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When Behind On Serve, Few Escape From Alcaraz

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2022

When Behind On Serve, Few Escape From Alcaraz

Spaniard tops several key breaking-serve metrics

Few doubted Carlos Alcaraz would force his way to the top of the men’s game. But the pace of his progress – and rise inside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings – continues to surprise to the upside.

And the 18-year-old Spaniard is already building a case to be known as one of the game’s best returners, especially in the key metric of breaking serve.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of breaking serve from specific point scores from 2015-2022 identifies that Alcaraz is already leading the Tour in several key categories that highlight his penchant for breaking serve. The data set includes players who have played 30 or more matches from the 2015 season up to Indian Wells in 2022.

Breaking From 0/15
1. C. Alcaraz = 51.8%
2. R. Nadal = 51.2%
3. D. Schwartzman = 50.0%

Alcaraz is one of only three players who is statistically favoured to win the game as the returner after winning just the opening point of the game. It’s a stunning statistic, especially considering that the Tour average sits at just 38.4 per cent. Alcaraz, Nadal and Schwartzman are the only three players to sit above 50 per cent in this specific match metric.

Breaking From 0/30
1. C. Alcaraz = 77.8%
2. R. Nadal = 72.9%
3. D. Schwartzman = 69.0%

When Alcaraz wins the first two points returning, he goes on to break serve more than three out of four times. He is the only player on tour to sit above the 75 percentile threshold (77.8%) breaking serve from 0/30. The Tour average, at just 59.4 per cent, is far below Alcaraz’s lofty number.

Breaking From 30/30
1. C. Alcaraz = 38.5%
2. R. Nadal = 38.3%
3. D. Schwartzman = 36.9%

Alcaraz narrowly edged Nadal breaking from 30/30 at 38.5 per cent. He also sits more than 10 percentage points above the Tour average at 27.8 per cent.

Breaking From 15/30
1. R. Nadal = 58.7
2. C. Alcaraz = 57.8%
3. D. Schwartzman = 55.1%

The Tour average for breaking from 15/30 is 45.2 per cent. Alcaraz sits second in this category at a lofty 57.8 per cent, which is less than one percentage point behind Nadal. When Alcaraz gets his teeth into a return game, he is very efficient at closing it out.

Breaking From 15/40
1. R. Nadal = 80.6%
2. C. Alcaraz = 80.3%
3. M. Kecmanovic = 80.3%

This is another clear example of Alcaraz finishing what he started. When he reached 15/40, he broke 80.3 per cent of the time, which is almost exactly the same as Nadal (80.6%), and well above the Tour average of 72.4 per cent.

Breaking From Deuce
1. R. Nadal = 40.5%
2. C. Alcaraz = 40.3%
3. S. Korda = 38.1%

Alcaraz (40.3%) and Nadal (40.5%) are once again neck-and-neck in this return statistic, significantly outperforming the Tour average of breaking from deuce at 28.7 per cent. It turns out the server only enjoys a 60-40 advantage serving at Deuce against these two Spaniards.

At just 18 years of age, Alcaraz is just beginning to build his statistical resume on tour. The fact that he is so often mentioned in the same breath as Nadal when returning serve – and sometimes superior to him – speaks volumes to his prowess on the return side of the equation.

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ATP Legacy: Chang Reflects On Historic Sunshine Double

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2022

ATP Legacy: Chang Reflects On Historic Sunshine Double

Former World No. 2 won titles in Indian Wells and Miami in 1992

In 1989, Michael Chang won the first and only major tournament of his career, Roland Garros. Three years later, the pride of Hoboken, N.J., did something that may have been even more difficult: He won the coveted Sunshine Double, taking the titles in both Indian Wells and Miami.

“Coming into Indian Wells [in 1992], I was actually not playing that well,” Chang told ATP Uncovered. “So really, just kind of struggling through my matches and all of a sudden something just clicked. My timing clicked, my movement clicked.

“The tide completely shifted.”

Lacking the conventional weapons – a big serve and a forehand to match – Chang had two other vital attributes, brains and quickness. He leveraged those advantages, winning all six matches at the BNP Paribas Open. He dropped a single game in the semi-final over Francisco Clavet and beat Andrei Chesnokov in the final 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.

“Miami’s a little different,” Chang said, “it’s a different flavour. I was really, really pumped to play Jim [Courier]. He’d reached No. 1.”

