A Good Day For Americans Pegula, Rogers And Fritz At Indian Wells

Jessica Pegula (photo: WTA video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 13, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Jessica Pegula, Shelby Rogers and Taylor Fritz don’t often generate the biggest headlines among American tennis players, but that’s okay. Each of them have a knack for winning big matches and being consistent on the court – and all three showed that on Tuesday at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

Sometimes, it’s the intangibles that make a difference between winning and losing.

The women’s fourth round included one former BNP Paribas Open champion, Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2016), and one former finalist, Angelique Kerber (2019). There were also five Grand Slam winners in the draw, including the reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, two former Roland Garros titlists – Jelena Ostapenko and Iga Swiatek – as well as Kerber and Azarenka.

Additionally, nine 2021 WTA tournament champions remained among the last 16 having a chance to add to their title coffers while chasing after points with an eye toward the year-end WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico next month: Krejcikova, Kerber, Ostapenko, Swiatek, Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa, Elina Svitolina and Leylah Fernandez.

Pegula reaches seventh quarterfinal of the season

On Tuesday afternoon, the No. 19 seed Pegula, in only her third Indian Wells main-draw appearance, advanced to her seventh quarterfinal appearance of the season and fourth at the WTA 1000 level with a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed Svitolina that was over in 68 minutes. She won 76 percent (28 of 37) of her service points, hit 19 winners to just 14 unforced errors and faced no break points. Svitolina, who took a medical time out after the first set to deal with an upper right leg ailment, hit only 14 winners and made 27 unforced errors.

“I think I played really solid with not a lot of errors, was getting a lot of really good depth on my balls – coming in when I needed to – serving well when I needed to,” Pegula said during her on-court interview. “It was a good day.”

Pegula attributes some of her recent success to her work with coach David Witt, who formerly coached Venus Williams. “I think I’ve just worked a lot on game planning, being smart out there and coming forward and taking the ball earlier,” she said. “It’s a lot of intangibles, but I think I’ve just been making a lot of really good decisions that comes with playing a lot of matches – and winning – and getting confident. It’s just been more a belief that I can play at this level. I think this year I realized that and I’ve been having good results.”

Next, Pegula will face the No. 27 seed Azarenka, who won the battle of Belarusians over No. 100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-3, 6-4. Sasnovich was attempting to win her third straight match over a Grand Slam champion after dethroning Emma Raducanu and Simona Halep in her last two matches at Indian Wells. Instead, Azarenka hit 22 winners, broke Sasnovich’s serve six times and outpointed her fellow countrywoman 68-57 to move into the quarterfinal round.

Ostapenko wins battle of Roland Garros champions 

Meanwhile, Ostapenko won the battle of Roland Garros champions over No. 2 Swiatek, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 33 minutes to reach the quarterfinals in back of 25 winners and four breaks of her opponent’s serve. She came from a break down in both sets to win. The victory advanced the No. 29 Ostapenko to her second WTA 1000 quarterfinal of the season following her earlier success at Rome.

“I knew it was going to be a very tough match because she’s such a great player, she won a Grand Slam nod she’s playing great tennis,” Ostapenko said during a Stadium 3 court side interview. “I really came with a strong mentality to this match. I knew I had to fight for every point, be aggressive and I think I did that pretty well today.”

Determined Rogers wins thriller over Fernandez

Next, Ostapenko will face the 44th-ranked Rogers, who handed 19-year-old US Open finalist Fernandez a 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) defeat with plenty of fight and determination that lasted two hours and 34 minutes, including a one-hour and 23-minute third set. After two lopsided sets, the decider was quite the thriller that could have gone to either player.

In their second career head-to-head meeting and first since Rogers beat Fernandez at Lexington, Ky. in August 2020, Rogers hit 36 winners to 25 for Fernandez and each committed 42 unforced errors. The Charleston, South Carolina native has won nine of her last 11 hard-court matches, including a third-round triumph over World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty at last month’s US Open.

“That was such an incredible match; the level of tennis was ridiculous, guys. Thank you so much,” Rogers said. “The crowd was insane for Leylah, for me. You’ve been what we’ve been missing, so thank you!

“It was a pleasure to have a battle with Leylah today. She has a bright future.”

Later in her press conference, Rogers expressed a similar thought to the one she shared on court. “I thought it was an incredible battle today,” she said. “I thought we both played really well at times, and it was a sort of tug-of-war kind of match, one that’s really fun to play actually. It’s a special sort of challenge.

“The crowd was into it on both sides. They wanted good tennis. They wanted more tennis. So, I’m just really happy to come through that one and overcome some emotional and mental battles during that match and beat someone that’s playing really well.”

Indian Wells a massive opportunity for Fritz

No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz is one of two Americans remain in the men’s singles draw – the other being No. 60 Tommy Paul. On Tuesday afternoon, Fritz scored a solid 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 5 seed and World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini of Italy, a finalist at Wimbledon this season.

The 39th-ranked Fritz outpointed Berrettini 67-52 during the 81-minute match on Stadium 2, and although he hit just three aces and 14 winners, he was effective in winning 45 points on short rallies of five shots or less. The 23-year-old California native won 81 percent (30 of 37) of his first-serve points converted four of nine break points.

“I had a really clear strategy on top of doing what I do, which is a big first serve, attacking the first ball, being aggressive, playing to my strength and making him uncomfortable,” Fritz said during an on-court interview after beating Berrettini. “It’s a weird time of the year [for Indian Wells], but we’re coming to the end of the season and I could really use a big result. This is one of my favorite tournaments since it’s close to home.”

