Nadal to face 'missile man' Raonic in Indian Wells opener

Indian Wells (US), March 5 (IANS) Three-time champion Rafael Nadal is drawn to face former finalist Milos Raonic of Canada in a testing first-round match at the Paribas Open as the draw for the year’s first ATP Masters 1000 threw up an interesting challenge for the Spaniard.

Nadal, who has reached the final in 2022 during his last visit to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, will be making just his second appearance of the year, following a quarter-final run to the ATP 250 in Brisbane in the first week of the season.

After an 11-month hiatus due to a hip flexor injury, the 37-year-old Spaniard made his comeback to the tour in early January, won two matches at Brisbane, then suffered a micro tear to a muscle near his left hip during a quarterfinal loss to Jordan Thompson in his last contested ATP match.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion, fresh off a thrilling encounter with compatriot Carlos Alcaraz at the Netflix Slam in Las Vegas on Sunday, will face the 33-year-old Canadian for the 11th time, and the second time at Indian Wells on Thursday’s evening session.

Thursday’s tilt will commence Nadal’s 16th Indian Wells appearance where he has compiled a 59-11 record with three titles and two additional finals in the Coachella Valley.

Nadal, currently ranked No.652, has talked of potentially ending his legendary career this season, and this could be his last appearance at Indian Wells.

Former World No.3 Raonic, who like Nadal missed nearly two full seasons (from July of 2021 to June of 2023) due to an Achilles injury and a broken toe, will be making his ninth appearance in Southern California.

The Canadian, nicknamed “The Missile” due to his ballistic serve, reached the final in 2016, as well as two other semifinals, and has compiled a 23-8 lifetime record since his Indian Wells debut in 2011.

Top seed Novak Djokovic, making his first appearance in the desert since 2019, will open against World No. 69 Australian Aleksandar Vukic or a qualifier.

The Serbian great is seeded to meet either American Tommy Paul or newly minted ATP 500 Dubai champion Ugo Humbert in the fourth round before a potential quarter-final with Casper Ruud or Hubert Hurkacz.

Defending champion and second seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who begins the tournament at No. 3 in the PATP Live Rankings, faces a first-round battle with either NextGenATP Frenchman Luca Van Assche or 23-year-old Italian Matteo Arnaldi.

The Spaniard is seeded to meet Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round, sixth seed Alexander Zverev or back-to-back Acapulco champion Alex de Minaur in the quarter-finals and Sinner in the semis.



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