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Best Moments From Round 2: Comebacks Galore At The Indian Wells Tennis Garden
3 Min Read · March 9, 2024

Saturday’s action is just about over at the BNP Paribas Open, so it’s time for our second round awards honoring the most memorable moments.

Top Match: Sabalenka vs Stearns

Aryna Sabalenka needed to pull out all the stops — and overcome a lower leg injury — to down former NCAA singles champ Peyton Stearns in three hours, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (8).

Sabalenka saved four match points, including three straight on the Stearns serve at 5-4 in the third. Stearns’ forehand lit up the desert sky, yet the two-time Grand Slam winner had the last say.

“I'm super happy that I didn't give up on that score, and I was really pushing myself hard, even though I didn't play my best tennis and she was crushing it like crazy,” said Sabalenka. “I was just like trying to stay in the game and keep fighting for every point.

“But this match definitely goes into the book of craziest matches and the best matches of my career.”

Best Returner

Novak Djokovic is widely regarded as one of the top returners in tennis history, so it’s no surprise that the 24-time Grand Slam champion wins this category.


A stat in his three-set opening win over Aleksandar Vukic showed how difficult it was for the Australian to notch points when forced to hit a second serve: Vukic won 27% of those second-serve points, with not much deviation in each set (29-25-29).

In his first Indian Wells since 2019, the World No. 1 plays lucky-loser Luca Nardi in the third round.

Biggest Comeback, Part I

Jan-Lennard Struff can’t seem to stop playing dramatic matches in 2024. The No. 25 seed with the booming serve added to the catalog by saving three match points in a final set tiebreak to beat Borna Coric 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (9) in nearly three hours. 

Coric might rue two of the three in particular. On the first one, he bossed the point before sending a forehand long. Then on the third one, with time on a second-serve return, the Croatian put his forehand into the net. 

Germany’s Struff clinched the affair with a volley winner to set up a contest with Jannik Sinner

Biggest Comeback, Part II

Madison Keys had lost her last two matches in Indian Wells and barely avoided a three-match skid. 

The former US Open finalist saved a pair of match points herself in a nail-biter against qualifier Hailey Baptiste before finally edging it 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4).

Both match points came at 5-4 in the third set on the Keys serve. Solid play from Keys saw Baptiste err on a forehand on the first one. On the second one, Keys moved forward — not a tactic she often employs — and finished with a backhand volley winner.

Keys, who reached her lone quarterfinal in Indian Wells in 2022, next encounters Yulia Putintseva

Honorable mention in this category has to go to Coco Gauff. While Gauff didn’t save any match points, the soon-to-be 20-year-old trailed Clara Burel 4-0 in the third set.

Biggest Upset (involving a former champ!)

Caroline Dolehide’s career arc bended favorably after reaching the final of the Guadalajara 1000 last September.

But the power hitter lost five straight matches before Indian Wells.

Victoria Azarenka, meanwhile, only lost her opening match in the desert once in her last seven visits — though it was last season. The two-time champion almost rallied in the final set, pulling from 1-5 to 3-5 and holding two game points in the last game. The Illinois native ultimately prevailed 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.

Biggest Number Cruncher

What a start to the season for Anna Kalinskaya. She reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open, then made the final of the 1000 event in Dubai — where she lost to Jasmine Paolini, her opponent Sunday — to help her ranking rise from No. 80 to 25.

To get to the third round, Kalinskaya edged Taylor Townsend, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. There were some noteworthy numbers: Kalinskaya hit 10 double faults but also manufactured 19 break points. 

Best Quote

Sinner beat the big-serving Thanasi Kokkinakis in straight sets to extend his winning streak to 16. 

Afterwards, the recent Australian Open winner was asked in his press conference if he knew about his winning streak. The Italian’s response brought a smile to his face — as well as to onlooking reporters.

“Yeah, because they tell me all the time.”

Third round action at the 2024 BNP Paribas Open begins Sunday. To view the order of play for Round 3, Day 1, click below:

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