Two seeds do battle this afternoon at the BNP Paribas Open as Richard Gasquet and Alexandr Dolgopolov seek to extend their stay in Indian Wells. Both players won their opening matches in straight sets.
(8) Richard Gasquet - (26) Alexandr Dolgopolov
Neither player was troubled much in their openers in Indian Wells. Gasquet took care off Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-1 and Dolgopolov took Robin Haase out in straights 6-4, 6-2. Both were fairly precise on serve with each broken one time. They also both took advantage of some woeful serving days from their opponents. Gasquet is seeking his deepest run at the BNP Paribas Open since 2013, when he made the fourth round. Dolgopolov was a surprise semifinalist in 2014 and made the third round last year before losing to Milos Raonic.
Their previous encounters both came years ago and won't be too relevant to this afternoon's proceedings. Gasquet took both, with one coming on a hard surface in Cincinnati (2012) and the other on clay in Nice (2011). The Frenchman hasn't seemed too troubled by the variety of slices and junk ball type shots that Dolgopolov can deliver, but "The Dog" has also shown some improved pop in his recent run of good play. That could be where he challenges Gasquet today.
Keys to Victory
Both players can do the job using their variety on both wings to move their opponent around the court to advantageous positions for themselves. Gasquet's backhand will present a better weapon against Dog's slices and varied paces. The key could be serve. Both can struggle with consistency at times, but it is Dologpolov who usually does better with the first serve. This year, he's winning 75 percent of the points, while Gasquet is winning just 68 percent. Both are winning around half their second serve points, which makes that something to watch.
The break conversion rate is much better for the Frenchman with Gasquet winning 50 percent of his break chances, while Dog is converting just 38 percent. The 8th seed saw 14 break chances against Mahut in his opener, converting on five of them. Meanwhile, Dolgopolov saw nine off the Haase serve and was able to cash in on five of those. Both figure to see fewer chances against each other today, meaning that one or two breaks could decide this one in the end.
This has the feel of a back and forth match with three sets a possibility. Dolgopolov would do well to move Gasquet as much as possible with the Frenchman's back always a question mark from tournament to tournament. The angles created by these two on their shots today will be fun to watch. In the end, Dolgpolov is capable of the upset, but the feeling is that the consistency of Gasquet off the ground could be the difference maker.
Prediction: Gasquet wins in three sets