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Predictions For BNP Paribas Open Men

Predictions For BNP Paribas Open Men
Photo: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
By Eli Scandalis

The first half of the first-round matches were played in the men's draw in Indian Wells on Thursday, with the rest of the first round matches finishing up on Friday, including the University of Illinois' Kevin Anderson. The other two collegiate players in the draw, Steve Johnson and John Isner, received byes and will play their first matches this weekend. Let's take look at these players' upcoming matchups:

Kevin Anderson (Illinois) vs. Federico Giao
After an injury-plagued 2016 that spilled into the beginning of 2017, Kevin Anderson comes into Indian Wells looking for his first win of the year. However, the two matches he's played in 2017 came against tough competition. One loss came to Damir Dzumhur, who has beaten four top 100 players, including third-ranked Stan Wawrinka, since beating Anderson. The other is Juan Martin del Potro, who is as tough as they come. Anderson may be in good form and just received unlucky draws the past two tournaments. He'll match up against a relatively unknown Italian, Federico Gaio, who came through qualifying and spends most of his time on the Challenger and ITF tour.

Prediction: 
Anderson's serve and groundstrokes should outclass Gaio, leading to a straight set win.
Result: Anderson won, 6-1, 6-4

Steve Johnson (USC) vs [Winner of above match]
Steve Johnson was unfortunately was placed in the aptly named "Quarter of Death" -- a quarter of the draw that includes Grand Slam winners Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Juan Martin del Potro. Johnson, a former USC standout, will have to come up with a Herculean effort if he's going to make it a few rounds through the draw. The ankle injury he suffered at Acapulco last week seems to be OK, as he's entered to play doubles at Indian Wells. He'll most likely face Kevin Anderson in his first match after the bye. The two should be familiar with one another since they've faced each other seven times over the course of their careers, with Anderson taking the 4-3 edge. Anderson could probably use a couple more tournaments to get match tough, while Johnson has been very active, playing 15 matches already this year. The winner will most likely have the honor of playing Federer in the next round, needing to play his best tennis if he wants to move past the G.O.A.T.

Prediction: In a tight matchup between two big servers, it will be Johnson's movement that gives him the edge, as he will win in three sets.
Result: Johnson won, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(7-4)

John Isner (Georgia) vs. Mikhail Kukushkin
After a first-round bye, the 20th seed will face Mikhail Kukushkin, a lucky loser who advanced past his first-round opponent due to an injury retirement. Kukushkin has been on tour for over 10 years and reached a career-high ranking of 46 in 2015. Kukushkin and Isner faced each other twice in 2014, with the big-serving former Bulldog winning both matches. Isner seems to enjoy playing on the courts in Indian Wells. Throughout his career, Isner is 20-9 at BNP Paribas, with eight of those nine losses coming to top 10 players. Kukushkin will have a lot of trouble breaking Isner's serve and doesn't serve well enough himself. If Isner does advance, it would set up a match with the 10th seed Gael Monfils; the two have split eight previous head-to-head matchups 4-4.

Prediction: Isner will do what he does best. He'll hold his serve and find a break somewhere in the set, advancing in a routine straight-set win.
Result: Isner won, 7-6(7-0), 7-6(8-6)

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