Sunday Fun Day At Indian Wells Was Full Of Great Matches

Andy Murray (photo: ATP video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 11, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The bottom half of the men’s draw featured at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells Sunday included appearances by No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev, No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini, No. 7 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner. Throw in former World No. 1 Andy Murray against #NextGenATP rising star Carlos Alcaraz in mid afternoon that attracted the biggest crowd of the tournament so far and it had all the necessary ingredients for a Sunday Fun Day.

Here’s how it all played out:

• No. 2 seed Tsitsipas hit seven aces and 22 winners during his 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 61 Pedro Martinez of Spain in an hour and 34 minutes to reach the third round. He came back from 1-3, 30-40 down in the second set to turn the Stadium 1 featured evening match around and sew up his 52n win of the season. Tsitsipas outpointed Martinez 70-50. Next, the World No. 3 from Greece will play No. 25 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy, who advanced over No. 54 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

“It’s been a great night for me,” said Tsitsipas during his brief on-court interview following his first night session match. “Never played a night session before.”

• No. 3 seed Zverev showed good form and controlled his match throughout with No. 79 Jenson Brooksby of the United States and won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in one hour and 46 minutes in a featured day match on Stadium 1. The World No. 4 from Germany  fired 12 aces, – including three in his final service game – and hit 28 winners. He outpointed the #NextGenATP wild card Brooksby 79-72, which included converting four of five break-point opportunities. Zverev has now won 18 of 19 matches since Wimbledon, which included capturing the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, winning his fifth career ATP Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati and advancing to the semifinals at the US Open. He also won a match at last month’s Laver Cup in Boston.

“It wasn’t an easy match, but I’m happy to be through, I’m happy to be in the third round and playing Andy now,” Zverev said during his post-match, on-court interview.

“I think he’s the only one of the Big Four I haven’t beaten yet, so I hope I can change that. I think it’s incredible how well he’s moving and incredible how well he’s playing. I think he’s very motivated so I hope I can show my best tennis.”

Next, Zverev will play Murray, who pulled out a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 30 seed Alcaraz in three hours and three minutes on Stadium 2 to improve his lifetime record at Indian Wells to 27-12. Murray reached the third round for the first time since 2016. He finished with 18 winners to 36 for Alcaraz. However, his 29 unforced errors were 13 fewer than Alcaraz’s 42. Murray outpointed the Spaniard 105-92, which included an underarm ace.

The World No. 121 Murray shared much praise about Alcaraz during his on-court interview following his win. “He’s obviously got so much potential, so much firepower and these conditions, it’s not easy to finish points off quickly,” he said. “But, he’s able to because he has so much pace from the back of the court. So, I had to fight extremely hard, coming back from a set down. I felt like in the second set he played maybe better. First set, I felt like I had more of the opportunities but didn’t get it. So yeah, happy with the way I fought. He’s a top-drawer young player.”

• No. 5 seed Berrettini made his Indian Wells debut a memorable won as he beat 184th-ranked qualifier Alejandro Tabilo of Chile, 6-4, 7-5, in an hour-and-a-half in back of 11 aces. He saved both break points he faced. Next, he will play No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz, who defeated No. 83 Brandon Nakashima, 6-3, 6-4, in an all-American matchup. “It’s been a little bit of time to get the first win, but I’m so happy,” Berrettini said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “I love the conditions here, the place, it’s amazing. It’s called Tennis Paradise and it feels like that.”

• No. 7 seed Auger-Aliassime bowed 6-4, 6-2 to No. 48 Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain in 77 minutes for his second straight loss. The Canadian hit seven double faults, won just 58 percent (18 of 31) of his first-serve points, and was broken four times by the Spaniard, who outpointed Auger-Aliassime 58-40.

• No. 10 seed Sinner from Italy needed just 74 minutes to beat No. 58 John Millman of Australia, 6-2, 6-2, winning 87 percent (20 of 23) of his first serves and facing no break points. “Today, I played very well,” he said during an on-court interview. “I didn’t miss many shots and I felt great on court. I had one week of practice here so it was quite long to prepare, which is very good.”

