BEAUTY WILL SAVE THE WORLD: Indian Wells has the best sunsets on the tour, and some of the best weather. But last year Carlos Alcaraz and Rafa Nadal endured a sandstorm, and today rain delayed play for 90 minutes.
A SMILE CAN CONQUER THE WORLD: Best smile in the ATP: Hubie Hurkacz. Best smile in the WTA: Aryna Sabalenka…After the often stern Sofia Kenin beat Sloane Stephens, the Tennis Channel noted, “There’s that beautiful smile! It took an hour and 21 minutes but we finally got it!”
THE MAN WITH TWO FIRST NAMES: Players with two first names, like LeBron James, Tom Brady and Chris Paul, have long made headlines in sports. And there are plenty of cultural icons who also have two first names: Bob Dylan and Paul Simon come to mind. In tennis, Tommy Paul just had a great run at the Australian Open, Shelby Rogers won her first-round match here at Indian Wells, Taylor Fritz is the Indian Wells defending champ and Todd Martin headed the International Tennis Hall of Fame. And the list of tennis players with two first names goes back to Fred Perry and includes Jack Kramer, Cliff and Nancy Richey, Roger Taylor, Matt Mitchell and ump Norm Chryst, among others.
Today, if we can claim that Jordan Thompson has two first names, it was his turn to excel. The Aussie backed up his first-round victory over the charismatic Frenchman Gael Monfils with a win over another colorful Euro, Stefanos Tsitsipas. Thompson, a 28-year-old veteran ranked No. 87, scored his first top ten win in six years as he beat the No. 2 seed.
Two days ago Stefanos said that due to his shoulder injury he’s never practiced so little for a tournament, and he didn’t expect to go far at Indian Wells or the Miami Open. In today’s deciding tiebreak, Tsitsipas lost an early lead and flubbed two key forehands. Ironically, on Wednesday, when Inside Tennis asked him what would be the one thing he would want to change in tennis, he said he would get rid of the tiebreak in deciding sets.
LIP SERVICE: Jordan Thompson’s distinctive mustache draws many a locker room commentary. Our favorite: “There’s a caterpillar on your lip.”
BALLSY COMMENTARY: When we asked Thompson what the essence of the Australian tennis tradition is, the Sydney resident responded, “Every Aussie wants to do Australia proud. We can all go nuts sometimes, but the majority of times we are trying our balls off.”
GO FIGURE: If he wins Indian Wells, US Open champ Carlos Alcaraz would regain his No. 1 ranking…An American woman hasn’t won an Indian Wells title since Serena in 2001…Daniil Medvedev said Indian Wells’ surface was so slow it played like clay…Mary Jo Fernandez suggested Coco Gauff take six to eight months off the tour to work on her forehand.
TEARS FLOWED: Ukrainian fans wept when Lesia Tsurenko, the 33-year-old Ukrainian qualifier from their embattled homeland, downed No. 23 Donna Vekic to win her fourth straight Indian Wells match. Afterwards Donna refused to shake Lesia’s hand. Last week Vekic won the WTA title in Monterrey, Mexico, where Tsurenko defaulted when she was down 5-0 to Vekic in the second set. Today, fans were not pleased with the Vekic’s snub. One Twitter critic wrote, “Backstory doesn’t matter, Vekic should have shaken Tsurenko’s hand. Very poor sportsmanship.”
In a curious twist, Lesia will now play Aryna Sabalenka, the leading player from Belarus, Putin’s key ally. Sabalenka told the Tennis Channel, “It’s going to be a very interesting match.”
JUST WONDERING: With the collapse of the Davis Cup’s $3 billion deal with the Kosmos investment group, what will be the future of the Davis Cup?…Will the $150 million investment in the WTA by the European equity group CVC be a huge boost to women’s tennis, and how will it impact policies? CVC now owns 20% of the WTA.
RAFA OR NOVAK? When Inside Tennis asked Casper Ruud, “Who is better from the baseline, Rafa on a clay court or Novak on a hard court?” the Norwegian recalled that Nadal beat him in straight sets in his first Grand Slam final. He said he didn’t want to take anything away from Nadal, but then added, “Rafa on clay has been the one that made me feel clueless…and chanceless. It was really a one-way show.
“Every point is being thrown at you with an incredible amount of topspin. Rafa just locks you in one corner. You feel like you’re on his home ground and in his backyard.”
STILL IN LIMBO: Due to post-Peng Shuai uncertainties relating to China, the WTA hasn’t set its year-end schedule.
CAN KENIN DO IT? In a battle of past Slam champs, Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Aussie Open winner, downed the mercurial veteran Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner. Kenin, who once was No. 4 and now is No. 174, will next play Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
PEYTON’S PLACE: Two former NCAA champions, Texan Peyton Stearns and Florida’s Ben Shelton, won their opening round matches. A year ago, Shelton was on Florida’s team playing against Kentucky and was ranked No. 551. Yesterday the 20-year-old, who’s now No. 41, beat Italian Fabio Fognini and confidently said, “I feel I belong.” Saturday he’ll play Taylor Fritz.
A GREEK TRAGEDY – NOT: Greeks were not feeling great at Indian Wellls. Their man had lost to Thompson and Maria Sakkari followed him on Stadium 1 and was losing to Shelby Rogers. Maria had lost all three of their previous meetings. But Sakkari came from behind to win in three sets. Court announcer Andrew Krasny told last year’s finalist, “You turned a sad day for Greece into a very happy day for Greece. It’s not a complete Greek tragedy, that’s for sure.”
“The new era of tennis is here.” – BNP Paribas Tournament Director Tommy Haas
“I have a target on my back a little bit.” – Iga Swiatek
“That is one gritty Australian out there.” – Paul Annacone on Jordan Thompson
“Some matches I haven’t deserved to win.” – Andy Murray on his streak of winning seven straight three-set matches