Three to See: Federer plays first match; Muguruza faces spirited Day

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Roger Federer will play his first match at Indian Wells in two years. (AP Photo)

Before each day of play at Indian Wells, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches. For full coverage of the season's first Masters, go to our men’s and women’s tournament pages.

KEI NISHIKORI [4] VS. DAN EVANS

The records say that Evans and Nishikori are 1-1. I remember their last match, which Nishikori won in straight sets in Davis Cup last year. But I’ve forgotten all about their first meeting, which Evans won, also in straight sets, at the 2013 U.S. Open. Both men have made strides since, Evans into the Top 50, Nishikori into the Top 5. That obviously makes Nishikori the favorite in this opening match in the main stadium. But on a slow hard court, Evans would seem to be playing well enough at the moment to make this worth tuning in early to see.

Winner: Nishikori

GARBINE MUGURUZA [7] VS. KAYLA DAY [WC]

Day-Muguruza will be the crowd-pleaser of the afternoon in the big stadium. Day is a high-spirited 17-year-old from up the road in Santa Barbara who has been playing 25K events in places like Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Macon, Ga.; her ranking has only just crossed into the Top 200. But this week has been something like a graduation ceremony for the leaping lefty; in her first two matches at Indian Wells, Day knocked off seasoned pros Kurumi Nara and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Can she make it a third? Muguruza, the seventh seed, will be a step up. The French Open champ mostly looked good in her opener, against Kirsten Flipkens, but she got rattled trying to close it out. Day may need that to happen again to have a chance.

Winner: Muguruza


ROGER FEDERER [9] VS. STEPHANE ROBERT

The first night match isn’t about the quality of the matchup, but about the identity of one of the players: Federer will play his first match at Indian Wells since losing to Djokovic in  final two years ago. But if the four-time champ is still familiar with the surroundings—he has won this tournament four times—he’ll be entering new territory with this opponent. Somehow, the 36-year-old Robert and the 35-year-old Federer have never faced each other. There’s little reason to think that will be a problem for Federer. While he was winning the Australian Open earlier this year, the 81st-ranked Robert was in the process of losing eight straight first-round matches.

Winner: Federer




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