INDIAN WELLS, March 9, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
On International Women’s Day, with two women – read Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka – rekindling their rivalry, men’s action had nearly slipped into shadows at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. However, there were some interesting results that came about in the men’s singles draw.
Those who had looked forward to the first-round clash between Stan Wawrinka and Dan Evans ever since the Briton had been placed in the main draw following his qualifying run were not left disappointed. The Swiss won a roller-coaster ride against Evans, which involved negating a break of serve in the first set, then losing it in the tie-break with some poor play and then, surging past Evans in the latter two sets to wrap up a 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 win in two hours and eight minutes.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 8. März 2019
“He’s for sure a great player,” said Wawrinka. “Also, this year he’s playing a lot of matches and has a lot of confidence. He’s won a lot of matches. He’s always a tough player to play, for sure. You can see against other players. He always makes it difficult.
“I think he’s mixing it a lot, especially in conditions like today when it’s windy like that. With his slice, he feels the ball really well. He’s mixing his game, serve-and-volleying, sometimes coming in, sometimes not, passing well. It’s always difficult to play against him.”
The road only gets tougher for the Swiss with Marton Fucsovics awaiting him in the next round, with possibly countryman Roger Federer to follow in the third.
In the match-up between two old-timers featuring Feliciano Lopez and Tomas Berdych, the older player won, to move into the second round. It was an upset in more ways than one for while Lopez’s form has been dodgy at best recently, Berdych had made a strong comeback since his injury hiatus in the season, so far. Nevertheless, following his 7-6, 7-6 win, the 37-year-old – nearly retired – Lopez became the third-oldest man in the draw after 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic and 37-year-old Federer. The old guns still have it in them, one guesses.
What one would not have to guess is the slide of Tennys Sandgren following his maiden title win in Auckland in January. The American has played five tournaments since then (including Indian Wells) and has lost in the opening round of all events. On Friday, Sandgren lost to Adrian Mannarino, with the Frenchman winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.
Much like Sandgren’s perplexing turn-of-form, American men’s results continued to bemuse on the day with both wins and losses dotting the horizon. In the all-American clash between Taylor Fritz and Steve Johnson, the older compatriot came through 6-3, 6-3. Mackenzie McDonald also claimed his first win in the tournament with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over Joao Sousa in the night session. Jared Donaldson also won his encounter against Tatsuma Ito 6-3, 7-5. However, Ryan Harrison lost to Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-5, while Hubert Hurkacz got the better of Donald Young – again in straight sets – 6-3, 6-3.