Rafael Nadal remains on course for his first title since the US Open after battling to a straight sets win over next gen star Miomir Kecmanović in the second round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel Open.
The top seed faced some stern tests throughout his 6-2, 7-5, victory over the 20-year-old Serbian. Who has only ever defeated one top 10 player in his career so far, which was against Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati last year. Overall, Nadal hit 20 winners to 17 unforced errors and converted five out of his six break points.
“(It was a) Tough opponent, he’s a very dangerous player with a lot of power so I’m very pleased with my victory.” Nadal said afterwards.
A clinical start to the match saw Nadal win five consecutive games before Kecmanović managed to get on the scoreboard. The world No.50 did manage to retrieve one of the breaks, but the damage was already done as Nadal sealed the opener in just under 40 minutes. Then in the second the top seed was severely tested as he dropped serve whilst serving the match out at 5-3 due to some impressive play from across the court. However, he prevailed four games later to book a place in the quarter-finals.
“I think I played a great first set, which is positive news for me and gives me some confidence.” Nadal reflected.
“The second set was close. I lost my serve when serving for the match, but he played a great game. I was not serving first serves in that game and he was playing some good points.”
The 19-time grand slam champion now extends his win-loss record in Acapulco to 17-2. His only two losses were to Sam Querrey (2017) and Nick Kyrgios (2018). Both of those players went on to win the title that year.
Next up for Nadal will be a maiden meeting with South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo, who is through to his fourth ATP quarter-final of the season. The world No.76 stunned eighth seed Dusan Lajovic 7-6(2), 6-2.
Mixed fortunes for the other seeds
The biggest casualty of the tournament so far is Zverev who suffered a straightforward loss to Tommy Paul. A player who is ranked almost 60 places lower than him in the ATP rankings. Struggling with his second serve, Zverev dropped serve once in each set to fall 6-3, 6-4.
“It just didn’t work”, Zverev said during his press conference. “When I play like this, it is not hard to defeat me. It wasn’t going up to the to the net, it wasn’t my backhand, it was my serve… a shot that didn’t work.”
Qualifier Paul has claimed his first ever win over a top 10 player in his career. The 22-year-old is currently at a career ranking high of 66th in the world. Last month he reached the semifinals of the Adelaide International and the third round of the Australian Open.
”It meant a lot. I was really excited to get out there and play. He put me under pressure in the first game and then from there, I played well for the rest of the match,” Paul said.
The American will play compatriot John Isner next.
Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime, who was seeded fourth in the draw, is another top name to exit the tournament. The 19-year-old fell 6-4, 6-4, to the in-form Kyle Edmund. Former grand slam semi-finalist Edmund is on a winning streak after recently claiming the New York Open title.
“He’s (Auger-Aliassime) won a lot of matches and he’s seeing the ball big. Like him, I’m on a decent run as well,” Edmund said. “I liked how I created chances in both sets early. Overall, against a Top 20 player, it was a good result. I’m very pleased.”
There was better news for Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian endured a marathon encounter against Adrian Mannarino where he prevailed 6-7(8), 6-2, 7-6(2) after almost three hours of play. Dimitrov had a 4-1 lead in the final set before losing four games in a row. He then had to save two match points en route to winning.
”All I had to do was to stay in the match and fight. I don’t know why I have to make it so hard, but it what it is,” Dimitrov said. “The atmosphere here was electric once again. I’m just going to appreciate this moment.”
Dimitrov faces nemesis Stan Wawrinka next. Somebody he has lost to in their five previous meetings on the tour. The Swiss third seed eased to a 6-4, 6-4, win over Spain’s Pedro Martinez Portero in his second round match.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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