With the Big 3 plus Dominic Thiem absent, and no former champions in the draw, we knew were in for something new at Indian Wells. But Norrie-Basilashvili new? I don’t think anyone believed things would get this crazy. None of the Next Gen elite—Medvedev, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Rublev, Ruud—made the semis or fulfilled their seedings; instead, it was the world No. 26 (Norrie) and 36 (Basilashvili) who took advantage of the opportunity. Each will be playing his first Masters 1000 final on Sunday.

They’ve played once before, earlier this year on indoor hard courts in Rotterdam, and Norrie won 6-0, 6-3. That loss must have jarred Basilashvili, because he came back the next week and beat Roger Federer on his way to winning a title in Doha. He added another title on grass in Halle, and has spent this season putting his awful post-pandemic 2020, when he lost 11 straight matches and went 4-13, behind him. If anything, though, Norrie has been even better this year, reaching five finals, winning 46 matches, and putting himself in the running for the ATP Finals in Turin.

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Norrie aims to cap off a career-changing season in style.

Norrie aims to cap off a career-changing season in style. 

It won’t be a high-profile final, but it could be an interesting one. These two play very different brands of tennis. Basilashvili is a ball-basher who injects maximum pace into every shot he can; when he hits the ball right, it doesn’t come back. That style may have helped in the ultra-slow conditions in Indian Wells; Basilashvili has been one of the few players who can reliable put the ball past his opponents on a regular basis. Norrie, by contrast, plays careful, clever tennis, relying on his lefty serve-forehand combination and the crosscourt angles he can create with his shortened-up two-handed backhand.

Basilashvili on a good day might have too much firepower for Norrie, but Norrie seems like the right guy at the right time to defuse that power, and then use it for his own purposes. Winner: Norrie