Rafa has no points to defend across Indian Wells and Miami. (Photo by Paul Buck EFE)

Douglas Hochmuth

Juan Martin Del Potro’s withdrawal from the BNP Paribas Open is notable not just for health concerns, but his inability to defend last year’s victory will see him lose 1000 points, pushing him down to around No. 9 in the world. The only other player in the top ten with a lot to lose is Roger Federer, who will try to defend his 600 points from last year’s final appearance.

In contrast to Delpo and Federer, the other players in the Top Ten are defending only around 300 points collectively. And more than half of that rests on Kevin Anderson’s plate, with 180 points to defend. Here are some players who could make serious strides with deep desert runs.

Novak Djokovic: Nole’s opening loss to qualifier Taro Daniel in 2018 now seems like a blessing. With only 10 points to defend, strong showings in the Sunshine Double in the desert and Miami will likely cement his No. 1 spot heading into the clay season. A couple of more good runs on the dirt could see him seeded No. 1 going into the French Open – never mind that the clay king, Mr. Nadal, has won there 11 times.

Rafael Nadal: The Spaniard has a whopping zero points to defend in both Indian Wells and Miami. Having withdrawn last year from both due to a hip injury, Nadal can start to close the 2,000 plus point gap between him and Nole. But if Novak also plays well, Nadal will be forced to play another flawless clay season if he has any hopes to be the No. 1 seed at Roland Garros.

Alexander Zverev: While the German just fell in the Acapulco final to Krygios, his second round loss last year to Portugal’s Joao Sousa means the world No. 3 has only 10 points to defend. With Dubai winner Federer, the No. 4 player, nearly 2,000 points behind him, it ‘s unlikely he’ll lose his No. 3 spot despite defending 600 points in Miami. Deep runs in the next few tourneys could see him edge Rafa for No. 2. The Spaniard is almost 2,000 points ahead but has 4,800 points to defend on clay.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Having just entered the top ten, Indian Wells could be what pushes the 20-year old Greek into single digits. With only 25 points to defend and a roughly 225 point gap between him and No. 9 John Isner, a semifinal showing by the Dubai finalist could guarantee him a single digit ranking if Isner doesn’t make the quarters.

Kei Nishikori: Kei’s got game. He excels on hard court but has also made a name for himself on clay. Just before Indian Wells last year, Kei was playing a Challenger in Dallas but withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open, so he has no points to defend. Considering Kei’s ranking is largely built on points from the back half of the season, he’ll want to do well in either Indian Wells or Miami to take some pressure off later in the year. For all his talent, the pride of Japan has never won an ATP Masters 1000 title.

Other Notables: No. 9 John Isner is defending 10 points, No. 13 Borna Coric and No. 14 Milos Raonic are defending 360 points (semis), No. 53 Hyeon Chung, No. 57 Sam Querrey, No. 31 Philipp Kohlschreiber, and No. 5 Kevin Anderson all defend 180 points (quarters).



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