Also, No. 12 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain defeated 174th-ranked qualifier Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, 6-1, 6-4; No. 13 seed Cristian Garin of Chile beat, 178th-ranked American qualifier Ernest Escobedo, 7-5, 6-2; No. 14 seed Gaël Monfils of France advanced over No. 73 Gianluca Mager of Italy, 6-4, 6-2; No. 17 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy was upset by No. 69 Kevin Anderson of South Africa, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3); No. 20 John Isner of the United States bested No. 75 Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 6-3, 6-4; No. 22 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia beat 202nd-ranked Aussie qualifier Aleksandar Vukic, 6-4, 7-5; No. 24 Karen Khachanov of Russia defeated No. 78 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, 6-2, 7-5;  and No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia advanced over 194th-ranked American qualifier Christopher Eubanks, 6-4, 6-3.

Women’s draw creating its own excitement

If the men’s draw was heavy on star power, so, too, was the women’s draw. Sunday’s order of play included third-round matches featuring No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek, No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina, No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova, and No. 11 seed Simona Halep.

• Swiatek of Poland, who a year ago enjoyed her major breakthrough by winning the 2020 French Open, opened the day on Stadium 1 with a 54-minute 6-1, 6-0 victory over No. 25 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia. Swiatek hit five aces and 19 winners, and won 85 percent (17 of 20) of her first-serve points. The World No. 4 faced no break points on her serve. She outpointed Kudermetova 53-23 to advance to the fourth round against No. 24 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, who bested No. 43 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 2-6, 7-3. Swiatek has lost just five games en route to the round of 16 in her tournament debut.

“I was just being pretty confident. Again, as in my second round, my tactics worked pretty well,” Swiatek said during an on-court interview after her win. She stayed away from any drama against Kudermetova. “I just wanted to changed the rhythm sometimes so [Veronika] could get a chance to sometimes miss and in some points be offensive so she would eventually have to deal with the pressure.

“Basically, I wanted to make a gift for my psychologist because usually when I lose there is some drama. So, let’s just say she has the day off today.”

Later during her press conference, Swiatek announced that for World Mental Health Day, she’s donating her third-round prize money to a mental health non-profit. She said the idea came to her mid-match Sunday. “Venus Williams inspired me a lot because when I saw her statement and initiative, that was so great,” Swiatek said.

Williams’ initiative with the WTA and BetterHelp will provide $2 million in free therapy to the pubic.

• Svitolina, a semifinalist at Indian Wells in 2019, went the distance and rallied to earn her 41st win of the season, a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) over No. 32 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania, in two hours and 32 minutes. The Ukrainian showed plenty of courage and fortitude – rallying from 2-4 down in the third set – and wore her heart on her sleeve in overcoming 45 winners by Cirstea and four breaks of her own serve.

It was an extremely tough match today and I was battling and left everything on the court,” Svitolina said during her on-court interview. “I really wanted to win this match today and continue in this tournament. I’m happy I could win this big match.”

The World No. 7 Svitolina hit six aces and recorded 27 winners to overcome 37 unforced errors. She outpointed Cirstea 114-108 to improve her career head-to-head against the Romanian to 3-0 and advanced to play No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, who defeated 63rd-ranked lucky loser Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 6-4, 6-1.

• No. 100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus took out her second straight Grand Slam champion with her 98-minute 7-5, 6-4 victory over Romania’s No. 11 seed Halep. Sasnovich followed up on her Friday night triumph over US Open champion Emma Raducanu by defeating the two-time major winner. It was also her second consecutive win over a Top 25 foe. She hit 22 winners to 32 unforced errors and converted four of nine break-point opportunities. Sasnovich outpointed Halep 77-68.

Next, she will play No. 27 seed and two-time (2012, 2016) Indian Wells champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who beat No. 7 seed Kvitova, 7-5, 6-4, in one hour and 49 minutes in back of nine aces and 25 winners. It was their ninth career meeting and fourth lifetime win for Azarenka over Kvitova.

• US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez of Canada won her fifth straight match against a Top 20 opponent after coming back from a set and a break down to beat No. 9 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, in two hours and 42 minutes. The victory advanced the 23rd seed Fernandez to the round of 16 in her Indian Wells debut. Next, she will play No. 44 Shelby Rogers of the United States, who beat No. 61 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-0, 6-2.

Golubic showing that power equals wins

Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic achieved her second Top 10 win and first in five years Saturday night when she took out World No. 9 and sixth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in just over two-and-a-half hours. She hit 25 winners while Sakkari committed 46 unforced errors to earn her second career win at Indian Wells.

