Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - Catherine McNally plays against Kirsten Flipkens during qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
American Caty McNally can’t seem to get enough of the energy at Indian Wells. The 20-year-old needed two hours and 23-minutes to seal a 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 triumph over Belgian veteran Kirsten Flipkens on Tuesday, taking her two-day tally of court time to five hours and 30 minutes.
It may have been a grind, but it was a good grind – for her efforts, McNally lands in the BNP Paribas Open main draw for the second time. After the match, which finished with the American on her back in jubilation as the applause lingered, the Cincinnati native had nothing but praise for the energetic crowd in Stadium 3 that cheered her every move.
“This is incredible,” McNally told the fans. “I mean every single point I’m hearing chants from “O-H-I-O” to “Let’s go Cincinnati!” – stuff like that is super special to me and I’m so grateful to you guys for coming out and sticking with all these long battles I’m having.”
Home court advantage 🇺🇸
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 9, 2022
McNally, ranked 172, had to battle tooth-and-nail to get past the crafty former world No.13. She won 74.2 percent of her first-serve points and saved three of seven break points.
“I think Kirsten is such a great player,” she said. “She hits so many different shots and has so many different weapons. She can slice you, she can drop you, so I knew that I had to take my chances when I got them.”
McNally assured the crowd that she has plenty of energy left for the main draw. She’ll also be playing doubles with Coco Gauff, as half of the formidable “McCoco” tandem that is seeded third in the women’s doubles draw.
“I feel pretty good, honestly,” she said. “I think with you guys out here pushing me every single game, whether I’m up or down, it’s really helping me.
“The adrenaline is taking over and I think I just keep going.”
Watson locks up victory with torrid comeback
On a bright, sunny afternoon at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the 29-year-old was facing a squall in the form of a red-hot Hontoma, the woman who knocked off the qualifying draw’s top seed, Belgium’s Greet Minnen, on Monday. The 22-year-old carried that momentum through a set-plus against Watson, clinching the opening set on a Watson unforced error before stomping out to a 2-0 lead in set two.
But Watson would soon flip the script. In front of an enthusiastic crowd on Stadium 3, the former world No.38 reeled off 11 consecutive games, stealing through the middle set and storming out to a 5-0 lead in the decider before Hontama could get any traction.
Hontama steadied herself to take the next game, but victory was the inevitable outcome for Watson, who will take her place in the main draw at Indian Wells for the eighth time. Seven years ago, the affable Brit notched her first ever top-10 win in the California desert, defeating Agnieszka Radwanska en route to the round of 16. She’ll hope to rekindle that form when main draw play begins later this week.
France’s Harmony Tan followed a similar path to victory on Tuesday. She fell behind Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic, 6-2, but won 12 of the final 16 games to book her first main draw appearance at Indian Wells.
China’s Wang Qiang, Great Britain’s Katie Boulter, Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova and Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti also punched their tickets to the main draw on Tuesday.