World number two Novak Djokovic has had an inconsistent start to the 2017 season. The 12-time Grand Slam champion defeated world number one Andy Murray in arguably the best ATP 250 tour-level final, that we will see this year in Doha. The Serb boasts a 9-2 record at so far this season, and he suffered a shocking second round loss at the hands of Denis Istomin at the Australian Open which increased fears about Djokovic's tennis, that suffered towards the tail-end of the 2016 season, which ultimately saw him surrender the world number one ranking to Murray.
Moreover, the former world number one revealed to suffer from an injury, and he defeated Martin Klizan and Juan Martin del Potro in another three-set thriller in Acapulco. However, the Serb's surprise entrance in the tournament via a wildcard was ended in the quarterfinals, losing to Nick Kyrgios in two sets.
Djokovic begins his title defense e as he searches for a record-extending sixth title at the BNP Paribas Open against Kyle Edmund. The Brit had a mesmerizing rise up the rankings in 2016, starting last year out of the top 100 and finishing at 40 in the world. The 22-year-old lost his first round match in Acapulco to eventual champion Sam Querrey, which was a tough opener for the Brit. Edmund certainly has the tools in his game to unsettle the Serb who will be looking to find his vintage form once again.
The three-time defending champion is on an 18 match winning streak at the first Masters 1000 event of the year with his last defeat coming at the hands of del Potro in 2013. Djokovic will have a tough run to the final as the draws are certainly top-heavy. Murray's shock defeat at the hands of 2015 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Vasek Pospisil has ensured that last year's US Open champion Stan Wawrinka or Tomas Berdych could make the finals. Djokovic's quarter of the draw which is dubbed as the "quarter of death" has young rising stars Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev as potential fourth round opponents or four-time champion Roger Federer and three-time champion Rafael Nadal could await in the quarterfinals.
How they got here
As one of the top 32 seeds in the men's singles draws, the second seed received a bye into the second round. However, Edmund defeated Portugal's Gastao Elias, 6-1, 6-3 with little trouble to reach this stage of the tournament.
Djokovic and Edmund have met on two occasions and both matches have taken place on North American hardcourts. Their first encounter was in the second round of the Miami Open, which was a difficult tie for Edmund to deal with as Djokovic was unstoppable at the time. Furthermore, he managed to give a good account of himself but Djokovic ultimately came out on top 6-3, 6-3 and they met a few months later in New York. The 12-time Grand Slam champion eased past Edmund, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals of the US Open.
The five-time champion will be looking to re-assert his authority in the Californian Desert. This match with Edmund will be the perfect test to get his season back on track. Moreover, the 22-year-old has a good serve and a booming forehand but his movement isn't great around the court. Another weakness in Edmund's game which Djokovic will exploit is that the Brit's backhand isn't strong and he's not comfortable in long rallies, which the former world number one certainly relishes.
Djokovic is no longer working with his former coach Boris Becker but with a lack of motivation during the second part of the season and playing lackluster tennis after winning Roland Garros to win the Career Grand Slam, the Serb will be looking to change his fortunes for the better and when his game is firing on all cylinders, he will become extremely tough to beat. The former world number one will need to serve well himself and he is a talented returner, who should have no problems dealing with Edmund's serve.
The third career meeting between the three-time defending champion and the world number 46 will take place inside Stadium 1 at approximately midnight local time, and the winner of this match will have a third round encounter with 30th seed Juan Martin del Potro or his compatriot Federico Delbonis, who upset Murray at Indian Wells last year.
Prediction: Djokovic in straight sets