The 2017 ATP World Tour season continues to spring plenty of surprises. The top two seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic both failed to make the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open. The last Masters 1000 event to not feature either Murray or Djokovic in at least the quarterfinals was at the BNP Paribas Masters in 2012. Nonetheless, the main story of this tournament was the "quarter of death" which featured Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev, Fernando Verdasco and Steve Johnson.
All eight of those seeded players advanced to the third round but it is the reigning Australian Open champion Federer and two-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Nick Kyrgios who survived, and will do battle for only the second time in the quarterfinals in the Californian Desert. The 15th seed has a rejuvenated motivation for tennis since his girlfriend Ajla Tomjlanovic has returned to tennis from spending a year on the sidelines due to injury. Kyrgios has already defeated Djokovic in Acapulco and has done so in Indian Wells for the second consecutive tournament in a row.
Federer is the only remaining member of the "Big Four" left in the draw, and should Kyrgios get the better of Federer, it will be the first time since the BNP Paribas Masters in 2012, that no member of that quadruplet had made the semis of a Masters 1000 event.
Kyrgios' route to the quarterfinals
The big-serving Australian has not dropped a set en route to the quarterfinals. The 15th seed dispatched Horacio Zeballos, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round. In the third round, Kyrgios was paired with fellow rising star, 18th seed Alexander Zverev. Both players have been tipped to be future world number one tennis players and Grand Slam champions. Nevertheless, it was Kyrgios who got the better of his younger counterpart, 6-3, 6-4 advancing to the fourth round. The tough nature of this draw continued, and the Australian number one had the task of defeating, second seed and the four-time defending champion Novak Djokovic. Kyrgios was already victorious over Djokovic in Acapulco, and once more, the Aussie put on a good serving display, which works in these conditions. The two-time Slam quarterfinalist became the first man since Juan Martin del Potro in 2013 to defeat Djokovic at Indian Wells, snapping his 20-match winning streak in the process.
Federer's route to the quarterfinals
The 35-year-old's good run of form has continued. Unfortunately, after the conclusion of Wimbledon, Federer was ruled out of action for six months but the former world number one returned with a bang. The former four-time champion rose to the occasion at the Australian Open by defeating long-time rival, Rafael Nadal to clinch his fifth Australian Open title, and extending his Grand Slam haul to 18. The ninth seed received a bye in the opening round, and he sailed past France's Stephane Robert, 6-2, 6-1 in under an hour. Federer failed to break 24th seed Steve Johnson's serve in the third round but he managed to get past the American in two tiebreaks. In the fourth round, the 18-time Grand Slam champion was once again paired with Nadal for their 36th installment. However, there was only one player who turned up in this encounter and it was Federer. The former world number one's backhand was in scintillating form, where the Spaniard was simply a spectator. Federer may still trail their head-to-head 23-13 but for the first time in his career, he managed to defeat Nadal in three successive matches.
Kyrgios and Federer have only met on one occasion and it was in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open in 2015. The Swiss number two was the top seed but Kyrgios was victorious in a three-set thriller with all three sets, requiring tiebreaks. The Australian number one defeated Federer, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (12).
Who reaches the semifinals?
The 15th seed became the second man after his compatriot Lleyton Hewitt to defeat Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer at the first attempt. That's not an easy feat to accomplish and deserves a big amount of respect for that. Kyrgios is aiming to reach his second Masters 1000 semifinal of his career. He achieved it in Miami last year but failed to reach the final, losing to Kei Nishikori in the last four. The 15th seed will need to serve well again in order to defeat Federer and will need to try to break the ninth seed's serve, which is extremely difficult to do, and he will need to play the big points very well.
Federer is the firm favorite to reach the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open as he aims to win a record-equalling fifth title at the first Masters 1000 event of 2017. The former world number one's serve will need to be firing on all cylinders, and his backhand will need to be doing severe damage like he did against Nadal.
This is the first match scheduled inside Stadium 1 at 12 pm local time, and the winner of this match will face fourth seed Kei Nishikori or 17th seed Jack Sock for a place in Sunday's final. It will be an intriguing quarterfinal match, which can certainly go either way but ultimately, the renewed confidence of Federer should get him over the line.
Prediction: Federer in straight sets