Fritz, who came into Indian Wells with a 2-6 record in his past eight matches, gained his first win against a Top 10 opponent this year with his victory over Berrettini and it was the seventh of his career.

One of Fritz’s coaches, David Nainkin, in an interview with the ATP website said: “He believes he can beat anybody in the draw and I’m not just saying that. He truly does believe that. He certainly has the game style to do that and we know how in tennis, things change very quickly. Maybe, he felt the pressure the past couple years, but he is in a good space and he wants to win and is prepared.”

Next, Fritz will play another Italian, No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner, who advanced to the round of 16 on a walkover win over American John Isner, who withdrew Monday evening to go home to Dallas, Texas, to be with his wife due to the impending birth of the couple’s third child.

Zverev rallies, ends Murray’s Indian Wells run

No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev overcame falling behind a break in both sets during his third-round match against 121st-ranked wild card Andy Murray and won 6-4, 7-5 to advance to the fourth round in the southern California palm desert for the first time since 2016. Zverev hit 35 winners to 32 unforced errors and outpointed his opponent 82-74. Murray countered with 19 winners but made 28 unforced errors. Each served eight aces.

“He’s the only one of the Big Four that I hadn’t beaten yet, so I’m happy that I’ve done it today,” the World No. 4 from Germany said during his Stadium 1 on-court interview after beating Murray, the former World No. 1 and 14-time ATP Masters 1000 titlist from Great Britain. “Obviously, it was a fantastic match. I thought Andy played extremely well – maybe, as well as he’s played since the surgery. I hope he continues playing the same way, because tennis did miss him for a long time and I think it’s good to have him back.”

Next, Zverev will play 14th seed Gaël Monfils of France, who beat two-time major finalist Kevin Anderson of South Africa, ranked 69th, 7-5, 6-2, in one hour and 39 minutes. Monfils hit nine aces and 22 winners. He outpointed Anderson 85-67.

Around the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

• No. 21 seed Paula Badosa of Spain upset No. 3 seed and good friend Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 7-5, in an hour and 25 minutes for her third Top Five victory of the season and of her career. She hit 24 winners and outpointed Krejcikova 70-53. It was Badosa’s second consecutive straight-set win over the World No. 5 and 38th victory of the season.

Next, Badosa will face No. 10 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, who eliminated No. 47 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 6-4, 6-1, in an hour and 26 minutes, to reach the quarterfinals. The World No. 15 hit 21 winners and outpointed her opponent 69-53.

• No. 18 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia won her ninth straight match with a 65-minute 6-0, 6-2 victory over 115th-ranked lucky loser Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil to advance to the quarterfinal round against No. 12 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who beat 151st-ranked Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya, 6-2, 6-2.

• Doubles No. 2 seeds Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan (World No. 4) and Elise Mertens of Belgium (World No. 3) defeated teen dream team Leylah Fernandez, 19, of Canada and Coco Gauff, 17, of the United States, 7-5, 6-4, to advance to the semifinal round against No. 3 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both of Japan.

• No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas recovered from a set down to No. 25 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and four minutes on Stadium 1. The victory advanced the World No. 3 from Greece to a fourth-round match against No. 22 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, who beat 15th seed Cristian Garin of Chile, 6-4, 6-2.

“Great comeback, honestly,” Tsitsipas said, quoted by the ATP Tour web site. “I don’t know what happened. I really wanted to get back in the match and it happened somehow.”

Tsitipas hit 21 winners and benefited from Fognini’s 32 unforced errors.

• No. 24 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia advanced with a 6-0, 6-4 upset of No. 12 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain in a 64-minute battle of Olympic medalists, in which he did not face a break point and lost just one point behind his first serve. Next, he will play No. 29 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, who rallied to beat No. 48 Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2.

Tuesday’s BNP Paribas Open results

Wednesday’s BNP Paribas Open order of play

Isner withdraws to be home for birth of third child

John Isner withdrew from both singles and doubles competitions Monday evening in order to head home to Dallas, Texas, to be bedside with his wife Madison for the impending birth of their third child.

The 20th-ranked Isner’s withdrawal gave No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy a walkover over win into the round of 16. He also withdrew from his Monday doubles match where he and fellow American Jack Sock were to have faced Italians Fabio Fognini and Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

“John was all suited up and ready to play doubles when the call came from Mardy about 20 minutes before match time,” according to Isner’s coach, David Macpherson, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “He was never going to miss the birth, so it was a clear decision to get home right away.

“Coming to Indian Wells he thought he may have been able to get through the tournament, but the baby is coming a couple of weeks earlier than expected. He’s very excited and this time around they don’t know whether it will be a boy or girl.”

By the numbers

With his victory over Andy Murray on Tuesday, Alexander Zverev has now won 19 of his past 20 matches, which includes his run to the Tokyo Olympics gold meal and the Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio.

“Quotable ….”

“It’s been such a crazy like almost two years now that it not necessarily feels like very weird. I’m just honestly very glad that we do have a tournament.

“Indian Wells, it feels like it’s been forever ago here. … I think sometimes when you play every year same tournament, you kind of take it for granted. So, I really felt grateful coming here again and kind of seeing how beautiful this place is, how well-organized the tournament is. Yeah, I missed that.”

– Two-time BNP Paribas Open champion Victoria Azarenka on returning to play at Indian Wells for the first time since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.