After starting the year ranked No. 138, the 5-foot-7, 28-year-old Swiss with the one-fisted backhand is starting to enjoy the fruits of her labor. This year, she’s won an Olympics doubles silver medal with Belinda Bencic, reached the singles finals at a pair of WTA 250 tournaments in Lyon and Monterrey plus earned quarterfinal finishes on grass at Eastbourne and Wimbledon. Earlier this year, she won a WTA 125 clay event in Saint Malo, France, and an ITF World Tour title on an indoor hard court in Grenoble, France. Now, Golubic is ranked 46th and she’s into the third round at Indian Wells, where she will face 151st-ranked Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya on Monday.

“I always loved to really play the game, to have so many options,” the Swiss No. 2 told the WTA Insider after her victory against Sakkari, which improved her tour-level win-loss record to 20-14 this season. “This is something I always enjoyed. But I think at this level you have to be physically very, very strong and also you have to have power. It’s not enough to just mix up the game. I think this is something that as a junior I didn’t have yet. I had a good game, I had a good eye for the court and for the game, but there were people overpowering me, so power wins.

“In the last years, I could develop more power, more strength, being faster as well. This is something you need to compete and this is where the variation comes in. But if. You don’t have that part, it’s not enough.”

When Andy met Iga at Indian Wells

A couple of former Grand Slam champions, Andy Murray and Iga Swiatek, crossed paths Saturday afternoon on Practice Court 14 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. After Swiatek won her opening match Friday, during a Tennis Channel interview she spoke about the time she once hit with Rafael Nadal and how much she enjoyed the experience. When the 2020 French Open titlist was asked who her dream hitting partner might be this week, she chose Murray.

“I would love to play with Andy Murray,” Swiatek told Tennis Channel‘s Steve Weissman. “We actually had a little chat on Twitter, so maybe it’s going to be possible right now to finally play. He also seems like such a nice guy, a good sense of humor.”

Murray’s attention was piqued and later Friday he publicly invited the Polish star for a hit. By the time of Swiatek’s 3 o’clock rendezvous with Murray, there were plenty of fans and photographers hovering around the practice court. Swiatek had already practiced earlier in the day in advance of her third-round match against No. 25 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, while Murray was preparing for his Sunday second-round match against No. 30 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain. Swiatek and Murray spoke for a few minutes and from all appearances shared a few good laughs along the way.

Gauff and Fernandez proving to be a formidable duo

It’s always interesting to see the creation of dynamic doubles teams – the pairing together of two players who are outstanding in singles – that occurs particularly at ATP and WTA 1000 events. Take for instance the North American duo of Coco Gauff, 17, of the United States and Leylah Fernandez, 19, from Canada.

Gauff and Fernandez are through to the Indian Wells quarterfinals after taking out No. 5 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands, both doubles specialists, 6-3, 6-2, Saturday night. The pair have yet to drop a set in their two matches and Stadium 3 was filled with fans cheering them on Saturday evening.

For Gauff, the day mean double duty because earlier she played her first singles match of the tournament and beat France’s Caroline Garcia, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-1.

“It’s really special to come out here to a crowd so welcoming,” Gauff said during a courtside interview after beating Garcia. “Honestly, I just kept telling myself to keep going for my shots. Even in the second set, I had a lot of opportunities … and I just told myself to keep going for my shots and it ended up working out.

“Playing matches with nerves, it’s not easy to put on a face. I know it seems like I’m calm sometimes, but I’m really freaking out. I try to not let you guys see, or most importantly, let my opponent see, and I think that got me through. I always ay the crowd makes a difference in a match … and I’m happy this crowd loves me. It’s my first time playing in front of you guys … and I like you back.”

Sunday’s BNP Paribas Open results

Monday’s BNP Paribas Open order of play

“Quotable …”

• “I felt like I could have raised my level a little bit more throughout the match because that’s what she did, that’s how she came back in those important moments. But I think the key for me today ws to keep my composure as much as I can and not to feel the pressure of the crowd or being defending champion. I think I dealt with that better in the third set.”

– Defending champion Bianca Andreescu, seeded 16th this year, after defeating No. 51 Alison Riske Saturday evening, quoted by the WTA website.

“I can still compete. I feel I can still compete at the top of the game regardless of how many people tell me to stop. To play in front of a pretty packed crowd here is really an atmosphere. I enjoyed it and it’s why I’m still playing.”

Andy Murray, 34, during his on-court interview after his victory three-hour and three-minute 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over 18-year-old Carlos Alcarez, seeded 30th.