Real work is next month
This is the beginning of the Sunshine Double, two almost identical hard court events on opposite coasts of the United States. This week it is Indian Wells; at the end of the month, it is Miami. Nadal has won three Indian Wells trophies, the last in 2013, and while he has never won in Miami, he has reached five finals. But as the season inches ever closer to the clay court swing, this part of the year is only important-ish. The real work will begin next month on the red dirt in Europe.
His draw in California is littered with obstacles for the second week: a certain Mr Federer could await him in the semi-finals, while the young, strong lads like Denis Shapovalov, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov all lurk in his half of the draw, all ready to cause an upset and make a push for glory.
At the moment, Nadal sits at the top of the Masters 1000 list with 33 titles to his name. But Novak Djokovic – his projected final opponent if they both live up to their seedings – is waiting to overtake him with 32 tiles amassed so far. And Djokovic looks to be in devastating form at the moment.
No matter, Nadal is just glad to be back in Indian Wells. The conditions are tricky for everyone: the thin desert air makes the ball fizz and fly that little bit faster and the gusting wind can cause problems at any given moment. But Nadal likes it here, even if he is no fan of the tournament’s unofficial title: “the fifth Grand Slam”.
“It’s not good to consider it the fifth Grand Slam because Masters 1000s are Masters 1000s and Grand Slams are Grand Slams,” he said. “We need to know the difference.