Date/Time: Friday 16th March 2019 (Kick-off 4:00 AM CET).
Two players who have been getting stronger and stronger through their matches at Indian Wells are meeting in the Quarter Final of what has become a very open top half of the draw. Novak Djokovic's defeat means there is a real chance for one of the four remaining players in the top half to reach the Indian Wells Final and put some very strong Ranking points on the board.
I have to feel that both Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils are feeling very good about their level heading into this Quarter Final. They have looked better and better in each passing match and that has seen them produce some stellar numbers at the tournament which have to be respected.
They have dropped one set between them so far through three matches won and the service numbers have sparked their success. Dominic Thiem has held 93% of his service games in the tournament, while Gael Monfils is up at 86% and those numbers have allowed them to get into their return games with confidence as they can take one or two chances knowing their own serves are not offering up a lot of opportunities for opponents to break.
Both players have faced just ten break points across three matches, but it is Monfils who has been producing the stronger return numbers which has contributed to him being the favourite here. The Frenchman has broken in 50% of return games here, while Thiem has broken in 35% of return games and that is where this match is going to be won and lost as far as I am concerned.
However, Thiem's numbers are strong enough to think the underdog can show some bite in this Quarter Final. I also think the 4-0 head to head in favour of the Austrian can play a part here even if Thiem and Monfils have not played each other in the last twelve months as those head to heads showed that Thiem seems to match up very well with this opponent.
These two players met twice on the hard courts between August 2016 and March 2017 and it was Thiem who won both matches. In those he had the stronger returning numbers by some margin and that includes a relatively straight-forward win over him here in Indian Wells two years ago.
I have to credit for Monfils for opening 2019 in stronger fashion than Thiem who had a surprisingly disappointing South American Golden Swing on the clay, but the match up intrigues me. While the Frenchman is playing as close to his best tennis as you could imagine, I think Thiem will have built some confidence through his three wins here and he can just edge out the serving battle on a surface and conditions that should be most to the Austrian's liking.
Prediction: Dominic Thiem to win