ATP main draw action got underway on Thursday at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, with unseeded players taking centre stage as their seeded colleagues benefit from first-round byes at the final Masters 1000 event of the season.
Here’s a look at standout first-round performances by ATP Tour competitors on Thursday in Tennis Paradise.
Tiafoe d. Paire
6-4, 6-4 in 1h 2min
Frances Tiafoe didn’t disappoint the home crowd in her primetime match-up against the mercurial Benoit Paire, dispatching the Frenchman with ease and making use of his whole toolbox of shots.
Deliberately targeting the weaker forehand wing of Paire, the 23-year-old Maryland native executed his tactics to great effect, pulling off measured shots from well behind and giving his opponent little rhythm to work with. The final score was one these two would be familiar with, as Tiafoe defeated Paire in their only other meeting by the exact same score at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in 2017.
Tiafoe sets up a mouthwatering all-American clash against 32nd seed Sebastian Korda, who is working his way back to the form that saw him surge up the ATP Rankings earlier this season to his current career-high of World No. 40.
Popyrin d. Kecmanovic
6-3, 7-6(3) in 1h 25min
In a battle of promising 22-year-olds, Australia’s Alexei Popyrin overcame a high-octane clash with Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
Both had successful junior careers before transitioning to the professional tour in 2017. Kecmanovic, a quarter-finalist at the BNP Paribas Open back in 2019, owned a 3-0 record against Popyrin at the pro level, but the 6’5” Aussie struck five aces and capitalized on both his break point opportunities to flip the script in their afternoon clash.
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Popyrin advances to play No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz in the second round, equalling his best result at the event (2019, l. to Isner).
Giron d. (Q) Van de Zandschulp
6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4 in 2h 34min
Botic van de Zandschulp was the form player to watch out for coming out of the qualifying draw at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, having rocketed up the rankings following an impressive quarter-final finish at the US Open in September. But former UCLA star Maron Giron was unfazed, confident in his tennis in the Palm Desert having reached the third round at the 2019 edition.
It was a nail-biter opening set, as Van de Zandschulp shot out to an early lead by breaking in the opening game. Giron was able to strike back in the fifth game and pushed proceedings to a tiebreak, missing out on a set point at 7-6 in the breaker to ultimately lose the set 6-7(7).
It was all Giron in the second set and, galvanized by crowd support in a busy Stadium 3, he was able to send the match into a decider. A nervy third set saw break points come and go for both players, but it was the 28-year-old American who nudged a forehand passing shot into the corner to break for *5-4 and consolidated the advantage just minutes later to claim the win.
Giron books a clash with No. 27 seed Filip Krajinovic in the second round, with top seed Daniil Medvedev looming one round later.