In one Indian Wells quarterfinal on Thursday, the two top-eight seeds–Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem–have advanced. The story is by no means the same on the other side of the draw’s top half, where Pablo Carreno Busta and Pablo Cuevas are still alive.
(3) Stan Wawrinka vs. (8) Dominic Thiem
Wawrinka and Thiem will be facing each other for the fourth time in their careers when they battle for a spot in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals on Thursday night. The head-to-head series stands at 2-1 in favor of Wawrinka, who lost their first meeting at the 2014 Rome Masters 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 before getting the job done in competitive straight-setters at the 2014 Paris Masters and 2015 Rome Masters.
Another Masters 1000 showdown is in the cards, but that almost was not the case. Wawrinka found himself two points from defeat on Wednesday night against lucky loser Yoshihito Nishioka, who twice served for the match in the third set only to see the Swiss prevail 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4). The third seed preceded that result with much more routine victories over Paolo Lorenzi and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Thiem earned his place in the last eight by clobbering Jeremy Chardy, Mischa Zverev, and Gael Monfils. The ninth-ranked Austrian is 17-6 this season and could be in the top four in the race to London next week if he beats Wawrinka. Conditions in the desert suit Thiem perfectly and he should be able to take advantage of an opponent who may be fatigued.
Pick: Thiem in 2
(21) Pablo Carreno Busta vs. (27) Pablo Cuevas
Carreno Busta and Cuevas will be squaring of for the fourth time in their careers at the ATP level on Thursday. Cuevas is leading he head-to-head series 3-1, with a 2-0 mark on clay and an even 1-1 score on hard courts. The Uruguayan took their first hard-court encounter 6-2, 6-3 two seasons ago in Valencia before Carreno Busta scored a 6-3, 7-6(1) win on his eventual way to the Winston-Salem title last summer.
Needless to say, this is a shocking quarterfinal matchup for Masters 1000 event–especially for one that is not played on clay. With so many of the game’s biggest stars packed in the bottom quarter of the draw, other sections were left wide open–and wide open is exactly what the top quarter became when Vasek Pospisil upset Andy Murray and Fabio Fognini ousted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Carreno Busta’s favorable path through the tournament includes victories over Peter Gojowyczk and Dusan Lajovic (who ousted Pospisil) plus a walkover from Roberto Bautista Agut. Cuevas has defeated Martin Klizan, Fognini, and David Goffin, surrendering just one set to Goffin in the process. It’s still very early, but if a red-hot Carreno Busta wins this match he will at least temporarily be in the top eight in the 2017 race to London. On a hard court, a confident Spaniard should have a slight edge over Cuevas.
Pick: Carreno Busta in 2