BNP Paribas Open
BNP Paribas Open Logo
ATP Tour
WTA Tennis
Match Recap
Men's Second Round: Shelton, Alcaraz Survive and Advance; Sinner Keeps the Streak Alive
4 Min Read · March 8, 2024

Ben Shelton found himself in somewhat unfamiliar territory in Indian Wells on Friday. The 21-year-old faced a younger opponent.

“I was just in the locker room talking to somebody saying, ‘Yeah, this is the first time I’ve played someone who’s younger than me and not around my same age,” Shelton said. “I've played Carlos (Alcaraz) and Holger (Rune) who are like a year (younger), and Arthur Fils, who's like a year and a half (younger).

“But three years younger, it's really impressive what that kid is doing and brings to the table as an 18-year-old.”

Shelton was speaking about Jakub Mensik, who has climbed more than 300 places in the rankings since the start of 2023 and recently reached his first ATP final.

But what Shelton is doing is impressive, too, including in their duel. The World No. 15 overturned a deficit to prevail 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 against the Czech and make the third round in the desert for the first time.


Playing his brand of high-octane tennis, the fist-pumping Shelton didn’t let a net-cord down break point in the first set or a slight fall bother him. He wore down Mensik in the battle of big servers, even uncorking a 146 mph delivery to wow a packed Stadium 2.

“I knew the match was far from over after the first set and it only took one small chance or one look to be able to turn things around,” said Shelton, who won 82 percent of his first serve points. “And I was able to execute in the right moments to make that happen.”

The lefty meets No. 22 seed Francisco Cerundolo on Sunday.

Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz (above) needed to dig deep after dropping the first set to Matteo Arnaldi, eventually rallying for a 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-1 victory.

Defending Champ Alcaraz Rallies

Carlos Alcaraz’s quest to become the first man to defend the title in Indian Wells since Novak Djokovic’s three-peat that ended in 2016 started off a little shaky.

The two-time Grand Slam winner didn’t drop a set all of last year here — but surrendered the first one he contested this edition against one of Italy’s Davis Cup stars, Matteo Arnaldi.

The Spaniard’s response, however, was emphatic as Alcaraz rallied for a 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-1 win under the lights on Stadium 1.

“I’ve been practicing in the day here, not at night, so it’s a little bit tricky playing the night session,” said Alcaraz, who initially led by a break at 4-3 in the first. “It’s very different conditions and I had to adapt.

“First set, I was playing great, a break up, serving, playing good tennis. (Made) a few mistakes I did not want to make. After the first set I had to change my mind a little bit and put more balls in the court, running a bit more and trying to get rhythm. I think I got it at the end.”

He sure did.

With ample power but also deft touch, the shot of the match might have been Alcaraz’s drop off a drop to break for 5-1 in the third. Coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, back with Alcaraz after knee surgery in the off-season, enjoyed it. He was out of his chair applauding.

Jannik Sinner (above) extended his unbeaten streak to 16 matches with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Thanasi Kokkinakis on Friday.

Sinner Extends Winning Streak

After Jannik Sinner and Thanasi Kokkinakis comfortably held serve through four games at the BNP Paribas Open, a big moment arrived.

Sinner faced a break point.

He won it — just like almost every crucial point he has played in the last two months — and would go on to beat the Australian 6-3, 6-0 in his opener in Indian Wells on Friday. Andrey Rublev joined him in the third round by ousting Andy Murray, 7-6 (3), 6-1. It’s now 16 straight wins for the ginger-haired Sinner.

“First match, never easy,” said the Australian Open winner. “He’s a player who serves really, really well so you don’t get so many chances. But in the other way, I was just trying to get better, point after point. I was fighting for every point.”

By the end of it, the 22-year-old added that he felt comfortable. 

Amid sunny skies after rain the previous two days, Kokkinakis ripped forehands along with those hefty serves. The World No. 99 had the benefit of already playing a match this week and acclimatizing to conditions, pulling off an impressive win over California native Marcos Giron.

With Sinner serving at 2-2, 0-30, Kokkinakis spurned an opportunity when his forehand down the line with open space went just wide on Stadium 1. The Adelaide native offered up a wry smile. Kokkinakis persisted and earned a break point, but left his second-serve return short. Sinner later punished a forehand to escape and then broke for 5-3. A downcast Kokkinakis — whose numerous injuries stunted his progress — only won six points in the final seven games.

Does Sinner feel unbeatable?

“No, I’m not unbeatable,” said Sinner. “I'm just well prepared. I worked really hard to be in this position. Obviously it's a position where you dream of because winning a Grand Slam, that's I think everyone’s dream, but in the other way, you travel here, the conditions are different and then you have to find a way somehow.”

Rublev Clutch Against Murray

Like Kokkinakis, Murray had the better of the early chances against Rublev. Indeed, things looked promising for the 36-year-old as he tried to end a five-match skid against Top 10 opposition.

Murray rolled back the years midway in the opening set by authoring a backhand cross-court passing shot — then shook his fist. Fans on Stadium 2 jumped out of their seats in approval. But holding three straight set points on the Rublev serve at 5-4, Murray couldn’t break through.

Rublev saved the first with a forehand that only just caught the baseline, and the second through yet more commanding play. Murray understandably took matters into his own hands on his third chance but sent his backhand wide.

And on set point No. 4, Rublev ripped another forehand. Murray — 2-6 entering Indian Wells — has seen this movie before in 2024. Winning positions come, then they go.

Rublev, playing his first match since being disqualified in Dubai, cruised in the tiebreak and then in the second set. Murray, in what might have been his final appearance in the desert, waved to the spectators as he departed.

More news