Only three American men will be in first-round action at the Indian Wells Masters on Friday. Taylor Fritz is going up against Benoit Paire, while Donald Young and Stefan Kozalov are set for an all-American showdown.
Benoit Paire vs. (WC) Taylor Fritz
Paire and Fritz will be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers when they meet in round one of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. Fritz would have been expected to earn direct entry into this tournament based on how he performed–and how high he climbed in the rankings–last season, but that did not turn out to be the case. The 19-year-old peaked at 53rd in the world thanks to a breakout run early in 2016 before suffering a relative collapse last summer and fall. Fritz is 2-4 at the ATP level this season and coming off a first-round loss as a qualifier to Adrian Mannarino in Acapulco.
As can be expected, Paire has been up and down in the early stages of 2017. The 40th-ranked Frenchman advanced to semifinals in Chennai and Montpellier to go along with a third-round showing at the Aussie Open, but he has endured four first-round exits–including a current streak of three in a row. It is safe to say Paire is in a funk right now, and when that is the case he has a hard time digging himself out.
Pick: Fritz in 3
Donald Young vs. (WC) Stefan Kozlov
Young’s 2017 campaign is off to stellar start, with consecutive semifinal appearances in Memphis and Delray Beach last month. The 60th-ranked American has not lost his opening match at any of four ATP tournaments this season (second-round performances at the Australian Open and in Acapulco). Young has fallen in the Indian Wells first round three of the last four years, but he has advanced to the last 32 on three occasions.
Up first for Young on Friday is a second career contest against Kozlov. Their only previous encounter came last summer on the grass courts of Newport, where Young cruised 6-0, 6-4. At 19 years old, however, Kozlov has started to advance in the rankings and he currently registers just one spot off his career-high mark at No. 116 in the world. The Macedonia-born Floridian recently reached the Tempe Challenger quarterfinals before successfully qualifying in Acapulco with wins over Hyeon Chung and Jared Donaldson (lost to Ernesto Escobedo in three sets). Kozlov’s time may be coming sooner rather than later, but at the moment Young appears to be at a different level.
Pick: Young in 2