dimitrov reaching a semi-final, quarter-final and final in his three tournaments this year, after the momentum he had winning the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals last year, he might have hoped to be even more consistent.
So far though he seems to be doing the right things – he is injury free and maturing has a pretty favourable draw but his tendency for his serving to go awry if his confidence dips still means he could be one of the surprise exits.
Zverev admitted in pre-tournament press that for him the season feels like it just starting. Again an early casualty in a Grand Slam, his confidence was buoyed by two confident wins in Davis Cup, and although he only got a single win in Rotterdam, his performance in Acapulco seems to have set him back on the straight and narrow.
His potential third round against Milos Raonic should be well within his grasp against the troubled Canadian, and could face a confident Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round. The gritty little Argentinian schooled Zverev in their one and only meeting in Kitzbuhel in 2014, for the loss of just one game, and is in solid form at the moment.
The BNP Paribas Open takes place between 8 and 18 March (-8 hours BST)
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