Merry Christmas, Gael Monfils! Wait, it’s March 13. True enough, but with Novak Djokovic crashing out of Southern California, the top half of the ATP draw at the BNP Paribas Open is as wide open as the Rio ATP 500 draw after seven of the eight seeded players tumbled out in the first round.
Much as Rio — entering the round of 16 — quickly became a career-changing points-and-trophy opportunity for a bunch of players, Indian Wells has become something very similar for the men left in the top half. Yes, it’s not an exact replica of Rio. The man who emerges from the bottom half of the draw will be the heavy favorite (at least we THINK he will) in a possible final. Nevertheless, the top half will create a first-time Indian Wells finalist and will give a player a chance to compete for a first Masters 1000 title.
Monfils is playing the best tennis of those men in the top half. Dominic Thiem is in the mix. The other six men: Philipp Kohlschreiber, Ivo Karlovic, Jan-Lennard Struff, Milos Raonic, Yoshihito Nishioka, Miomir Kecmanovic.
This is not so much a situation in which these various players need to win matches and make a deep run to prove something to the rest of the world. This is better viewed as a situation in which there is an opportunity to bank points and possibly win a prestigious championship. This kind of situation might not soon manifest itself again. It is a moment in time. Someone has to win each of these upcoming matches in the top half. “It might as well be me,” all of these guys are saying. The points the finalist and the semifinalists accumulate could confer a significant benefit down the line in terms of draws at clay Masters tournaments or cut lines for qualifying at various events.
This is not about reputations — at least not for most of these players. This is about points and riches.
Life has put forth a banquet table. Time to eat. Bon Appetit!