Saturday, March 12, 2022 - Rafael Nadal plays against Sebastian Korda in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
Rafael Nadal’s career-best, unbeaten start to the 2022 season remains intact.
On a sun-splashed afternoon at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the Spaniard improved to a spotless 16-0 on the year, holding off an inspired challenge from 21-year-old American Sebastian Korda, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(3), to reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Nadal improved to 2-0 against Korda, having also claimed a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 decision in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros in 2020.
“I was very lucky today, because I probably played one of the worst matches of the year,” said Nadal, who’s seeking a record-tying 37th ATP Masters 1000 title. “He played well, very aggressive. His ball was very difficult to control. I didn’t serve well. He was able to put too much pressure on the return. I wasn’t able to damage him with my forehand at all. But it’s one of those days when things are going the proper way, like the beginning of this season, sometimes you win matches like this. I feel sorry for him, because he probably deserved the match more than me.”
Korda would serve for the match at 5-2 and 5-4 in the third set, only to watch the three-time champion Nadal force a winner-take-all tiebreaker.
“He made some mistakes,” said Nadal. “He missed more than usual. I’m just happy to advance, but I need to improve.”
“I have a really big game. Now I just kind of got to use the momentum that I built here and keep working hard and just try and break that barrier of beating the top-level players, and hopefully just keep on going,” countered Korda.
Korda knew good and well what he was up against. He had practiced with Nadal on the same Stadium 1 court before the draw was revealed.
“Every single time we practice, he kind of destroys me a little bit,” said Korda with a laugh. “Every single time I practice with him or play with him, I feel I’m getting better and better. It’s progress. He’s one of the greatest players of all time right now. He’s super hot, hasn’t lost a match this year. To kind of push him to the edge was awesome. Shows a lot of my game, how dangerous it can be against tough opponents.”
“He’ll always be my idol in tennis,” Korda added. “He’ll be one of the reasons why I picked up a tennis racquet.”
Nadal is now a win away from becoming the first player with 400 ATP Masters 1000 victories (399-83).
Taking the court for the first time as the World No. 1, top seed Daniil Medvedev eased into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 21-year-old Czech qualifier Tomas MacHac.
Medvedev must reach the quarterfinals to prevent Novak Djokovic from reclaiming the No. 1 ranking.
Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, who earlier this year captured the Rio de Janeiro title to become youngest ATP 500 champion in series history (18), notched his first career win at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden via a 6-3, 6-3 dismissal of former UCLA standout Mackenzie McDonald. The JC Ferrero-coached baseliner capitalized on five of nine break-point opportunities in the one-hour, 35-minute win.
Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie took his first step toward defending his 2021 title by ousting Spain’s Pedro Martinez, 6-3, 6-3.
No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece held off American Jack Sock, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(5); No. 8 seed Casper Ruud of Norway ended qualifier Christopher Eubanks‘ run, 7-6(5); 6-2, and No. 13 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada topped Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Elsewhere on Saturday, 27th seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain raced past Argentine Federico Coria, 6-2, 6-0, in 67 minutes, and 17th seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S. advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 decision over Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti. Also moving on were: France’s Gael Monfils (def. Filip Krajinovic, 6-4, 6-4), 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain (def. JJ Wolf, 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-6(5)), France’s Benjamin Bonzi (def. Lorenzao Sonego, 6-3, 6-4), and American Jenson Brooksby (def. Karen Khachanov, 6-0, 6-3).