BNP Paribas Open 2019 Preview: Will Novak Djokovic reign supreme at the first Masters 1000 of 2019?

The first of the nine Masters 1000 events in 2019 will kick off at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, south of Palm Springs, in less than 48 hours time. The BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells Masters) is undoubtedly the most resplendent and spectacular tennis tournament outside the four Grand Slams. That to an extent is largely due to an alluring atmosphere and a near two weeks of intense tennis in the 16,000-seat Stadium 1, the second biggest court in tennis.

Djokovic will start as favorite

As the clock ticks before the first ball is struck on Thursday, there is only one name on everyone’s lips. Serbia’s Novak Djokovic retained his status as the dominant tennis player in the world and unsurprisingly he is the talk of the tournament. The World No.1 captured his 15th Major title at the 2019 Australian Open and he is the overwhelming favorite to clinch a record-breaking 6th title in the Californian desert. Djokovic is tied with rival Roger Federer with five titles, but has played the event four times fewer than the Swiss.

Rafael Nadal could potentially be playing second fiddle to Novak Djokovic for the rest of the year. The Spaniard was soundly beaten in the final of this year’s Australian Open by the Serbian superstar, but he will attempt to put a stranglehold to his record 33 Masters 1000 titles, which is one more than Djokovic. Although the odds are stacked against him, Nadal is a former champion of the event.

Roger Federer, fresh from an historic 100th career singles title in Dubai last weekend, will hope to go one better this year after falling to Juan Martin del Potro in 2018 championship match. Federer went to the final last year on the back of a 17-match winning streak and held multiple match points before losing in a final set tiebreak. The Swiss jointly holds the record of most titles in Indian Wells alongside Djokovic.

Defending Indian Wells champion Juan Martin del Potro has confirmed his absence from the event due to a recurring knee injury. The Argentine captured his first and only Masters 1000 crown when he outlasted Roger Federer in that epic final last year. Del Potro missed the season-ending ATP Finals at the tail end of 2018 and the 2019 Australian Open in an effort to recover for his title defence. He returned to action at the Delray Beach Open a fortnight ago, but his struggles were apparent as he lost to Mackenzie McDonald in the second round.

Three Players to Look out for at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open

Nick Kyrgios

The much-maligned mercurial Australian was unbeatable at the Mexican Open, where he stunned World No.2 Rafael Nadal from two match points down en route to his fifth ATP title. Kyrgios beat his ailing body throughout the week in Acapulco and that run propelled his ranking to rise to No. 33. He is set to be seeded in Indian Wells following a couple of absentees inside the top 32. The temperamental 23-year-old has beaten Djokovic in this event and many see him as one of the players primed to shock the Serb due to his immense serving and his ability to gamble on pressure points.

Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils’ personal life this year has been of major interest to the general public, but his on court performances have also caught the eye. Since suffering a surprise defeat to Taylor Fritz in the second round of the Australian Open, Monfils has been a rejuvenated man. The 32-year-old won in Rotterdam and reached the semifinals in Sofia and Dubai respectively. It will be interesting to see the kind of draw he will get considering the good form he is in at the moment.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The only word to describe Stefanos Tsitsipas is industrious. The young Greek has been a sensation this year with some breathtaking displays during his run to the semifinals of the Australian Open. He shook off his harrowing loss to Nadal in Melbourne and won the ATP 250 event tournament in Marseille before taking the first flight almost immediately to Dubai where he finished runner-up to Federer. Tsitsipas made his top 10 debut earlier this week following his run to the final, making him the first Greek man achieve that feat. He will certainly be one of the players to watch. Tsitsipas will be gunning for more ranking points as he only reached the second round in his debut appearance last year.

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