Whilst the top stars of the ATP World Tour will make their final preparations for the first Masters event of 2015 at Indian Wells on the practice courts. The competitive action in the men’s draw will begin today with the start of the qualifying event. 48 players will battle against each other on court during two rounds in order to win one of the 12 qualification slots in the main draw. The 12 qualifiers will also get a guaranteed $10,485 for playing in the first round.
Heading the seeds will be teenage sensation Borna Coric. The 18-year-old comes into the event will a huge amount of confidence following his impressive run at the ATP Dubai Open where he beat Andy Murray to reach the semi final of the tournament. His Dubai performance has elevated him to a career ranking high of 60 in the world. In the first round, he will play Artem Smirnov from the Ukraine and could potentially face Gastão Elias in the next round if all goes to plan. If the Croatian qualifies for the main draw, it will be the first Master event that he has participated in. Look for Coric, if he can avoid a hangover from Davis Cup in Europe, to qualify as he’s the strongest player in his section by far.
Second seed Go Soeda has so far experienced a very average start to 2015. He reached the second round of the Australian Open after beating Elias Ymer in the first round and also reached the second round of the ATP Zagreb Open. Despite being ranked 84 in the world, the Japanese player is yet to beat a top 100 played in 2015. The highest ranked player he has beaten so far this year was Matthias Bachinger (119) last month. In the first round, he will player world 164 Alex Bolt. Soeda comes off Davis Cup for Japan, and may be fatigued, giving Bolt a decent shot an upset, however the Aussie is 1-2 with a retirement in his last four matches, and that does not bode well for his chances. I expect Alejandro Falla to be the round 2 opponent for Soeda, as the veteran ball striker is in better form than James McGee, even though he’s struggled all year himself. McGee has lost four straight, while Falla has at least managed some wins at a lower level. I also favor Falla over Soeda to qualify.
Jurgen Melzer (3) is bidding to play in the Indian Wells main draw for the 12th consecutive year. Melzer, who reached the fourth round of the tournament back in 2010, is hoping to regain some solid form in his game after a poor month. The former world number 8 has lost 5 out of his last 6 matches played. The veteran player will open up his qualifying campaign against another veteran player Danai Udomchoke. 33-year-old Udomchoke is currently ranked 326 in the world, however he has been ranked high as 77 back in 2007. On paper this sound be a straight forward encounter for Melzer and could potentially face 2014 Australian Open junior champion Alexander Zverev in the final round.Given his poor showing in Davis Cup, I see Melzer winning his round 2 match but losing to either the young gun Zverev, or American veteran Michael Russell, who always plays his best on home soil.
Completing the top five seeds are Damir Džumhur and Spainiard Daniel Gimeno-Traver. Dzumhur, who rose to media spotlight last year where he reached the third round as a qualifier at the Australian Open, will play Frank Dancevic in their first ever meeting. Meanwhile Gimeno-Trove will play Jason Jung from America in what will also be their first ever meeting. Dzumhur played well in Davis Cup, so he should be able to defeat Dancevic and veteran Philipp Petzschner or Marco Cecchinato thereafter to qualify.
As for DGT, if he wins his first match over Jung, he will not be favored, given he much prefers clay, against Aljaz Bedene who has had a strong 2015 thus far. Bedene has American Dennis Novikov as his first opponent.
6 seed Tobias Kamke has an interesting round 1 match against Nikoloz Basilashvili of the Republic of Georgia. Basilashvili started the year off strong and won his first ever ATP main draw match, but he’s cooled off since then with three straight ATP qualifying losses. Kamke is to some extent a declining veteran so I have him falling to Basilashvili, and then the Georgian regaining form and qualifying with a win over either Alex Kuznetsov or Victor Hanescu, both steady veterans.
7 seed Farrukh Dustov, who has a challenger title this season, should defeat struggling young American Mackenzie McDonald, but he’s not the favorite in his section, that title goes to the retiring serve and volleyer Michael Berrer, who will face young gun Taro Daniel (who he beat this year in AO qualies). Berrer should qualify given his good form this year, that included a win over Rafael Nadal in Doha, though this is an unpredictable section.
Look for Aussie J.P. Smith to upset Filip Krajinovic, the 8 seed. Krajinovic played Davis Cup this weekend and he’s not as formidable on hard courts, while Smith is perhaps nearing a major breakthrough. Either Smith or Polish veteran Lukasz Kubot are most likely to qualify in this section, as Kubot also comes off DC duty and faces another Aussie, Luke Saville in round 1.
9 seed James Duckworth does not have an easy matchup with rapidly improving American Jared Donaldson who will have the home fans behind him. I believe in Donaldson this time around to qualify on home soil, with wins over Duckworth and American Rajeev Ram, who faces Marco Trungelliti in round 1.
10 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu, who has been up and down this season, faces USC standout Yannick Hanfmann, a wild card, and then he is likely to face his struggling countryman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in round 2 (ERV faces dirtballer Guido Andreozzi in round 1). ERV has plenty of talent but he’s been poor for quite some time, and PHM should be the one to qualify.
Davis Cup Hero James Ward also has a good shot at qualifying as he continues his quest to break into the top 100, Ward Faces Mitchell Krueger of the USA in round 1, and then the winner of Yoshito Nishioka vs. the veteran Mischa Zverev (the older brother of Alex), in round 1. I have Nishioka qualifying, as he did in Delray, but Ward is also playing well so it’s a tough call.
12 seed Dudi Sela struggled in Davis Cup action for Israel, but he’s still favored to beat young American Taylor Harry Fritz. Look for a relatively in-form Thiemo De Bakker to beat Emilio Gomez and then Sela to qualify, as he could pose a threat to the main draw entrants if he does qualify. De Bakker has always had the talent, but his effort and desire has been lacking at times.
The action should be quite exciting from Indian Wells, and Adam will have a recap of the qualifying results once the qualifying tournament concludes on Wednesday.