Schwartzman Playing Better, Feeling Better As Indian Wells Draw Comes Into Focus

Diego Schwartzman (photo: ATP Tour video)

INDIAN WELLS/WASHINGTON, October 14, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

As the men’s fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in the southern California palm desert came into focus Wednesday, 15 of the last 16 players remaining from the original 96-player draw were seeded. The exception was 60th-ranked Tommy Paul.

With eight matches spread over three stadiums, all three of the top seeds – No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 3 Alexander Zverev – were already assured qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy next month. Three other seeds – No. 6 Casper Ruud, No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz and No. 10 Jannik Sinner – were all battling for one of the remain four places in the season finale.

Schwartzman plays inspiring from start to finish

In Wednesday’s opening match on Stadium 1, No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina brought a 4-2 head-to-head record (2-1 on hard courts) into his battle with Ruud, a winner of their last two meetings this season at ATP Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Mason, Ohio. Both were appearing in the fourth round at Indian Wells for the first time.

While Ruud’s five ATP Tour titles leads the tour, including his first on hard courts recently in San Diego, the 22-year-old from Norway put his nine-match winning streak on the line as he sought to earn his 50th win of the season. Meanwhile, Schwartzman was attempting to reach his sixth career ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal. As it happened, it was all Schwartzman from the outset as the Argentine No. 1 won 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 43 minutes, backed by 28 winners and a 72-55 point differential. Schwartzman attacked the net successfully throughout, winning 13 of 18 exchanges, and he broke Ruud successfully four times. It all added up to his first Top-10 win of 2021.

“Maybe he has a bad day after having too many good days,” Schwartzman said during press after beating Great Britain’s Dan Evans in the third round on Tuesday, looking ahead to his fourth-round encounter with Ruud. Schwartzman played inspiring tennis from start to finish. Now, he’s into his first Indian Wells quarterfinal.

Afterward, during his on-court interview, Schwartzman, who had never advanced beyond the third round in six previous trips to the BNP Paribas Open, said he’s in a better mental and physical space: “I am playing better, I am feeling better. The confidence is high right now, so now is a good time.

“It is a big win because I was trying to find my best tennis. At the beginning of the year, I was very tired, it was not easy for the South American players to be traveling all the time. No way to go back home, it was very tough. Sometimes, your mind is not there. Since Roland Garros, when the bugles finished on the ATP Tour, I started to feel a little bit better and I am practicing better than before.”

Norrie notches 44th win of season

Next, Schwartzman moves on to face No. 21 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who defeated Paul, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in two hours and 15 minutes on Stadium 2 for his 44th win of the season and first trip to an ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal. The 26th-ranked Norrie wrapped up the fourth-round victory with his sixth ace on match point. He hit 25 winners and capitalized on Paul’s 35 unforced errors, breaking the American’s serve seven times in 24 opportunities.

Dimitrov shocks top-seeded Medvedev

Later on, the World No. 2 Medvedev brought a 3-1 head-to-head against No. 23 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who was appearing in the fourth round at Indian Wells for the first time in eight visits. Dimitrov brought a 27-65 lifetime win-loss record against To 10 opponents, which favored Medvedev. The 25-year-old Russian (50-10) entered with an 18-1 record in North America over his past four tournaments, which included a fourth career ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto, a semifinal finish at the Western & Southern Open, a first US Open title and he was also a member of Team Europe, which captured the Laver Cup.

However, as Dimitrov expressed so well during his on-court interview that followed his 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over the top-seeded Medvedev, when asked how he won, said: “Impossible until possible, I guess.”

Down a set and two breaks, Dimitrov stunned Medvedev by coming back to capture the victory. He strung together eight straight winning games, turning around a 1-4 deficit to garner the second set. Then, the Bulgarian broke out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, which turned out to be too much for Medvedev to overcome.

“Over the past year, I have played him a few times and haven’t been able to find a way,” Dimitrov admitted during his on-court interview. “But today, I just felt something at 4-1 and I calmed myself down and started to take better decisions and started to control the pace of the game, which I really believed helped me. In the end it was just very solid and smart play.”

Dimitrov’s next opponent will be Hurkacz, who was the first to advance to the quarterfinal round. He needed just 63 minutes to beat No. 19 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia, 6-1, 6-3, on Stadium 2. The World No. 12 from Poland won 70 percent (31 of 44) of his service points and backed it by garnering 57 percent (29 of 51) of his return points to reach his second straight Indian Wells quarterfinal. Coupled with six aces and 12 winners to just eight unforced errors, it all added up in Hurkacz’s favor.

“Today’s performance was good on my side,” Hurkacz said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “I returned well. I was making a lot of balls. I was also getting some free points on the serve, so that was very important for today’s game.”

Fritz reaches first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal

No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal with a solid 6-4, 6-3 win over the No. 10 seed Sinner from Italy, in a baseline battle between the two young twenty-somethings. A day after he eliminated another Italian Top 10 player, No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini, the World No. 39 from Rancho Santo Fe, Calif., hit six aces and 21 winners and outpointed Sinner 76-63. He strung together eight straight games, going from 2-4 down to win the opening set, then won the first four games of the second set.

“I’m pretty comfortable here,” Fritz said in press after he beat Berrettini. “I think they said this is my sixth or seventh time playing this tournament. I’m pretty settled in.

“It’s like any other tournament, but I feel, if anything, more confident here just because it’s close to home, I feel like the crowd’s always great for me here. You know, if anything, extra, extra confidence playing here.”

