Thiem Tames Tsitsipas In Opener
The World No. 6 got off to a good start to the March Masters swing in 2018, defeating #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in a back-and-forth battle 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday afternoon at Indian Wells to move into the third round. Thiem has advanced to at least the quarter-finals at four of his five tour-level tournaments this season, with his only earlier loss coming in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open (l. to Sandgren). The Austrian 24-year-old now has an ATP World Tour-leading 17 victories this season (17-3), three more than the next player on the list, Fabio Fognini (14-4).
Thiem seeks his 10th ATP World Tour title after earning trophy No. 9 last month in Buenos Aires.
The right-hander cruised through the first set and appeared he would begin his tournament much like he did last year, when he claimed his first three matches in the desert without a set going past 6-4. But a lull in his level allowed the free-swinging Tsitsipas — who also has a one-handed backhand like Thiem — to break immediately in the second set and hang on to force a decider. Thiem found his game in the third set, though, breaking twice and winning 50 per cent of return points to outlast the teenager.
Tsitsipas entered the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event of the season with one victory at this level (2017 Shanghai, d. Khachanov), but he nearly doubled that total in this tournament alone. The 19-year-old was one of four #NextGenATP teenagers to advance to the second round at Indian Wells (4-0). The Greek is in fine form despite the loss, reaching his first ATP World Tour 500-level quarter-final last week in Dubai.
Thiem will next face Pablo Cuevas, after the 30th seed outlasted Canadian teen Denis Shapovalov 7-6(4), 6-3. A hyper-aggressive Shapovalov fired 25 winners, to Cuevas' 12, but could not overcome the Uruguayan's dogged defence and persistent play from the back of the court. The South American veteran is coming off a quarter-final result in Indian Wells last year.
Cuevas and Thiem could be on a Round-of-16 collision course with No. 12 seed Tomas Berdych, who cruised past German Maximilian Marterer 6-1, 6-4 in 71 minutes. The left-hander earned a break in the second set, but the veteran Czech stormed back to clinch the match in straight sets and become the first player to move into the third round.
Berdych advances past his opener at Indian Wells for the eighth time in his past nine appearances in the desert. The Czech has made at least the quarter-finals three times at the BNP Paribas Open, with his best result coming in 2013 when he reached the semi-finals (l. to Nadal). He will clash with reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung in the third round. Berdych leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 2-0.
Australian Open semi-finalist Chung recovered from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic 6-7(9), 6-3, 6-3. The World No. 26, who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four of his five tournament appearances this year, failed to convert two set points as he lost a closely fought first-set tie-break, but rallied to reach the third round after two hours and 49 minutes.
"It was a really tough match against Dusan," admitted Chung. "He played good at the baseline, so I just tried to focus all the time. It rained a little bit, but I don’t care. It was not that hot so it’s good to play [in those conditions] than later."
The South Korean was cheered on by a packed crowd on Stadium 3, with a strong contingent of fans from his home nation waving flags in support. "I was really happy to see a lot of Korean fans out there on the court," said Chung.
Seeking his first victory over Berdych in three meetings, Chung stressed the importance of focussing on his own game as he attempts to reach the Round of 16 in Indian Wells for the first time. "I’m just trying to play my tennis and I hope [it is a] great match against Tomas (Berdych)."