As we get into the business end of the 2022 BNP Paribas Open, we take an in-depth look at five blockbuster matchups to watch for a thrilling Tuesday on tap in Tennis Paradise:
• If this one lives up to the first Tiafoe-Rublev encounter — a third-round clash at the 2021 US Open won by the American in five sets, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-1 — we’re in for a real treat. Tiafoe is among a group of seven U.S. hopefuls into the third round in Indian Wells, the most since the ATP masters 1000 event went to a 96-player draw in 2004. Last year, the Maryland native, into R3 for the second year in a row, posted a career-best 33 victories, including a dismissal of then-No. 3-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the Vienna final. Rublev is off to a strong start in 2022, with Rafael Nadal one of only two multi-titlists on the year. The 24-year-old won back-to-back trophies in Marseille and Dubai for ninth and 10th titles of his career.
• Three years removed from her runner-up showing at the BNP Paribas Open (l. to Bianca Andreescu, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4), Germany’s Angelique Kerber is again playing with confidence and striking the ball authoritatively. The three-time major titlist finds herself matched up against another former Grand Slam champion, 2020 Roland Garros winner Iga Swiatek, a first-time meeting with a trip to the quarterfinals in the balance. Swiatek, 20, has rallied from a set down in consecutive matches against Anhelina Kalinina and Clara Tauson. “I’m getting pretty experienced at winning matches from one set down. I’m really happy about that because in previous years I’ve been struggling with confidence after I loss the first set. Right now, I’m just finding solutions,” she said.
• American Tommy Paul is riding high after a three-set, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) takedown of No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, his second straight dismissal of the German. He’s developed a knack for upsets at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, having stunned Rublev last year in the third round. The athletic 24-year-old is playing loose and going for his shots, and the results are paying off. Ranked a career-high No. 39, he’s been in the spotlight since capturing the Roland Garros junior title in 2015. Paul will have his hands full against his next opponent, Alex de Minaur, one of the tour’s best battlers. The 23-year-old arrived in the Southern California desert on the heels of Australia’s 3-2 Davis Cup triumph over Hungary.
• Into the Round of 16 for only the second time, American Madison Keys will look to make the most of her opportunity against qualifier Harriet Dart of Great Britain, who’s been inching ever closer to the Top 100. This is a rematch of their third-round meeting earlier this year in Melbourne, won by Keys, 6-3, 7-6(2). “At this point, she’s won almost a tournament worth of matches,” said Keys, 27, of her next opponent. “I think she’s going to be really confident. Just doing whatever she can to win, has no pressure. I think she’s a really great player. She’s a really good ball-striker. She moves well. I think this court suits her game fairly well.”
• Grigor Dimitrov looks poised for a second consecutive trip to the BNP Paribas Open semifinals. But as the athletic Bulgarian knows good and well, there are no gimmes in this sport. To again reach the final four in the desert, he’ll first have to get past tricky Kazakh Alexander Bublik, who last month claimed his maiden ATP title at the Open Sud de France. The 31st seed is known to cause opponents fits with his unorthodox game. Last year, the 6-foot-5 Bublik charted a personal-best 35 victories, and has beaten the likes of Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud. On Sunday, he dismissed former No. 1 Andy Murray in straight sets, 7-6(9), 6-3.