Indian Wells diary: Juan Martin del Potro's generosity and Simona Halep's humour

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Media day at a combined tournament is always a hectic affair as journalists sit down with the top eight seeds from each draw to catch up and hear their thoughts before the action begins.

On Wednesday at Indian Wells, we got to speak to most of the top seeds while keeping an eye on the women’s first round matches and men’s qualifying clashes that were taking place at the same time.

Players are typically relaxed when they’re still in pre-tournament mode and it also helps when you’re all hanging out at what is one of the most beautiful tennis events in the world. It’s hard to find a player, journalist or fan who doesn’t like to come to Indian Wells.

Several singles players choose to also play doubles here in the California desert to give themselves a chance to get used to the conditions with some extra match play. This year at Indian Wells, there’s a $1 million bonus for any player that sweeps both the singles and doubles titles, which is a very cool way to incentivise top singles stars to enter the doubles draw.


World No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro is partnering up with world No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov in doubles this week but when I asked him if he’s going for that $1m bonus, he laughed off the suggestion.








“No we love to play together. He’s a great guy, we have a good relationship and also it’s a good practice for us before a singles match. You never know what could happen but we’re playing just for our tennis and that’s the only reason,” said the 29-year-old Argentine.


When one reporter asked if he’d share the money with us if he won it, Del Potro swiftly replied: “It’s all yours.”


We may have to call him on that if it actually happens!



World No. 1 Simona Halep is also playing doubles this tournament, with fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.


“I heard, but it’s tough to think about it,” Halep said when asked if she knew about the bonus.


“It would be nice (to win it), we can go shopping me and my partner, so it’s going to be nice if it happens.”


Would she share her extra cash with the press?


“With the press corps? I was thinking to share it with my partner but I can buy some presents for you,” said Halep with a smile.


Jelena Ostapenko, who is playing doubles with her Latvian countrywoman Anastasija Sevastova, gave the best reaction when asked about the bonus.


“What bonus?” said the French Open champion. “I didn’t even know that. Really? Good to know.”


Meanwhile, Del Potro was quizzed about his continuous bad luck with draws as he once again fell into a tricky quarter that could see him face David Ferrer in the third round and a 10th-seeded Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.


“Always, that doesn’t change,” Del Potro said when told his draw was a tricky one. “That’s the draw I expected for sure.”


So does he typically look ahead when the draw comes out to see what it looks like?


“I don’t look too much but I always know I’m in the worst part of the draw,” he joked.



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Caroline Wozniacki hopes Mohamed Salah sticks around at Liverpool as long as possible

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Avid Liverpool fan Caroline Wozniacki heaped praise on Egyptian star Mohamed Salah and is hoping the Reds can keep him at Anfield for as long as possible.

Salah, who is currently joint Premier League topscorer alongside Spurs’ Harry Kane with 24 goals, has been a true revelation for Liverpool this season.

The 25-year-old has reportedly drawn interest from Real Madrid as well as other clubs and has sent Reds fans chanting his name across the globe.

“He’s been amazing obviously and I think it’s so good for the team,” Wozniacki told reporters about Salah in Indian Wells on Wednesday.

“I just hope that we’ll be able to hold onto him for a little longer. I know eventually he’ll have to go but he’s done so amazingly and I’m very happy that he’s on our team.”

Wozniacki is seed No. 2 at Indian Wells and has a chance to unseat Simona Halep from the top spot this fortnight. The reigning Australian Open champion begins her campaign against either Acapulco champion Lesia Tsurenko or Lara Arruabarrena.

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Indian Wells: Roger Federer could lose the No. 1 ranking and other talking points

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The Indian Wells men’s draw was released on Tuesday afternoon and is headlined by Roger Federer, who will be contesting his first event since he returned to the world No. 1 ranking two weeks ago.

Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic is the No. 2 seed in the absence of the second-ranked Rafael Nadal, who has pulled out of both Indian Wells and Miami with a hip injury.

Here are some of the main talking points surrounding the men’s draw, which gets underway on Thursday.

FED’S THE FAVOURITE

This is the first time since 2010 that Federer is seeded No. 1 at Indian Wells, where has been crowned champion five times.

The Swiss is the current title holder and heads into the tournament with a clean 12-0 win-loss record for the season. It’s March and Federer hasn’t lost a match yet.

He’s going for title number three of 2018 and shares a half of the draw with third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov. Federer’s quarter includes No. 5 seed Dominic Thiem and young guns Denis Shapovalov and Chung Hyeon.

He is the outright favourite for the title and has a very manageable draw.

DJOKOVIC’S BACK

Novak Djokovic appears to have made a swift recovery from the elbow surgery he had early last month and is in Indian Wells ready to play.

The Serb is seeded No. 10 and has landed in the same quarter as freshly-crowned Acapulco champion Juan Martin del Potro and Cilic.

Djokovic opens his campaign against one of two qualifiers and the first seed he could meet is 22nd-seeded Kei Nishikori in the third round.

It’s a tricky draw for Djokovic to navigate and will be a real test for his elbow. He too is a five-time Indian Wells champion. Can he make it six?

THE TOP SPOT

Even though Nadal isn’t here, Federer could still lose the No. 1 ranking since he is defending 1000 points as last year’s winner. Nadal lost in the fourth round in the 2017 edition and will drop just 90 points this fortnight. Federer will need to reach at least the semi-finals to hold onto the summit.

THE ABSENTEES

Besides Nadal (hip) and the still recovering Andy Murray (hip), the list of tournament withdrawals includes David Goffin (eye), Richard Gasquet (knee), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee) and Stan Wawrinka (knee).

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS (BY SEED)

Roger Federer (SUI) [1] v Dominic Thiem (AUT) [5]

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [3] v Kevin Anderson (RSA) [7]

Jack Sock (USA) [8] v Alexander Zverev (GER) [4]

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) [6] v Marin Cilic (CRO) [2]

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