Indian Wells Daily Preview: Major Champions Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin Collide in the First Round - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Major Champions Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin Collide in the First Round

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Sloane Stephens a year ago at Indian Wells (twitter.com/bnpparibasopen)

First round singles action concludes on Thursday at Indian Wells.

It features several Major singles champions, including a first round contest between two such players, as Americans Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin square off.  Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Dominic Thiem will also compete on Thursday, as will players who have recently broken through at Majors such as Emma Raducanu and Ben Shelton.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Ben Shelton vs. Fabio Fognini – Second on Stadium 2

20-year-old Shelton achieved his first Major quarterfinal this past January in Melbourne, in only his second main draw appearance at a Grand Slam event.  The nwecomer took advantage of an open quarter of the draw, eventually outlasting fellow American J.J. Wolf in a five-setter to reach the quarters.  But Ben arrives in tennis paradise on a three-match losing streak, dating back to his Australian Open quarterfinal loss to Tommy Paul.

Fognini is only 9-11 lifetime at Indian Wells, and hasn’t advanced beyond the third round since 2014.  And the 35-year-old is 1-5 in 2023, with his only win coming last month on clay over a player ranked 196th in the world.

Can the young American get back on the winning track over the Italian veteran?  In his first career meeting against Fognini, Shelton’s power game should allow him to dictate the outcome, especially since Fabio has a losing record on hard courts dating back to 2019.


Sloane Stephens vs. Sofia Kenin (WC) – Not Before 6:00pm on Stadium 1

Stephens is 11-11 lifetime at Indian Wells, and 4-5 on the season, with those four victories coming against players ranked 89th or lower.  Kenin is 2-3 at Indian Wells, and 5-6 this season, having lost five of her last six matches. 

These two American champions played just last summer in Toronto, in an extended battle which saw Sloane prevail 7-5 in the third.  That match was over three hours long, not including several rain delays.  And Stephens won despite letting Kenin back into the match after initially gaining a 6-2, 5-1 lead.

Considering Kenin has only won nine tour-level matches since June of 2021, it’s hard not to favor Stephens to be victorious again on Thursday.  But another tight contest is likely, between two Major champions who are undoubtedly eager to regain confidence and momentum.  And neither’s playing style gives them a decided advantage over the other.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Aleksandar Vukic (Q) – Wawrinka is 6-5 to start 2023, and reached back-to-back quarterfinals last month in Rotterdam and Marseille.  Vukic is a 26-year-old Australian who has now qualified for three ATP-level events this year. 

Danka Kovinic vs. Emma Raducanu – Raducanu is 2-2 this season, and hasn’t played since the Australian Open.  She’s expressed doubt as to if she can even play this match, as she’s still dealing with a lingering wrist injury.  Kovinic began this year by reaching the semifinals in Auckland.  And she’s 1-0 against Emma, having defeated her at last year’s Australian Open in three sets.

Tomas Martin Etcheverry vs. Andy Murray – Murray is off to an exciting start to his season.  After his thrilling run in Melbourne, Andy was a finalist two weeks ago in Doha, saving eight match points to reach that stage.  Etcheverry is a 23-year-old who was the runner-up just last week in Santiago on clay.

Dominic Thiem (WC) vs. Adrian Mannarino – The 2020 US Open champion has struggled to regain his form following a serious wrist injury, and is now 1-7 this year at all levels.  But he is 8-1 against Mannarino, though the French veteran claimed their most recent meeting, two years ago in Mallorca in grass.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Casper Ruud Overcomes ‘Tough Start’ To Set De Minaur Final In Acapulco

Casper Ruud is into his first ATP 500 final after defeating Holger Rune in three sets.

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Casper Ruud is into his second consecutive final in Mexico after defeating Holger Rune 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Acapulco.

The Norwegian had to overcome an electric start from Rune to prevail in 2 hours and 24 minutes.

It was a clinical performance from Ruud who is now into his second consecutive final in Mexico after reaching the final in Los Cabos last week.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted it was a tough start but he’s pleased to be in another final, “It was a tough start,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“Holger just came out firing bullets from the forehand, from the backhand and I had not too much time to play my game. I was frustrated at times, especially at the end of the first set, beginning of the second.

“I didn’t really feel like I got to play any points how I wanted to, so there was some frustration towards myself, towards my box, because I didn’t feel like we were doing the right thing.

“But luckily with one break in the second, it turned around a bit and in the third set it got a little physical. I think maybe Holger seemed like he was struggling a little bit and started firing even more and a couple of games it went in and he broke me, which is frustrating.

“Some unforced errors crept up on him and I served really well in the last game to close it out.”

Ruud is now into his first ATP 500 final in Acapulco where he will face defending champion Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur overcame Jack Draper after the Brit retired at 4-0 down in the deciding set.

Heading into Saturday’s final, De Minaur leads the head-to-head 1-0 although that was in a completely different scoring format in the Next Gen Finals.

Whatever happens on Saturday, Ruud will return to the world’s top ten.

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Andrey Rublev Disqualified In Dramatic Dubai Semi-Final

Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final in Dubai.

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Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik after being accused of swearing in Russian.

The event took place in Dubai where Rublev had more than enough opportunities to win the match having been 4-2 40-0 up in the deciding set.

However Bublik came back into the match as he caught up with Rublev in what was turning into a fascinating contest.

The score was at 6-5 Bublik when Rublev’s frustrations boiled over when he allegedly told the official at the side of the court that he was a ‘f****** moron’ in Russian.

One of the officials on the sidelines at the side of the court reported the incident and the supervisor ruled that Rublev should be defaulted.

The incident below means that Rublev will now lose all his ranking points and prize money, resulting in Rublev exiting the world’s top five.

An ending that didn’t warrant the dramatic contest and after the match Bublik agreed that the consequences, “I highly doubt Andrey said something crazy,” Bublik was quoted by Sports Illustrated.

“He’s not this kind of guy. But I guess that’s the rules. That’s what they did, they just follow the procedure.”

Bublik will hope for a smoother finish to the final when he takes on Ugo Humbert for the title.

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Andy Murray Makes Retirement Hint After 500th Hard Court Win In Dubai

Andy Murray won his 500th hard court match in Dubai, placing him fifth on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray further hinted at retirement after securing a 500th hard court win of his career in Dubai.

The former world number one picked up his second win of the year with a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov.

In typical Andy Murray fashion, the Brit came back from a set down to defeat the out-of-sorts Canadian as he progressed to the second round.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVj537F-wQ

The win means Murray now has 500 career wins on a hard court and that is an achievement the world number 67 is proud of, “It’s not bad,” Murray told the ATP website as he sits fifth on the all-time list of hard court wins.

“Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

However those post-match comments weren’t the most shocking ones as Murray once again hinted at retirement this season.

The Brit has made subtle remarks that this year may be his last one but Murray’s comments today suggests that he may have already made his decision, “I probably don’t have too long left but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months,” Murray was quoted by ESPN as saying.

“I still love competing and still love the game but it gets harder and harder to compete the older you get, to keep your body fit and fresh.”

If the end is near for Murray than the Brit will look to end his career on a high for the next few months.

Before thinking about retirement Murray will look to go further in Dubai when he takes on either Ugo Humbert or Gael Monfils in the second round.

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