• Defending champion needs to reach the semi-finals of the upcoming BNP Paribas Open to retain top spot.
  • Nadal will not play in California or Miami due to the recurrence of a hip injury.
  • IBTimes UK takes a look at Federer's projected route to a record sixth title after Tuesday's draw.

Roger Federer has discovered his possible route to the final of the forthcoming 2018 BNP Paribas Open and who he may have to overcome on the hard courts of Indian Wells in order to retain his newly-reclaimed world number one berth at the expense of Rafael Nadal.

The recurrence of a right hip injury initially suffered during the Australian Open that also forced his withdrawal from the Mexican Open in Acapulco means that Nadal will not compete in California or at the subsequent Miami Open.

However, the Mallorcan can still return to the summit of the ATP rankings without lifting a racket if his long-time rival - who extended his lead to 600 points last week despite rejecting a wild card invitation from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships - fails to reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells.

In the men's draw for the BNP Paribas Open conducted on Tuesday [6 March] and notably depleted by the absences of Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, resurgent number one seed and defending champion Federer, in the top half of the bracket, was handed a bye through the first round.

After that, the five-time winner will meet either American Ryan Harrison or Argentina's Federico Delbonis, to whom he lost in the semi-finals of the German Tennis Championships in Hamburg in 2013.

In round three the 36-year-old is projected to face a maiden tour encounter with Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, while Fabio Fognini - or Swiss Indoors quarter-final opponent Adrian Mannarino - could await thereafter.

Federer could then lock horns with world number six Dominic Thiem - the talented Austrian that boasts a 2-1 career record over the 20-time Grand Slam winner thanks to victories in Rome and Stuttgart in 2016 that followed an initial loss in Brisbane - in a bid to keep his no.1 ranking. Experienced Czech Tomas Berdych is another possibility at that stage of the tournament.

Roger Federer's projected route to the 2018 BNP Paribas Open title

Round one: Bye

Round two: Ryan Harrison or Federico Delbonis

Round three: Filip Krajinovic

Round four: Fabio Fognini

Quarter-final: Dominic Thiem

Semi-final: Grigor Dimitrov

Final: Marin Cilic

He may then fancy his chances of an eighth successive win over Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals having swatted aside the 2017 ATP Tour Finals winner 6-2 6-2 last month to win a third Rotterdam Open crown and take his formidable tally of career singles titles to 97 - just 12 shy of Open Era leader Jimmy Connors.

Towering Acapulco finalist Kevin Anderson and Nick Kyrgios also lurk in that half of the draw.

The projected route obviously has Federer facing second seed Marin Cilic in the final, the man he beat to win a record eighth Wimbledon title last year before defeating the Croatian to reach the ATP Tour Finals semis and again in the Australian Open showpiece in Melbourne in January. On that latter occasion, he triumphed in five sets 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 3-6 6-1.

However, much will inevitably depend on how a certain Novak Djokovic fares on his first competitive appearance since suffering another issue with his troublesome right elbow during a shock Australian Open loss to Hyeon Chung that required a "small medical intervention".

Juan Martin del Potro should be brimming with confidence after his Mexican Open success, while the likes of Alexander Zverev, Lucas Pouille and Match for Africa 5 Silicon Valley participant Jack Sock may also prove potential dangers.

The 2018 BNP Paribas Open takes place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden near Palm Springs between 5-18 March.

Roger Federer
Roger Federer will chase a record sixth title on the hard courts at Indian Wells Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images