Zverev earns first career win over Monfils

Next, Fritz will play No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who defeated No. 14 seed Gaël Monfils of France, 6-1, 6-3, in the quarterfinal round on Friday with an eye on reaching his fifth tour-level semifinal of the season.

Zverev has won 20 of his past 21 hard-court matches, which includes his gold medal run at the Tokyo Olympic Games and winning the Western & Southern Open. The World No. 4 hit 19 winners to just 11 unforced errors en route to collecting his first win against the Frenchman, while Monfils finished with 10 winners and made 13 unforced errors. Zverev outpointed Monfils 54-36.

“I did feel well on the court today. Obviously Gael is someone I haven’t beaten before so I know that I had to play my best tennis,” Zverev said during his on-court interview. “I definitely was not far away even though I missed a few volleys ,but apart from that I felt pretty good.”

Wednesday’s BNP Paribas Open results

Thursday’s BNP Paribas Open order of play

Around the Indian Wells Tennis Garden

• The lower half of the women’s draw played their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday. The first pitted No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the only former champion (2012, 2016) remaining, against No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, appearing in her seventh WTA quarterfinal this season after gaining her seventh Top 10 of the year against No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina a day earlier. Azarenka came in with 31 victories at Indian Wells, fourth most, and she and Pegula had split their two previous meetings.

This time, Azarenka emerged with a satisfying 6-4, 6-2 triumph in one hour and 34 minutes to reach her fourth Indian Wells semifinal round in what she later said would be her final tournament of the 2021 season. She won 81 percent (30 of 37) of her first-serve points, hit 21 winners, broke Pegula’s serve five times in 13 tries and outpointed the Buffalo, N.Y. native 77-60.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Azarenka said in press, quoted by the WTA website. “Very high quality from both players. Very consistent in terms of level for me. I felt that I really played well in the crucial moments. I felt like I stepped up a lot to the occasion. That’s what I’m really happy with today.”

• Meanwhile, 44th-ranked American Shelby Rogers came into Wednesday evening’s quarterfinal match against Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion – their first meeting in two years – having reached her first quarterfinals of a WTA 1000 tournament for the first time this season. And on her 29th birthday, no less. Prior to this year, she hadn’t gone beyond the second round at Indian Wells. Across the net, the 24th-ranked Ostapenko had momentum from upsetting No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek on Tuesday. Both have played with confidence this week.

As it turned out, it was Ostapenko’s turn to shine – and she ran her career head-to-head against the personable Rogers to 3-0 with her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory in two hours and 15 minutes to move into the semifinals against Azarenka on Friday. Ostapenko clawed her way back from 1-3 down in the final set and won the last five games of the quarterfinal. She gutted out 51 winners to 46 unforced errors, broke Rogers eight times in 19 tries and outpointed the American from South Carolina 105-96.

• No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) victory over No. 24 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia in an hour and 55 minutes. Basilashvili outpointed Khachanov 82-71.

• Next, Basilashvili will face No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who rallied to beat No. 22 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-2, on Friday. It marked the fourth North American ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal that Tsitsipas has reached this year.

Tunisia’s Jabeur closing in on WTA Top 10

It’s been a memorable week in Tennis Paradise for World No. 14 Ons Jabeur. With the Tunisian’s 6-2, 6-2 round of 16 victory over Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya Tuesday night – her tour-leading 47th win of the season – she’s into her second WTA 1000 quarterfinal of the season. Plus, the No. 12 seed boosted her chances of qualifying for next week’s WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico. That’s because she will rise from No. 9 to No. 8 on the WTA Finals leaderboard on Monday, surpassing current No. 8 Naomi Osaka.

It’s all a good feeling for Jabeur, who has never advanced past the second round at Indian Wells before this week. Now, she’s strung together quality wins over Anastasija Sevastova, Danielle Colllins and Kalinskaya to set up a quarterfinal clash against No. 18 seed and in-form Anett Kontaveit of Estonia on Thursday.

“Expecting a very tough match,” Jabeur said after beating Kalinskaya. “Last time we played was in Cincinnati, but now I feel Anett is a different player, more confident right now. She’s playing unbelievable. I watched her when she won the title in Ostrava. I will have to play my game. I will have to change up the rhythm.”

Earlier this week, Jabeur was one of a handful of WTA players who got to meet Hall of Fame great Bill Jean King and to receive an autographed copy of her autobiography, All In.

“I’ve been wanting to meet her for a long time,” Jabeur said during one of her press conferences. “It was a great moment.

“She’s really an inspiration. I got to talk to her. She gave me a lot of advice. … This year, we chatted after the French Open. She called me. It was very nice to talk to her. She’s really a great person, a great inspiration.”

Kvitova shuts down her 2021 season

World No. 11 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic announced via social media Wednesday that with her 7-5, 6-4 third-round loss to Victoria Azarenka earlier this week, she’s decided to end her 2021 season at this time. Kvitova compiled a 29-18 win-loss record in 19 tournaments. She won one title this season at Doha; was semifinalist twice, at Bad Homburg and Ostrava; and reached three quarterfinals, at Stuttgart, Madrid and Cincinnati.

By the numbers

With No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas‘ 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 25 seed Fabio Fognini Tuesday night, it was the Greek’s ATP Tour-leading 53rd victory of the season.

“Quotable …”

“My tennis is improving day by day. Physically, I did a big change, as well. I’m moving faster. It’s a little bit of everything. Confidence as well. Everything is helping. I’m believing in myself. I think it’s a big change.”

– World No. 27 Paula Badosa of Spain, seeded 21st this week, on improvements she’s seen in her game.