From a British perspective, Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie and Andy Murray are the main focus of attention at the BNP Paribas Masters events at Indian Wells with all three having secured wins in their opening matches.
It was satisfying how I dealt with a bit of adversity after the first set and missed a few chances to get up, so it was nice to come through in a good, tough match. Dan Evans
Murray set the ball rolling two days ago and today, Sunday, will take on the fast-rising youngster from Spain, Carlos Alcaraz, seeded 30 and Rafa Nadal’s protégé, for a place in the third round where Alexander Zverev is expected to receive the winner.
Evans and Norrie progressed into the third round on Saturday having, as seeded players, received first round byes and then respectively overcame Kei Nishikori and Tennys Sandgren in three sets.
For Evans, seeded 18, the 4-6 6-3 6-4 win was very satisfying for it was the first time in eight years that the Brit has defeated the Japanese player who, prior to this meeting, led 3-1 in their win-loss record.
Currently ranked 22, the 31-year-old Evans could well break into the top 20 for the first time in his career if he continues his run but he faces the 11th seeded Diego Schwartzman next who will without doubt, provide him with a greater challenge despite the fact that the Argentine made heavy weather of his own win in defeating American qualifier Maxime Cressy 6-2 3-6 7-5.
Nishikori, a former world No.4 and US Open finalist, is currently ranked 53 and remains a serious threat wherever he is in the draw as he showed in the first set.
Evans however, used his chipping returns to good effect making his breakthrough in the sixth game of the second set and held on in the decider before gaining the initiative in the seventh game to clinch victory after nearly three hours, saving two break back points in the process.
“The heart sinks a bit when I see Kei’s name waiting to come through,” Evans said later with a smile. “The conditions don’t really bother me. I quite like it, but it was a tough draw.
“It was satisfying how I dealt with a bit of adversity after the first set and missed a few chances to get up, so it was nice to come through in a good, tough match.”
Norrie, seeded 21, who had lost out to Casper Ruud in the San Diego final last weekend, avenged his 2019 Auckland loss to the American in what was their only previous meeting, 6-4 5-7 6-0.
He looked to be cruising as he opened up 5-1 lead but then failed to convert one of three set points he held and had to dig deep to prevent Sandgren from levelling the opener.
Sandgren did keep himself in contention by taking the second set but then collapsed in the decider as Norrie raced through into the third round and a meeting with the Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut, the 15th seed who dispatched Argentina’s Guido Pella 7-5 6-3.
Speaking to Amazon Prime, Norrie admitted it had been a strange match.
“I was up 5-1, think it was 0-40, and he managed to look like he wasn’t so interested and then he was interested.
“I had a lot of chances in the second and then he came at me again. It’s good to get the first match under the belt and then I played pretty solid in the third set.
“Definitely a lot of things to work on. I don’t think I did much well today apart from fighting for every point.”
In other matches US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, the top seed, downed American Mackenzie McDonald 6-4 6-2 to progress into round three.
The Russian world number two didn’t face a break point and converted three of his seven break chances against the American to wrap things up in 72 minutes.
“I’m actually really pleased, because usually I haven’t played well in Indian Wells and I haven’t been playing that well in practices before (the tournament),” said Medvedev, who had a 3-3 win-loss match record from his prior appearances.
“Really happy with my performance,” he added. “That’s the most important no matter how I played before the tournament.
“Mackenzie is a really strong opponent, he can put pressure on everybody. I’m happy to be through quite fast.”
Next up for Medvedev is the Serbian Filip Krajinovic, the 27th seed, who defeated Marcos Giron of the US 7-6 (7-2) 7-5
The eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz eliminated Aussie Alexei Popyrin 6-1 7-5 who fought back strongly in the second set, breaking the Pole when he was attempting to serve out for the match at 5-4 but was unable to make a recovery.
Hurkacz will face Frances Tiafoe in the round of 32 after the American dispatched compatriot Sebastian Korda 6-0 6-4.
More success for the host nation thanks to Reilly Opelka as the16th-seed blasted 11 aces in a 7-5 6-3 win over Japan’s Taro Daniel to reach the third round.
Canadian Vasek Pospisil was forced to retire in his first set against compatriot Denis Shapovalov, the ninth seed, while Norwegian sixth seed Casper Ruud, last week’s San Diego champion, made quick work of Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1 6-2.