Andy Murray and Jack Draper registered convincing victories in the Californian sunshine to reach the third round of the Indian Wells Masters on the day that top seeded Carlos Alcaraz got his own challenge under way following an opening round bye.
Playing Dan is a really tough challenge, I think he is one of the best competitors on the tour and he has an awkward style. I knew that coming in and knew he wouldn't want to lose to me Jack Draper
And, depending on their respective third round results, the Spanish teenager could face one of the Briton’s in the fourth!
But first the two Brits have to resolve which one of them it could have that opportunity with Draper having drawn the short straw to face compatriots so early on.
The 21-year-old Londoner defeated the 24th seeded British No.2 from Birmingham, Dan Evans, 35, in straight sets a feat also achieved by the 35-year-old Scot Murray, when he downed Moldova’s Radu Albot.
In very convincing and comfortable victories, Draper won 6-4 6-2 while Murray scored a 6-4 6-3 triumph in what proved to be his first straight sets win in his eight triumphs this season.
On the day Evans was unable to find an answer to Draper’s powerful serving while the youngster was able to make the most of his opportunities converting four break points from the 10 which came his way while Evans could only manage one successful conversion.
In what was their first match Draper broke his compatriot in his first two service games and his last two to secure his victory on the two-hour mark.
“Playing Dan is a really tough challenge, I think he is one of the best competitors on the tour and he has an awkward style. I knew that coming in and knew he wouldn’t want to lose to me,” Draper on securing his third-round place.
Murray, meanwhile, was expecting to face the 15h seeded Pablo Carreno Busta but the Spaniard was forced to withdraw with a muscle strain promoting Albot to replace his as a Lucky Loser.
Having got over the problem of reassessing his game plan, he produced an excellent performance to oust the 109th ranked Moldovian after one-hour and 42-minutes, a relief no doubt, considering the marathon matches he has gone through at the Australian Open and Qatar.
“Maybe wasn’t as well prepared. I’d gone over my strategy and everything with my team to play Carreno Busta and then found out late last night the change of opponent.” the former World No. 1 said during the post-match press conference.
The three-time Grand Slam champion also noted that the conditions were tricky, and expressed delight at having found a way through
“It was quite tricky conditions at the beginning, very windy. But I did well in the end to get through,” he added.
“It has been a long time [since winning a match in straight sets], I’ve had a lot of brutal matches since then,” he continued.
“Probably some of them I could have finished sooner and probably a bunch a matches I could have lost as well. It was nice to get through this one.”
With Murray currently ranked 55 and Draper one place below him, the 14-year generational gap in what will be their first meeting on Monday, should be intriguing,
In other action Alcaraz powered past Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 6-3 and progress as expected.
The Spaniard, ranked number two in the world, didn’t face a break point as he launched his bid for a third Masters title which would also elevate him back into the top spot.
He needed just 76-minute to get past Kokkinakis, ranked 94th in the world, and line up a meeting with Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, seeded at 31 seed who beat Argentina’s Guido Pella 7-6(3) 7-6(4).
Alcaraz, whose US Open triumph last year saw him become the youngest ever world number one, missed the Australian Open after an abdominal tear in late 2022 and then a hamstring injury side-lined him for four months.
He returned last month to win the title in Buenos Aires before falling in the final to Cameron Norrie in Rio de Janeiro, where he was again hindered by a hamstring strain that prompted him to pull out of the ATP tournament in Acapulco.
There was no sign of the injury on Saturday, when he dropped just one point on his serve in the opening set.
Defending champion Taylor Fritz came from a set down to beat fellow American Ben Shelton – the fast-rising 20-year-old who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals – in a 4-6 6-4 6-3 triumph.
However there was disappointment for Miomir Kecmanovic (the 26th seed), Lorenzo Musetti (19), Alex de Minaur (16), and Borna Coric(18) who were all eliminated in their opening matches.