Top five ATP Indian Wells matches

andrewhendrie in Features 16 Mar 2020
Juan Martin del Potro beats Roger Federer in the 2018 Indian Wells final (Credit Image: Mal Taam/CSM/Sipa USA)

Indian Wells 2020 may have been cancelled, but we’ve got everlasting memories from the first Masters 1000 event of the season – read on below for our top five men’s matches from the Californian desert.

1991: ?? Jim Courier def. ?? Guy Forget 4-6 6-3 4-6 6-3 7-6(4) (Final)

The year Courier took his career to the next level and it all started at Indian Wells. The American had never played a Masters Series final before this tournament, but Courier – armed with a menacing forehand and unrivalled competitive nature – conquered three top 10 players on his way to the silverware, including second seed Andre Agassi in the third round and seventh seed Emilio Sanchez in the quarter-finals before overcoming third-seeded Frenchman Guy Forget in a thrilling five-set final, ultimately emerging victorious in a deciding set tiebreak after recovering from two-sets-to-one down.

“This is without question the best week of tennis I’ve played,” Courier said after the victory.

Courier would go on to complete the ’Sunshine Double’ the following fortnight, winning the Miami Open, while he also went on to capture his maiden slam at Roland Garros and hit the World No. 1 ranking.

1998: ?? Marcelo Rios def. ?? Greg Rusedski 6-3 6-7(15) 7-6(4) 6-4 (Final)

Rios was one of the most controversial figures that played on the tour in recent memory, but the fiery Chilean oozed talent and was easily one of the most entertaining players to watch when it all clicked.

That’s exactly what happened at Indian Wells in 1998, with many remembering Rios’ run to the title as some of the most spectacular tennis ever played in the Californian desert. Rios would avenge his Australian Open final defeat to Petr Korda in the quarter-finals before taking out Greg Rusedski in a gruelling four-setter, recovering from the disappointment of losing a 32-point second-set tiebreak to prevail in four.

Rios, who did a cartwheel on his way to shake hands after match point, went on to win the Miami Masters and climb to World No. 1. He never did win a Grand Slam, but the tennis Rios produced in Indian Wells remains unforgettable to anyone who witnessed it.

2018: ?? Juan Martin del Potro def. ?? Roger Federer 6-4 6-7(8) 7-6(2) (Final)

Few will forget the moment Juan Martin del Potro secured his maiden Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open in 2018. Up against Roger Federer, who was unbeaten to start the season with 17 straight wins, del Potro saved three match points as he came out on top in a final-set tiebreak, denying the Swiss a record sixth title in California.

Del Potro had been struggling with countless wrist injuries over the last few years, but the Argentine proved how unstoppable he can be when fully fit and playing his best, coming into the tournament on the back of claiming the Acapulco final, before producing some sensational tennis to overcome a very in-form Federer.

“It’s difficult to describe with words. It’s like a dream,” Del Potro said.

“After all my problems, after all my surgeries, I couldn’t believe I’m here winning a Masters 1000 and beating Roger. It’s amazing.”

2008: ?? Rafael Nadal def. ?? Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7(4) 7-6(3) 7-5 (R16)

Barely a month removed from his sparkling run to the Australian Open final, where he trounced Nadal in straight sets in the semi-finals, Tsonga was looking to prove his Melbourne exploits weren’t a fluke. The Frenchman certainly did that, but he wasn’t able to repeat his triumph, with Nadal putting together a mesmerising finish to the match, winning 21 of the last 27 points and coming back from 2-5 down in the final set to win five straight games, emerging victorious by a 6-7(4) 7-6(3) 7-5 scoreline.

“I play better today than in Australia but the conditions are better here for me…The victory is important for me, but the victory like this is always special and gives me confidence,” Nadal said.

2008: ?? Mardy Fish def. ?? David Nalbandian 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(4) (QF)

Just two days removed from Nadal’s epic win over Tsonga, home favourite Fish outlasted seventh-seeded Nalbandian in another match for the ages from the 2008 tournament.

Fish had never been past the fourth round at Indian Wells, but that all changed in 2008, with the American beating the likes of Nikolay Davydenko and Lleyton Hewitt before surviving a thrilling showdown with Nalbandian. Playing the final set tiebreak with a hole in his shoe and sock, Fish – who had to swiftly brush off the disappointment of squandering two match points in the 10th game of the third set – somehow dug out a gutsy victory to register one of the most memorable wins of his career.

Ranked No. 98 in the world at the time, Fish went on to beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals before going down in three sets to Novak Djokovic in the final.