Cilic the Favorite at Indian Wells

by John on March 11, 2010

Not sure if the Red Hot Cilic Peppers will be making the trek from Australia to the California desert, but if they do it’s a good bet they’ll have plenty to cheer about over the next 11 days. The BNP Paribas Open, the first of 2010’s nine Masters Series events, starts today at Indian Wells and Croatia’s Marin Cilic appears primed to win his first big tournament. Cilic, seeded No. 8, is merely the hottest player on tour, with an 18-2 record and two titles. Throw in the fact that he loves hard courts, best of three-set matches, and the California weather and it’s a perfect storm. For the second year in a row, No. 1 Roger Federer comes to Indian Wells following a lengthy layoff after the Australian Open. Federer pulled out of Dubai the last week in February with a lung infection and just returned to training. It’s safe to speculate his form is questionable. No. 2 Djokovic won Dubai and has an impressive 13-2 record on the year. He may be a bit spent, though, from Serbia’s grueling Davis Cup tie with the U.S. last weekend. Nadal, seeded third, also hasn’t played since Melbourne. His knees remain the question mark. No. 4 seed Andy Murray has been in a bit of a funk since losing the Australian final to Federer and is only 7-2 this year. If seedings hold to form, Federer would play Murray in one semifinal and Djokovic would battle Nadal in the other. The Swiss Maestro may make it out of the top quarter, but it won’t be easy. Lurking are Marcos Baghdatis in the third round and No. 7 Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. Murray’s section is rough, too, with David Ferrer or James Blake possible fourth-round opponents. The Scotsman could then face either Robin Soderling, seeded sixth, or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters. Nadal’s quarter is perhaps the most difficult of the draw. The defending champion could meet big-serving John Isner or Sam Querrey in the fourth round and nemesis Nikolay Davydenko, the No. 5 seed, in the quarterfinals. Potential obstacles for Davydenko include a hot Ernests Gulbis in the second round and either No. 10 seed Fernando Verdasco or Tomas Berdych in the fourth round. In the bottom quarter, Djokovic should have a smooth path to a quarterfinal matchup with Cilic. Cilic must get by Juan Carlos Ferrero in the fourth round first. Ferrero won back-to-back clay-court tournaments last month. Cilic is my favorite, followed by Davydenko and then Soderling. Cilic and Davydenko can beat anybody in the draw. Soderling needs to have Federer gone before the semifinals to win the tournament.

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