Saturday, March 12, 2022 - Nick Kyrgios plays against Federico Delbonis in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Katelyn Mulcahy/BNP Paribas Open)
After an action-packed first week in the desert and we head into week two, let’s take a look at our five biggest takeaways to-date:
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR AMERICAN MEN… It’s all but an impossible task to match the Big Three Era of Federer-Nadal-Djokovic, but things are looking up for the men’s game in the U.S. There were 14 American men — Reilly Opelka, Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda, Jenson Brooksby, etc. — through to the second round in Indian Wells. Even the irascible John McEnroe was impressed. “There’s an opportunity,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve had this incredible story of these three guys, three of the best male players that I’ve ever seen. Things are going to be wide open. It’s not just going to be the obvious ones. You would presume Medvedev is going to be winning other Slams. You’re waiting for Zverev and Tsitsipas. But I think there’s an opportunity for these Americans who are making some real progress to break through. I think three or four of them are going to get to the Top 10. Whether or not they are winning Grand Slams is another question.”
COCO’S RIGHT WHERE SHE NEEDS TO BE… Coco Gauff made the teen-to-adult pivot this week in Indian Wells, celebrating her 18th birthday on March 13. “No more having my parents having to fill out my documents and stuff,” she laughed. “I really can’t believe that I’m going to be legally an adult, but my parents won’t see me as one.” The Floridian has been toting some weighty expectations all along, but has done an outstanding job tempering both her own expectations and those of others. Observed 2021 BNP Paribas Open finalist Victoria Azarenka, “Coco is one of the players who I feel like any moment is going to do some really big things. I think she’s one of the most talented players from kind of her generation. I think she’s got a pretty good head on her shoulders, which is pretty remarkable at this age. I can just see the talent that she has and the potential that she has. It’s a matter of putting it together.”
RAFA CONTINUES TO REWRITE THE RECORD BOOKS… A career-best 16-0 on the season, a 35-year-old Rafael Nadal is sure resembling the young Mallorcan who claimed his first BNP Paribas Open title back in 2007. Already the owner of an industry-best 21 Grand Slam singles titles, Nadal is chasing a record-tying 37th ATP Masters 1000 crown. Should he win his third-round matchup with Brit Daniel Evans, he would become the first player with 400 ATP Masters 1000 victories (399-83). “I’m thankful for this opportunity and thankful to my team for all the support. I’m going day by day, trying to enjoy it,” said the No. 4 seed. “The moment is an unexpected moment, to be in this position. I’ve already won three titles (Melbourne, Australian Open, Acapulco) this year, so that is amazing for me.”
NICK KYRGIOS HAS A NEW LEASE ON LIFE… He’s played just four singles matches in 2022, his one-again/off-again scheduling limiting his tour-level appearances. But Nick Kyrgios seems like a new man these days, perhaps buoyed by his performance on the doubles court alongside lifelong pal and countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis, with whom he triumphed on home turf at the Australian Open. “It’s been a couple of years, obviously, since the pandemic, just taking time off and just getting my mind and body right. My body feels as good as it’s ever felt, so I feel like I’m moving and playing really well. It’s good to be back,” said the 26-year-old wild card, still standing in the singles draw. “One day, I looked in the mirror and said ‘Look, this isn’t the kind of person I’m trying to be’ and now I’m just a completely different person. I’m just comfortable in my own skin. I’m not trying to please anyone. I’m not trying to be anyone else. I’m Nick Kyrgios.”
IGA IS COMING INTO HER OWN… Iga Swiatek has ridden a seven-match winning streak straight into the Round of 16, proving time and again that, even if she gets off to a slow start, she has what it takes to battle back. Her third-round, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-1 win over 19-year-old Dane Clara Tauson marked her fourth comeback of the year after dropping the opening set. “I’m getting pretty experienced at winning matches from one set down,” said the Pole, who after splitting with longtime coach Piotr Sierzputowski is now aligned with Tomasz Witkorowski. “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.” The athletic 2020 Roland Garros titlist has become an even more aggressive player, her sites set on more and more breakthroughs.