Monday, March 14, 2022 - Rafael Nadal in the tunnel before a match against Dan Evans in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Katelyn Mulcahy/BNP Paribas Open)
Rafael Nadal continues to put up some historic numbers.
On Monday afternoon at the BNP Paribas Open, the record 21-time Grand Slam titlist became the first player to win 400 ATP Masters 1000 matches, defeating 27th seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain, 7-5, 6-3. In doing so, the Spaniard extended his career-best season start to a perfect 17-0, and is now tied with Pete Sampras (1997) and Roger Federer (2018) for third best overall in the Open Era.
“I’m happy to be through,” said the 35-year-old Mallorcan. “The match didn’t start the way I wanted, but I was able to hit some good passing shots in key moments. Then I started to play a little bit better. I need to keep improving, of course, but there was a small improvement today. That’s important because the next round is going to be a very difficult one. I need to be ready for it.”
Nadal moves on to face 17th seed Reilly Opelka of the U.S., a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 winner over 13th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada.
“I’m expecting the highest level there can be out there,” said Opelka of his Round-of-16 matchup. “It’s the toughest challenge in the game. It’s him, Novak, Roger and Murray, the four guys who we’ve seen play for so long. They’re the four best to ever play. It’s not the Big Three; it’s the Big Four.”
Monfils Stuns No. 1 Medvedev
Frenchman Gael Monfils is into the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open for the fifth time in six years after pulling off a stunning, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 upset of top seed and world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev.
“It’s always special to beat a world No. 1,” said Monfils. “I moved great. I’m still trying to get to 100 percent, but I’m working out every day. I struck the ball very good. I’m full of confidence now. I’ll try to keep that flowing.”
It marked the second win of his career over a No. 1-ranked opponent, the other coming against then-top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the Doha quarterfinals in 2009. Medvedev needed to reach the quarterfinals in order to retain No. 1, and will be leapfrogged by Novak Djokovic when the new rankings are released on March 21.
The No. 26 seed Monfils captured his 11th tour-level title in Adelaide in January. In his first match in Indian Wells, the Frenchman overcame Serbian Filip Krajinovic to score his first win since losing a five-setter to Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Monfils’ fourth-round opponent will be 18-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz, who took down countryman Roberto Bautista Agut, the No. 15 seed, 6-2, 6-0, in just 66 minutes.
The first-time encounter saw Alcaraz open each set with service breaks, outpunching his 33-year-old opponent with an imposing, physical brand of tennis that has repeatedly drawn comparisons to another Spaniard, the 21-time Grand Slam champion Nadal. He surrendered just four first-serve points (23 for 27) and saved the only break point he faced.
His five-set 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5) upset of Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2021 US Open aside, Alcaraz said it was the best match — start to finish — that he’s ever played.
Alcaraz improved to 9-1 on the year, having become the youngest ATP 500 champion last month in Rio de Janeiro. His only loss of the season came in five sets to Italian Matteo Berrettini in the third round of the Australian Open. He has now matched his best ATP Masters 1000 result by reaching the Round of 16 in the desert.
Looking ahead at his next challenge, Alcaraz said, “Gael is playing very well. He’s a really, really tough player. He has good speed. He runs a lot. He’s really fast. He has great shots. It’s going to be a really tough match, but a fun, a fun match, as well.”
“It’s going to be a tough match,” countered Monfils. “He’s full of confidence, young, hitting big. I just have to play my game and try to find a solution. I’ve never played him, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Brooksby Battles Back, Overcomes Tsitsipas
There was another upset in store in Stadium 1, where 21-year-old American Jenson Brooksby scored the very biggest win of his young career, stunning No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, for his first first-ever Top-10 victory.
“I’m really excited. It’s my favorite tournament. I grew up here,” said Brooksby, a Sacramento native. “This is the tournament I watched when I was a kid. It means a lot. I’m still making good strides from last year and continuing to improve. I’m just excited to keep it going and see what I can do.”
“He’s not a very explosive player, but he’s able to get balls back,” said Tsitsipas, who fell to 15-6 on the year. “He’s not the most athletic player, as well. He’s just able to read the game well, play with his pace, play with the opponent’s pace. He’s able to read the game well and stay consistent. There’s nothing that he has that kills, I would say.”
Brooksby will next go up against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who overcame Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, in a rematch of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open final.
The final upset of the night came with wild card Nick Kyrgios‘ 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 8 seed Casper Ruud. The Australian, ranked No. 132, is back in the Round of 16 in Indian Wells for the first time since 2017.