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Preview: Alcaraz Starts No. 1 Quest, Fritz Faces Shelton In Indian Wells

Auger-Aliassime, Rune & Murray in action
March 10, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells last season.
Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Carlos Alcaraz reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells last season. By ATP Staff

The seeded stars in the top half of the BNP Paribas Open will kick off their campaigns Saturday, when Carlos Alcaraz, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime will be in action.

Top seed Alcaraz plays Australian qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis and defending champion Fritz takes on #NextGenATP American Ben Shelton. Canadian Auger-Aliassime will start the quest for his first title of the year against Pedro Martinez.

Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner will also take to court in Indian Wells, where Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka look to build on their first-round wins. runs through some of the key second-round matchups on show.

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[1] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)

Last year, Alcaraz arrived at the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the season No. 19 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The Spaniard reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells on debut, before going on to earn Masters 1000 crowns in Miami and Madrid and his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open.

The 19-year-old returns this week as World No. 2, but will return to top spot for the first time since January if he wins the title.

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"It's a really good goal for me," Alcaraz said when discussing his No. 1 aims. "Of course playing a Masters 1000 is always tough and I really want to have a good result here. I love this tournament as well. For me, winning the tournament and being No. 1 again is a really good goal and I really want to go for it."

Alcaraz is chasing his second title of the season this fortnight, having triumphed in Buenos Aires. He will open against Kokkinakis in California in what will be the first ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair. The Australian Kokkinakis, currently No. 94 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, defeated Brandon Holt to reach the second round at a Masters 1000 for the first time since he advanced to the fourth round in Miami last season.

[4] Taylor Fritz (USA) vs. Ben Shelton (USA)

Two of the United States' most exciting talents face off on home soil Saturday, when fourth seed Fritz takes on the rapidly ascending Shelton. The 25-year-old Fritz, who grew up in California, captured the biggest title of his career last year when he lifted the trophy in Indian Wells, defeating Rafael Nadal in the final despite suffering an ankle injury in the warm-up.

“Ranking-wise it was massive getting 1000 points and it gave me a lot of confidence,” Fritz said when reflecting on last year’s title run. “I came into the year with a lot of confidence, so I felt it reaffirmed that everything was moving in the right direction and it set me up to reach a career-high ranking.”

Since that triumph, World No. 5 Fritz has tasted more success on Tour, winning the United Cup as part of Team USA in January and tour-level titles in Eastbourne, Tokyo and Delray Beach.

As early tests go, they don’t get much harder than Shelton, though. The 20-year-old, currently No. 39 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, soared to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January, before he defeated Fabio Fognini in straight sets on Thursday to earn victory on his Indian Wells debut.

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[8] (CAN) Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Pedro Martinez (ESP)

Auger-Aliassime has not enjoyed the best start to the season and he holds an 8-5 record entering Indian Wells. The Canadian was one of the star performers on the ATP Tour last year, though, winning four titles and he will be eager to return to his best level this week in California.

“It comes with just preparing yourself the right way,” Auger-Aliassime said when discussing his aim to peak for Indian Wells. “Scheduling your tournaments and practices in a way that ‘OK, I don’t want to come to this tournament and win a few matches, I want to be able to come and go all the way and win the final match.’ So I think it comes by preparing for that and visualising for that, so everyone around you is on board.”

The eighth-seeded Canadian has lost in the second round in three of his four previous appearances at the hard-court event, so will be looking to improve on that record when he takes on Spaniard Pedro Martinez in their first ATP Head2Head meeting.

Also In Action…

Young guns Rune and Sinner are both competing for the third time in Indian Wells and arrive in good form. Seventh seed Rune, seeking his second ATP Masters 1000 title after winning in Paris last year, enjoyed a run to the semi-finals in Acapulco last week, while Sinner captured the crown in Montpellier in February.

The 19-year-old Dane Rune plays Mackenzie McDonald, with 11th-seeded Italian Sinner taking on Richard Gasquet.

Murray and Wawrinka have made a combined 27 appearances at the ATP Masters 1000 event, with former World No. 1 Murray reaching the final in 2009 and former World No. 3 Wawrinka advancing to the championship match in 2017.

Both rolled back the years with three-set first-round wins in California as Murray defeated Tomas Martin Etcheverry and Wawrinka beat Aleksandar Vukic. They will look to continue their runs when they face Pablo Carreno Busta and Miomir Kecmanovic, respectively.

Home hope Tommy Paul, No. 19 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, takes on Jan-Lennard Struff and ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz plays Alexei Popyrin.

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