Indian Wells Matches to Watch: Auger-Aliassime v Norrie; Johnson-Fritz

Indian Wells Matches to Watch: Auger-Aliassime v Norrie; Johnson-Fritz

These two first-rounders featuring familiar opponents should be extremely competitive.

Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Cam Norrie

Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) - ATP No. 58, UTR No. 77 (15.05)
Cam Norrie (GBR) - ATP No. 48,  UTR No. 60 (15.12)

If you don’t know who either of these players are, you will very soon. Each had vast a different pathway to the pro tour. Norrie played three years at Texas Christian University, steadily working his way to the top of the college game. Auger-Aliassime is a tennis golden child. The 18-year-old's talent is off the charts, as only a handful of pro players can swing the racquet as hard as he can.

The lefty Norrie frustrates his opponents with heavy left-handed spin off the serve and forehand. His backhand—his best shot—is hard and flat, often landing short in the court to keep his opponent off balance and on the move. And considering his forehand is heavy and high bouncing, you never hit the same shot twice when you face him. 

Both train at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, so they are familiar with each other’s games. It makes the match something of a toss-up, and both players riding are high on confidence to start the year. Their three-month trending UTR is nearly identical. I give the slight edge to Auger-Aliassime because he will not be caught off guard by Norrie’s unique game. 

Steve Johnson vs. Taylor Fritz

Steve Johnson (USA) - ATP No. 38, UTR No. 60 (15.1) 
Taylor Fritz (USA) - ATP No. 46, UTR No. 49 (15.18) 

Fritz and Johnson didn’t need to drive to the desert to play each other. These Californians know each other well—and like the above match-up, had very different pathways to the Top 50. Johnson started out playing singles for the University of Southern Cal and quickly became not only the best college tennis player in the country, but of all time, statistically speaking. Taylor Fritz, on the other hand, turned pro at 17 and broke into the Top 100 in a hurry. 

There will be no surprises in this match, as Fritz will look for the Johnson backhand every chance he gets. Johnson will use his brutally heavy serve and forehand to get Fritz off the court and run him around. Johnson owns the forehand-to-forehand rallies, but Fritz owns the backhand-to-backhand rallies. It should be a fun game of cat and mouse, as these players try to exploit each other's weakness.

Fritz has played better tennis than Johnson in 2019, ranking 45th in three-month trending UTR, while Johnson ranks 110th. Look for Fritz to take out his friend and Golden State neighbor in three tough sets.