Indian Wells QF previews and predictions: Federer vs. Kyrgios, Nishikori vs. Sock

The loaded bottom quarter of the Indian Wells draw is close to being sorted out, and it will be won by either Roger Federer or Nick Kyrgios on Friday. Kei Nishikori and Jack Sock are also trying to snag a spot in the semifinals.

(9) Roger Federer vs. (15) Nick Kyrgios

Kyrgios is a combined 4-1 lifetime against Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. He will get another shot at one of those all-time greats when he faces Federer for a second time during quarterfinal action at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday. Kyrgios won their only previous showdown 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) on the clay courts of Madrid in 2015. The 21-year-old Australian has eliminated any such drama with Djokovic this month, twice taking out the second-ranked Serb in straight sets–first in Acapulco and again via a 6-4, 7-6(3) decision on Wednesday in Indian Wells. Kyrgios, who preceded that victory with routine defeats of Horacio Zeballos and Alexander Zverev, is 10-3 this season with semifinal showings in Marseille and Acapulco.

Federer has been just about perfect in 2017, and he might be perfect if not for a shocking collapse against Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai. The 35-year-old’s 11-1 record includes his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and straight-set wins in the California desert over Stephane Robert, Steve Johnson, and Rafael Nadal. Federer, who needed five sets to outlast Nadal in an epic final in Melbourne, crushed his rival 6-2, 6-3 in just one hour and eight minutes on Wednesday. The world No. 10 is playing ultra-aggressive tennis and striking his backhand better than ever, so Kyrgios will have to deliver an other-worldly serving performance–better than against Djokovic–in order to avoid baseline rallies.

Pick: Federer in 3

(17) Jack Sock vs. (4) Kei Nishikori

Nishikori and Sock will be squaring off for the third time in their careers on Friday. The head-to-head series is tied up at one win apiece, with Nishikori having cruised 7-5, 6-2 at the 2013 Washington, D.C. event before Sock scored a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory at the 2014 Shanghai Masters.

In typical Nishikori fashion, the world No. 5 has quietly gone about his business in Indian Wells while destroying everything in his path. He has not dropped a set–and has not even come close to dropping a set–in routs of Dan Evans, Gilles Muller, and Donald Young. Sock, whose previous best performance at this event was a fourth-round finish in 2015, has done extremely well to surpass that accomplishment. The 18th-ranked American is through to the last eight thanks to a trio of wins–all from a set down–at the expense of Henri Laaksonen, Grigor Dimitrov, and Malek Jaziri. He even saved four match points against Dimitrov. Sock, who may be fatigued, will not be able to get away with another slow start against an opponent of Nishikori’s caliber.

Pick: Nishikori in 2

44 Comments on Indian Wells QF previews and predictions: Federer vs. Kyrgios, Nishikori vs. Sock

    • Why would Kygrios need to or want to avoid baseline rallies? I thought Fed is the one who should try avoiding baseline rallies? From what I saw about the Kyrgios/Djoko match, Kyrgios was very comfortable playing the long rallies.

      I do agree serve is the key for Kygrios if he wants to beat the aggressive Fed. Steve Johnson with his solid serving pushed Fed to two TB sets before losing; Rafa was poor by any standard as his serve was so bad that it’s easily being returned with interest by Fed. Returning Kyrgios’s serve will be a challenge for Fed; of course it all depends which Kygrios turns up to play.

      • the point is he can’t do that against Federer. Djokovic was absolutely wretched from the baseline yesterday.

        • No doubt Djoko was playing subpar tennis, but Kygrios was simply hitting with easy power, not overly exerting himself.

          It’s not always BH to BH exchanges when Kygrios meet Fed, in fact Kygrios should go to Fed’s FH more, now that Fed’s FH is weaker than his BH. Kygrios playing better tennis right now than Djoko, Rafa, Johnson.

          • Luckystar, do you really think that Federer’s forehand is “weaker” than his backhand now? Isn’t he still hitting consistently more winners off the forehand wing than backhand? I definitely agree with you that his backhand is currently more of a weapon than it used to be, but better than his forehand? I personally wouldn’t go that far… Agree to disagree? 🙂

            • His BH is significantly better than it was.

              His FH is still more reliable than his BH, unquestionably.

              Last night for example against Rafa:

              Winners/Unforced Errors:

              BH: 8/9
              FH: 12/7

              Kev and I will agree on this one.

            • Again, Fed’s FH in AO final win was still more reliable than his improved BH:

              Winners/Unforced Errors:
              BH: 17/25
              FH: 36/29

              So Kevin is right.

            • Kevin, against Rafa, Fed of course would make more errors with his BH as Rafa’s FH to Fed’s BH was still more difficult to overcome (for Fed), compared to Rafa’s BH to Fed’s FH.

              However, Kyrgios is not Rafa; doesn’t have a lefty topspin FH to counter Fed’s BH. Kyrgios FH > than his own BH I feel, so his FH has better chances vs Fed’s FH.

            • Regardless of who wins or loses, Fed’s ratio of winners to unforced errors will be greater on his FH side compared to his BH side.

              It’s still his most reliable shot. Not even close. Despite obvious improvements to his BH.

            • Not forgetting Fed’s BH slices are the best in the world; giving troubles to almost all players except Rafael Nadal. His slices will extract many errors from his opponents rather than he hitting outright winners.

