Saturday, October 9, 2021 - Daniil Medvedev plays Mackenzie McDonald on day 6 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
Ready? Play. Men’s seeds kick off their BNP Paribas Open campaign on Saturday in a thrilling line-up featuring Americas top players (including several California locals), as well as some of the ATP’s next generation of top talent.
Here are the top performances of the day so far.
The top seed did as the top seed should.
World No. 2 and recent US Open champion Daniil Medvedev put on a clinical performance against Mackenzie McDonald who, despite a strong backing from a partisan Southern California crowd, was unable to trouble the unofficial king of of the unofficial serve-and-defend style.
Medvedev was an absolute wall behind the baseline, absorbing McDonald’s crisp and conventional groundstrokes with paralyzing efficiency, tempting the former UCLA standout to come into the net and burning him with passes both cross court and down the line. The Russian star was even more effective behind his own serve, winning 79 per cent of his service points and not facing a break point all match.
Up next for Medvedev is either another UCLA alumnus, Marcos Giron, or Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic. Further down the line, the top seed could face either Grigor Dimitrov in a rematch of their 2019 US Open semi-final or American No. 1 Reilly Opelka, who he defeated to lift the trophy at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Toronto.
Waving the Star-Spangled Banner as America’s top ranked men’s tennis player, Reilly Opelka put on a show for the Saturday day session crowd, showing off his surprising speed around the baseline and, of course, his world-class serve in an efficient straight-sets win over Taro Daniel of Japan.
Opelka, who at seven feet tall has poked fun at himself for being “a little bit miserable” to watch due to the shortness of the points, showed off the improved rallying ability that carried him to the National Bank Open presented by Rogers final in Toronto this August. On his services games, he was ruthlessly efficient, but on return, he attacked the weaker Daniel service delivery with hunger and finished points off at the net with measured volleys.
More than just a servebot, indeed – and one to watch this week in a wide-open men’s draw in the Palm Desert.
Crowd favorite Diego Schwartzman survived a titanic effort against qualifier Maxime Cressy in a 158-minute thriller in front of an enthusiastic Stadium 3 crowd.
Surviving in three 💪@dieschwartzman saves two match points en route to a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 win over Cressy.#BNPPO21 pic.twitter.com/odDuOpvaMe
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) October 9, 2021
It was a complete contrast in styles between 6-foot-5 Cressy and 5-foot-6 Schwartzman, with the French-born American attacking the net at every opportunity and the speedy Argentinian chasing down every ball, needing to solve his opponent’s serve-and-volley riddle with shots on the run.
Down two match points deep in the third set on Cressy’s serve, the No. 11 seed found the right returns to earn the break back. Deflated by his inability to convert on his match points, the former UCLA Bruin threw in a loose game serving to take the match to a tiebreak, handing a relieved Schwartzman the win and another two days in Tennis Paradise.