Sousa Stuns Fourth Seed Zverev
Portuguese player to meet 2016 runner-up Raonic
Unseeded Portuguese player Joao Sousa is fast carving out a name for himself at this year’s BNP Paribas Open as the comeback king after pulling off an upset of No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev on Sunday. Seemingly down and out when his #NextGenATP German opponent held break points for 5-1 in the deciding set, Sousa reeled off the final five games of the match to reach the fourth round.
At No. 85 in the ATP Rankings and coming into his Indian Wells campaign on a four-match losing streak, Sousa’s run came as a bolt from the blue. His 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 triumph over Zverev marked his second straight comeback of the tournament.
In the first round, Sousa had beaten Mikhail Youzhny in a final-set tie-break after being down a break in both the second and the third sets. Against Zverev he recovered from 2-5 down in the opening set and 1-4 down in the third to prevail.
Watch Hot Shot: Sousa Threads A Forehand Pass
Sousa will next face 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic in the third round after the Canadian ended countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime's fairytale run earlier on Sunday. Raonic prevailed 6-4, 6-4 in 79 minutes, launching nine aces, while turning aside three of four break points faced.
“I think generally I was consistent other than maybe those two games where I sort of just lost a little bit of discipline,” Raonic said. “But I made a lot of returns. I hit the ball well. Obviously I can be more and more aggressive, but I think that will come. I've got to put forth a good base first, which I'm starting to do and starting to serve a bit better as well. So I think the pieces are coming.
“Obviously today, this was my first match in a while and in a Masters 1000 where I want to do well. Against him, it also adds a little bit, so I'm happy how I dealt with that.”
With his back against the wall, Auger-Aliassime would not go down without a fight, producing a 0/40 opportunity with Raonic serving for the match. But a bevy of mammoth first serves from the big-hitting Canadian halted any hopes of a comeback. Raonic claimed just his second match win of the year in his comeback from a calf injury.
All dreams must come to an end, and for Auger-Aliassime it has been a week he will never forget in the California desert. At the age of 17, the budding #NextGenATP star became the first player born in the 2000s to qualify for an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event and followed that up with a first-round upset of compatriot Vasek Pospisil. He is also the youngest to win a match in Indian Wells since fellow 17-year-old Michael Chang in 1989.
“He's always had a great discipline and great work ethic," Raonic said about Auger-Aliassime. "And he's a lot further along than where I was when I was his age by light years... He's well beyond a 17-year-old physically. I don't think I got to that point physically ever as far as maturity.”
In other action, a lucky loser has reached the third round in Indian Wells for the second straight year, as Israeli veteran Dudi Sela registered a 6-4, 6-4 upset of 21st seed Kyle Edmund. The 32-year-old, who fell to Evan King in the final round of qualifying on Wednesday, is enjoying his best result in his eighth tournament appearance.
Sela will next face qualifier Marcos Baghdatis, following the Cypriot's 7-5, 6-4 dismissal of 14th seed and recent Rio de Janeiro champion Diego Schwartzman. Making his ninth appearance in Indian Wells, Baghdatis’s best result came on debut in 2006 when he reached the quarter-finals.
Baghdatis has not dropped a set in two ATP World Tour meetings against Sela, triumphing on the hard courts of Delray Beach nine years ago and also prevailing on the grass of Newport in 2016.