Sunday, October 10, 2021 - Andy Murray plays Carlos Alcaraz on day 7 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
For a guy who hasn’t played on these courts in four years, Andy Murray is sure looking comfortable at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
On Sunday afternoon in Stadium 2, the former No. 1 and 2009 runner-up moved into the third round of the BNP Paribas Open with a three-hour 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz.
“He’s obviously got so much potential, so much firepower,” said Murray, 34, who is back into the third round in Indian Wells for the first time since 2016. “In these conditions, it’s not easy to finish off points quickly. He’s able to because he’s got so much pace from the back of the court. I had to fight extremely hard coming back from a set down.”
Alcaraz got off to a nervy start in the midday heat of Stadium 2, a pair of double faults leading to an early service break and a 3-0 deficit. But the Spaniard soon found his form, mixing in well-timed drop shots with his powerful groundstrokes. Leveled at 5-all, he broke Murray at love with a crosscourt backhand winner, then consolidated for the set.
Murray, a three-time major titlist, did his best to neutralize his young foe, even employing the underhand serve in the second set. His tactics worked, as he broke for 4-2 and would subsequently force a decider. He broke Alcaraz to open the third and never trailed thereafter.
Alcaraz, tutored by another former No. 1, countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero, was making his tournament debut at a career-high No. 38, the youngest player in the Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Last month, he introduced himself to the tennis world at large at the US Open, stunning World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his first major quarterfinal.
“I feel I can still compete at the top of the game regardless of how many people tell me to stop,” said Murray. “To play in front of a pretty packed crowd here at this event — it was a brilliant atmosphere. I enjoyed it. It’s why I’m still playing.”
Italy was in the spotlight on Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden: 5th seed Matteo Berrettini bested Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo, 6-4, 7-5; 10th seed Jannik Sinner defeated Australia’s John Millman, 6-2, 6-2; and 25th seed Fabio Fognini outlasted Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Italians Lorenzo Sonego and Gianluca Mager weren’t as fortunate. Sonego fell to South African Kevin Anderson in a pair of tiebreaks, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), Mager to Frenchman Gael Monfils, 6-4, 6-2.
No. 31 seed Taylor Fritz prevailed in the all-California showdown with Brandon Nakashima in Stadium 3, improving to 2-0 against his countryman, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 20 minutes. Fritz set up an intriguing third-round tussle with Berrettini, whom he defeated in Davis Cup play in 2019 in their only other meeting.
No. 2 seed Tsitsipas booked a third-round face-off with Fognini via a 6-2, 6-4 win over Spaniard Pedro Martinez. He’s an unbeaten 2-0 against the Italian.
Californian Jenson Brooksby put up a fight against No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, but ultimately came up short, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Also posting wins were: 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain (def. Emilio Gomez, 6-1, 6-4), 13th seed Cristian Garin of Chile (def. Ernesto Escobedo, 7-5, 6-2), and 22nd seed Alex De Minaur of Australia (def. Aleksandar Vukic, 6-4, 7-5).