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Men's Third Round: Shelton Prevails In Marathon Match, Sets Up Sinner Showdown
3 Min Read · March 10, 2024

Shelton Wins A Classic, Gets Sinner Next

Late into the night in the California desert, Jannik Sinner’s coach, Darren Cahill, watched the final match of the day on Stadium 1. His charge would face the winner — and it turned out to be Ben Shelton.

The US Open semifinalist advanced 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (5) against one of the pack of young Argentine players, No. 22 seed Francisco Cerundolo. The two battled back and forth late into the night, neither giving an inch until the very end.

Shelton persevered in the first set. It was a set the lefty could have won before the tiebreak, since he led 5-2 and held a total of 10 break points. From then on, both dictated on serve.

Only one break resulted in the second and there were no break points in the third. And in the deciding tiebreak, the lone point that went against serve came at 5-5. Shelton and Sinner are tied 1-1 in their head-to-heads, with Sinner prevailing in Vienna in October. Sinner didn’t get broken on that day. Shelton will try to pull the shock upset on Wednesday in the desert.

Sweet…17 for Sensational Sinner

Wins seem like they’re automatic Jannik Sinner these days. The Italian made it 17 consecutive victories with an efficient 6-3, 6-4 display against serve-and-volleyer Jan-Lennard Struff.

Sinner only faced break points in two games but the first one in particular was important, since it marked the opening chance for either player. The Italian produced a first serve at 1-1 and the Madrid Open finalist sent a return long.

The Australian Open winner immediately broke when Struff netted a forehand volley. It was comfortable the rest of the set for him and more so in the second when he broke for 3-2 as the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year was made to lunge and missed a forehand volley long. With the match seemingly winding down, Struff had two break points at 3-4. He realistically had to take them. A 131 mph ace and another winner meant that Sinner averted the danger, though.

Make that 17 straight wins in a row for the hottest player on the ATP Tour right now.

After needing three sets to win his opening match against Matteo Arnaldi in Indian Wells as the defending champion, Carlos Alcaraz said it took him a while to get used to the nightime conditions of the desert. Playing in the day against someone who once got the better of him, the difference in Alcaraz’s performance Sunday was… almost like night and day.

The Spaniard with the all-court game beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2, 6-3 in a Stadium 1 bathed in sunshine to set up a fourth-round clash with another player who has beaten him, Fabian Marozsan.

Auger-Aliassime handed Alcaraz his first loss as a Grand Slam winner in 2022 but their tussle last year in Indian Wells proved to be a turning point in their head-to-heads. Alcaraz won in their 2023 BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal matchup 6-4, 6-4, and it was the same final straight set outcome today.

A knee injury has contributed to Auger-Aliassime’s drop in the rankings to No. 31 from a high of No. 6 in 2022. He seeks a return to those lofty heights but didn’t get the start he  hoped for against the World No. 2 on Sunday afternoon. 

Alcaraz smothered the Montrealer and broke for 3-2 in the first set. His serve often presented him the opportunities to attack early in rallies. The defense remains. Offering up a defensive lob midway in the second set, Auger-Aliassime erred on a smash and couldn’t believe it. Alcaraz broke for 1-0 in the second and Auger-Aliassime did well to keep the set close thereafter. He saved break points at 1-3 and escaped from deuce at 2-4. But Alcaraz got the second break, which happened to be the match, when Auger-Aliassime sent a forehand into the net.

Looking ahead to Marozsan, who upset him in Rome last year, Alcaraz vowed to use his “experience” and not allow the Hungarian to use his favored drop shots.

“I have more experience playing in these tournaments, especially in this one,” he said. “I will try to take this as an advantage and try to play my game.”

Tsitsipas Makes Quick Work Of Tiafoe

The last two times Frances Tiafoe faced Stefanos Tsitsipas — including at the Laver Cup — he got the better of the Greek. Tiafoe habitually plays well on big stages at home, too.

But mirroring current form, Tiafoe came up short against the two-time Grand Slam finalist, 6-3, 6-3. Tsitsipas got off to good starts in both sets, leading 3-0 in the first and 3-1 in the second. While Tiafoe slipped to 7-6 this season — and is set to slide outside the Top 20 for the first time since 2022 — Tsitsipas returns to the fourth round here for the first time since 2021. Having narrated a love letter to tennis for the ATP last year, Tsitsipas was asked what his letter to Indian Wells would be.

His reply?

“Dear Indian Wells, thanks for creating it,”  Tsitsipas, who exited in his opener in 2023, began. “You've been mean to me in the past, but I still have lots of love for you, and I'm here to make up and create good memories together. So please give me your love, give me your full support, and I'm sure I'm going to be your special one,” he added with a smile.

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