ATP

Alcaraz returns from injury with impressive Indian Wells win, reigning champion Fritz progresses

By Sports Desk March 12, 2023

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz and reigning champion Taylor Fritz both overcame challenges to progress into the third round of the Indian Wells Open on Saturday.

Alcaraz won 6-3 6-3 over Thanasi Kokkinakis in one hour and 18 minutes in his opening match of the event, which also marked his return from a fortnight out with a hamstring injury.

The Spaniard, who reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells last year, could return to the number one ranking with victory at this year's event in the absence of Novak Djokovic.

Alcaraz hit 21 winners against the 94th-ranked Australian, dropping only one point on serve in the opening frame.

Fritz went a set down against 2023 Australian Open quarter-finalist Ben Shelton but eventually prevailed 4-6 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 53 minutes.

Both players were excellent on serve throughout the contest, with Fritz earning a break in the 10th game of the second set to tie up the match, before swooping again in the sixth game of the decisive frame.

Veteran Andy Murray moved into the third round with a 6-4 6-3 win over Radu Albot, with the Briton to take on countryman Jack Draper next. Draper won 6-4 6-2 over 24th seed Daniel Evans.

Murray had been set to face 15th seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round, but he withdrew due to a muscle injury, allowing Albot into the draw as a lucky loser. Murray's win was his first in straight sets since October.

Seventh seed Holger Rune won 7-5 6-3 over American Mackenzie McDonald, progressing to face Stanislas Wawrinka after he toppled 26th seed Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6 (10-8) 6-4.

Ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz got past Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-3 6-3, setting up a third-round clash with 17th seed Tommy Paul who won 6-3 6-3 over Jan-Lennard Struff.

Eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime won 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 over Pedro Martinez, while 11th seed Jannik Sinner got past veteran Richard Gasquet 6-3 7-6 (7-2).

Last week's Mexican Open champion and 16th seed Alex de Minaur was the highest seed to be knocked out on Saturday after a 6-4 6-2 loss to Martin Fucsovics.

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    Major champion in Australia

    Sinner was crowned a grand slam champion for the first time in his career back in January, defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final after overcoming a two-set deficit in Melbourne.

    Sweeping aside Djokovic in the last four and Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals, his route to glory was far from straightforward, too.

    Aged 22 years and 165 days at the time of his Melbourne Park triumph, Sinner became the youngest-ever player to achieve successive ATP top-five wins in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of a major, surpassing Michael Stich – 22 years and 262 days at Wimbledon in 1991.

    That Medvedev victory, at the time, also marked Sinner's fourth top-five scalp of 2024.

    Since 1973, Sinner is the only fourth player aged under 23 to claim four such wins in the opening three months of a season, after Bjorn Borg (1978-79), Miloslav Mecir (1987) and Andy Murray (2007 and 2009).

    Special 2023 sets tone for this year's success

    Sinner enjoyed a remarkable campaign last year, winning his first Masters 1000 title at the Canadian Open and finishing the season by reaching the showpiece of the ATP Finals.

    He finished with a win-loss record of 64-15 in 2023, breaking the Open Era record previously held by Corrado Barazzutti (55, 1978) for most ATP match wins by an Italian in a calendar year.

    En route to the Indian Wells semi-final defeat to Alcaraz, Sinner also claimed a 19th consecutive ATP match win after overcoming Jiri Lehecka, breaking Adriano Panatta's record for the longest winning streak at ATP level of any Italian in the Open Era.

    It is hard to argue with his position at the top, too.

    Sinner became only the fifth player before turning 23 to defeat the men's world number three times in a calendar year, having overcome Alcaraz and Djokovic (twice) in a remarkable 2023 season.

    The Italian also helped his country lift the Davis Cup, though major individual honours were always around the corner for the excellent right-hander.

    The best in the world

    Australian Open successes and a fine 2023 campaign brought Sinner to his crowning moment in June as he became the first Italian to reach world number one since the ATP rankings started in 1973.

    Sinner is one of four players in the past two decades to hold the ATP's number-one ranking before the age of 23, along with Roger Federer, Nadal and Alcaraz.

    Since 2000, Sinner is also just the third male player taller than 188 centimetres to reach the summit of tennis before turning 23, along with Andy Roddick and Marat Safin.

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