Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand... we're back beyond the baseline! Jodi is back behind her computer, Indian Wells is a-going on and there is lots to see and do. Let us get started. No further ado. Except to say a quick congrats to Amer Delic for winning the Sarajevo Challenger. Even if he did beat my beloved Nicolas Mahut, he is a feelgood winner and no mistake.
Indian Wells has it all going on in singles, but it really has it going on in doubles. If I'm a regular doubles player - a Nestor or a Bryan or a Zimonjic or someone like that - I'm not liking Indian Wells too much at all, because all these singles dudes have turned up (nine of the top ten, in fact) and they're winning. Lots of people talk about how doubles shouldn't be considered singles' wussy little sibling, but when singles players can do this kind of damage...
...okay, not opening that can of worms. We still have Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray active in doubles, not to mention Melzer and Petzschner (awesome singles players and Wimbledon champs), Benneteau and Gasquet (talented Frenchies), Dolgopolov and Malisse (who knows what could happen?) and, oh yeah, the Bryans. This doubles draw is literally anyone's game - unless you happen to be a seeded doubles team, like Nestor and Mirnyi or Fyrstenberg and Matkowski. Then you are pretty much shit out of luck.
If a duo like the Bryans or Paes and Bhupathi (or even the Indo-Pak Express) can come through and win this one, I will be a) very surprised, but mostly b) really, really impressed, because this has got to be one of the best damn doubles draws of all time. It's literally unpickable. The one pick I'm going to make is that no one will do double duty and win both singles and doubles. The draws here are too deep and tough for that. (Watch me be proven wrong. Hopefully by Federer, but probably by Djokovic. Unappetising idea.)
Of course, if Andy Murray doesn't do well in doubles, then we could have a worse collapse than last year on our hands. We might already - losing to Donald Young in singles? Andy, dude. I don't like you, but Donald Young? Doubles could be a great morale booster, and having his doubles-experienced (and Slam-winning) brother by his side should be an asset - but in a doubles draw like this, who knows what could happen?
With the exception of Murray - and Ferrer, if we're going that deep - we're still on track for a highly-seeded set of later rounds in the singles. I have Nadal winning in my bracket, and I'm really interested to see if he can make it happen - of course, I would love to be wrong and see R-Fed pull out the victory, but I have a Rafa-type feeling on this one. If he's fully fit, then I like Rafa to beat just about anyone. This is obviously a very contentious claim, on account of how he is #1 in the world. But we shall see, we shall see.
Let's just put it this way - I would be very, very surprised if we saw someone like Ivan Ljubicic win this year. It just doesn't feel like that kind of year. Indian Wells this year feels oddly... significant. I don't know, maybe I'm just making that up. But it feels weighty, it feels meaningful, and the results from here and Miami could really (unlike last year) set the tone for the next few months.
2 months ago