Britons Start Strong in Indian Wells

Often dubbed “The Fifth Slam”, Indian wells is always terrific fun. One of 9 Masters 1000 tournaments taking place each year, it has the biggest draw of any non-Grand-Slam tournament and is takes place in California over the course of a fortnight. All the biggest names, aside from Novak Djokovic, are present this year and ready for battle.

The first 2 rounds of the tournament have already been played and the British players have turned up and have shown they mean business. Cameron Norrie, handed a bye in Round 1, eased past Wu 6-2 6-4 in the First Round. Norrie, having recently beaten Carlos Alcaraz to win the title in Rio, is in terrific form and has won 9 of his last 10 matches. Norrie will play the conqueror of Matteo Berrettini, Taro Daniel, in the 3rd Round. Daniel came through the qualifying and through the 2 opening rounds, so is looking sharp and could present a tough challenge for Norrie.

Andy Murray has continued his strong run of form, winning his opening two rounds at Indian Wells. His first match was a typical mammoth Murray match, a 3 hour battle with Tomas Etcheverry. His second match was significantly more straightforward, a 6-4 6-3 win over Lucky Loser Radu Albot. However, Murray’s next match will be anything but straightforward as he meets a talented compatriot in Jack Draper in the 3rd Round. Draper won his opener 6-1 6-1 against the qualifier Riedi, before casting aside Dan Evans with relative ease, in a strong 6-4 6-2 win. Evans is the only Briton who looks to be struggling at the moment and is without a win in 4 matches. If this current run of form continues for Evans, he is on track to drop out of the Top 100 for the first time since his drugs ban. However, take nothing away from Draper, who was simply too strong for Evans. His level continues to improve and one wonders just how far Draper will go in the rankings.

In the past, I have been critical of Emma Raducanu at times, but there is nothing to criticise the 2021 US Open champion for this week. Raducanu has made it through to Round 3 without dropping a set so far, including an impressive 7-6 6-2 win over Magda Linette. Raducanu faces an even tougher challenge in Round 3, and will have to get past 13th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia if wants to proceed further at Indian Wells. However, even a 3rd Round exit would do wonder for Raducanu’s ranking and her confidence, as the two back-to-back victories she has already claimed would likely put her at around 75 in the World. After being a Top 10 player for much of last year, Raducanu looked close to dropping out of the Top 100 after her US Open points from 2021 were removed, so staying stable in the rankings will be a massive boost for Raducanu.

Other top players have continued to impress, with the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Iga Swiatek, Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka all progressing early on. The most notable upset so far was the exit of Australian Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was beaten by Jordan Thompson in his opening match. Tsitsipas competed well but lacked composure on the big points, losing in a final-set tiebreak.

Tsitsipas is a fantastic player, but has lost plenty of notable matches, often losing the mental battle before losing any technical or physical duels. Tsitsipas has lost 2 Grand Slam finals, both to mental giant Novak Djokovic and has been known to lose his head against top players, such as against Carlos Alcaraz in Barcelona last year and even more notably against Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon. Let’s put it this way: if you’re the one losing your head first in a match against Nick Kyrgios, something is very very wrong. But the solution could be simpler than you might think. Tsitsipas has travelled with his father Apostolos his whole career, but there have been several notable flashpoints involving Stefanos and his Apostolos, who has also drawn the ire of many other players on tour. Has the son finally outgrown his father?