  1. Last time Fed and Kyrgios played, it was 3 tie-breaks. Unless Fed had an early lapse on serve like Djokovic did, I expect this match to be all tie-breaks. Although I would choose Fed to win if I had to put $ down, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyrgios was able to pull it off… I wonder if the conditions in IW are maybe a little similar to the conditions in Madrid, where Kyrgios beat Fed? The ball flies through the air at both tournaments, albeit for different reasons, while the court surface at each tournament is relatively higher-bouncing. The more I think about, it really isn’t surprising at all to see Fed playing well at IW because he has made the final 3 out of the last 4 times he played there, winning the title once and narrowly losing to a prime Djokovic in 3 sets in the final the past two times he played…

  2. I think Nick will have a tough time recovering physically and also have a bit of a letdown after his emotional win over Nole.

    He’d have to play as well or better than he did vs Nole to beat Fed here.

    If he manages to play yesterday’s level, he should take a set at least.

    Sure he has a chance of victory but I think Fed gets this done in two losing eight games or less because of the factors I mentioned.

  3. Hawk,
    Do you have two accounts?? I just barely realized that some comments have the picture of (Rafa’s?) eye, and some have no pic… Or have I been responding to two different Hawkeyes this whole time haha? I guess I could check all the old comments, and if both Hawkeyes make those entertaining, smart-ass/sarcastic comments and hashtags then I’ll know you’re one person using two accounts! 🙂

    Wait…. What about Hawkstradamus?? Oh man, I’m so confused!


    • LOL, beware of flattering Me Kevin-fan.

      Augusta008 knows it goes right to My fattening head (and she’s right).

      As Fed once opined, I’ve created a monster.

      They’re all Me. The one without the pic is when I’ve put in the wrong e-mail by mistake I think. Hawkstradamus is a parody of Ricky’s Nostradimon nic.

      Fed/Kyrgios should be a great popcorn match.

      Statement match for both. Could go either way but only if Nic plays the best match of his life. He needs a coach now. Would love to see someone like Agassi jump on board (at least half time) or Becker.


  4. Gonna say Kyrgios in 3, but I hope Ricky’s right about Fed winning.

    KNish in 3. Sock’s been playing well, but probably not well enough. He looks to me as if he’s put on some of the weight he’d lost.

  5. Very seldom go against fed and I think he will be up for this… playing aome great tennis at the moment… he just oozes confidence…

    Read the comments about NK and his serve… have people forgot how accurate fed serves and if its down to that and rallies. He should win and the mental edge to. Surely he will turn up for this as he so often does when it matters most. Fed in 3

    Nishikoris match to lose… expose thw sock BH more often than not

    • Yeah Denzil, Fed’s serve is very commonly underrated. But check out the leading service stats year after year, and fed is always up there with the likes of Raonic, Isner and Karlovic.

      I believe they once asked Rafa whose serve he’d like to have the most a few years back and he picked Fed’s. Could be mistaken. I’m sure Augusta could correct me if I am.

      • Rafa did pick Fed’s serve once, but a few years later he picked Isner’s. Fed is a great spot server, no doubt about that. When Rafa picked Fed’s originally I thought maybe he picked a serve that was theoretically possible for him to have given his height.

  6. Now that Fed gets a walkover, I wonder how that will affect him going into tomorrow’s match. I know that having 2 days rest in Australia probably helped him because he had a 5-setter against Stan. At what point does an extra day’s rest become detrimental, especially when his last match was only an hour? Some people like to suggest that Djokovic getting a walkover the match before facing Fed at Roland Garros 2011 may have given Fed some sort of advantage. (I personally have never bought that theory, especially when Djokovic had won forty-something straight matches before that.) What do you all think?

    • I think the day off could have had some small mental effect. I think Fed was in his head more in that match.

      An extra day off for Fed won’t hurt a bit. Some others possibly but Fed doesn’t really rust like that IMO.

  7. “Nishikori over Sock in 2” – haha, bad joke! no, I’m not here to blame someone. I didn’t pick 2-0 for the wimp Kei, 1.45 at one offline agency was enough for me. with another 2 picks from football I was ok.
    I’m here to write, to remember for the future when I’ll win again and believe again that I am good at this..
    Saw the match: Sock has cold blood, Sock has serve, has strength, mentally very good, he proved this so many times.
    And I ??! What I say: Sock doesn’t have a back hand. I’m so weak!!!
    So Kei is, when pressure is on him, he almost start crying. And don’t tell me that he was “injured” – in the last points he showed he was capable of full stretching. he’s problem is that he is too emotive. those from his stuff prepared a very bad tactic. If I was a good enough, I would have chosen +4.5 games Sock at 1.40.
    During the match, I was hoping Kei to win. For my bet and also to pick tomorrow 2-0 Fed. But guess what.
    Just a guy who chose +4.5 games Young vs Pouille when most of the tipsters were expecting French’s victory.
    Just a guy who chose 1.90 Ram / Klaasen vs Muller / Querrey. Why ? Solid couple. Muller and Querrey are often CLOWNS. You must be honest when you bet, don’t think with heart. And you must try to imagine how the rallies will take place. Yes, yes, frustrated now. not because of money, because of my pick and because of Kei’s game. so nervous, so chicken! looked that he was on period.

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