Auger-Aliassime Advances At Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, March 8, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)

There was plenty to watch on the opening day of men’s singles action of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, on Thursday. Milestones were set, by younger and older players alike in the midst of the interesting matches being played out which, in turn, led to more interesting match-ups being set up for the second round.

Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime – the youngest player to crack the top-100 – routed Britain’s Cameron Norrie in straight sets for the loss of just five games. Aliassime won 6-3, 6-2, booking a second-round generational clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Meanwhile, India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran – who also recently broke into the top-100 – made it to the second round as well, beating Benoit Paire in straight sets 7-6, 6-4. What is notable about this, a casual fan might ask? A lot, would be the answer. The 29-year-old is playing his first ATP Masters 1000 and this was his first-ever main draw appearance in the format (after having come through the qualifying ranks). Then, quite a day, no for the southpaw?

“Thank you for the support at Indian Wells. I’m really happy to have done this well and get far in the tournament. I hope you guys come out and support me. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday,” Gunneswaran said in a video posted by the ATP.

Speaking of Gunneswaran’s opponent, Paire, the immediate thought would have been to cast aspersion upon his lack of commitment and begin rehashing the many different ways in which the Frenchman is letting the sport down. However, in the broader context, the French player’s results aligned with his compatriots – all of whom lost their respective opening rounds. Pierre-Hugues Herbert lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-0; Jeremy Chardy lost to American qualifier Marcos Giron 7-6, 7-6; Ugo Humbert lost to Maximilian Marterer 6-4, 6-2. The list continued onwards in the women’s draw as well with Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier (lost on Wednesday) also losing their first-round matches. The only French player to have escaped unscathed in the first-round exodus? Kristina Mladenovic.

Historic win for Karlovic

Talking of tennis players hailing from the Balkans, Ivo Karlovic scripted a new high for himself. The Croat, who celebrated his 40th birthday on 28th February, became the oldest player in the Masters 1000 history to win a main draw match. Karlovic downed Australia’s Matthew Ebden in straight sets 7-6, 7-6 and thereby, ended Jimmy Connors’ near-27-year-old record as the oldest man to have won a Masters 1000 main draw match. Back at the 1992 Miami Open – then known as the Lipton International Players’ Championships – then 39-year-old Connors defeated Spain’s Tomas Carbonell Llado in the second round. Seeded 30th, the American would go on to lose in the third round to his younger, and much higher-seeded, countryman, Pete Sampras.

Lastly, in terms of Americans in the draw, it was a mixed-bag for them on the day. Four Americans played their openers, of which two won and two lost. Apart from the aforementioned Giron, Bjorn Fratangelo was the other American to come through his opener, with a three-set win over Sweden’s Elias Ymer 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Of the two losses, Malek Jaziri cut short Bradley Klahn’s run 6-4, 6-2. And, in the last match of the day – in the night session – Leonardo Mayer scotched Reilly Opelka’s expectations with a 7-6, 7-6 win, overturning a break of serve in the first set, and after saving two set points in the second.