Indeed, after beating World No. 4 Pete Sampras in the quarter-finals, Chang drew Courier in the semi-finals at the Miami Open presented by Itau. That, too, was a straight-sets victory and only Alberto Mancini stood in his way.

“I had a good record against Alberto Mancini,” Chang said. “I felt like if I played good, solid tennis, I felt like I had a great chance to win that match.”
Chang needed only two sets to lift his second trophy in three weeks, following Courier (1991) as a Sunshine Double champion. Sampras (1994), Marcelo Rios (1998) and Andre Agassi (2001) would follow.

Eventually, Novak Djokovic (four doubles) and Roger Federer (three) would join them in that elite group.

“I think all the players realise you’ve got two huge, back-to-back tournaments,” Chang said. “I think for me to win both Indian Wells and Miami, I think it’s always been a special feat.

“I knew after it was done it was something I’d remember for a while.”

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Day 8 Preview: Unbeaten Nadal Takes On Soaring Kyrgios In QF Showdown

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2022

Day 8 Preview: Unbeaten Nadal Takes On Soaring Kyrgios In QF Showdown

Defending champion Norrie aims to cool red-hot Alcaraz in Indian Wells

After two years waiting for the next instalment of the Rafael Nadal v Nick Kyrgios rivalry, the stars have finally aligned in the California desert.

The pair’s ninth tour-level meeting headlines the quarter-final action at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday. Nadal leads 5-3 in the ATP Head2Head series between the two, but the Australian has settled into some vintage form in California and is yet to drop a set this week.

Three-time champion Nadal may have dropped a frame when being pushed to the brink by Sebastian Korda in the second round in Indian Wells, but the legendary Spaniard is still perfect in 2022 in the only department that really matters – winning matches. With every victory extending his personal-best start to a season, a win over Kyrgios would take him to 19-0.

Indian Wells QF graphic

“[I’m] happy to win, [it] doesn’t matter how many sets,” said Nadal after coming through two tie-breaks to oust Reilly Opelka in the fourth round on Wednesday. “Of course, I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals. That’s my best match of the tournament. I did what I had to do against a very difficult player like Reilly.”

Previous encounters with Kyrgios mean the 21-time Grand Slam champion is more than wary of the threat the wild card poses to his unbeaten run. The Australian has excelled in seeing off Sebastian Baez, Federico Delbonis, and World No. 8 Casper Ruud on his way to the last eight, and has a habit of raising his game even further when facing off against Nadal.

“Nick is playing great,” said Nadal. “He is one of the toughest opponents on Tour. Everyone knows how good he is when he is motivated. It is going to be a good test for me and good challenge.”

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Kyrgios’ fourth round opponent Jannik Sinner withdrew from their clash on Wednesday due to illness, but the Australian will still carry the momentum of his opening three straight-sets victories with him into the quarter-final matchup. The wild card has spoken openly about the positive mindset powering his performances in Indian Wells as he hunts a maiden ATP Masters 1000 title, and his first at any level since 2019.

“I know what I’m capable of,” said Kyrgios after his third-round win over Ruud. “I think everyone does as well. It’s whether I put my mind to it. I feel rejuvenated. I just feel like I’m here, I’m happy, and I’m just ready to give my all every match.”


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The victor will be handed a semi-final assignment against either defending champion Cameron Norrie or Carlos Alcaraz. The second quarter-final in the top half of the draw is intriguingly set as two of the form players on Tour meet for the first time since the Spaniard ran out a straight-sets winner at the 2021 US Open.

Having turned his season on its head after kicking 2022 off with four straight defeats, Norrie was glad to return to the scene of his most famous victory for Wednesday’s fourth-round win over dangerous American Jenson Brooksby. The memories of his previous match on Stadium 1, in which he beat Nikoloz Basilashvili to clinch a maiden Masters 1000 title in the 2021 final, appeared to boost the Brit but he is ready for another tough fight against Spanish prodigy Alcaraz.

“I love playing on this court, obviously,” said Norrie after seeing off Brooksby. “I’m feeling good physically and I like the conditions here, but I got absolutely whacked by him [Alcaraz] last time. He’s one of the best up-and-coming players, really solid both sides, he won [an ATP 500 event] earlier this year. So he’s confident, and it’s going to be a tough one, but [I am] looking forward to hopefully getting some revenge on him.”

A task made all the more difficult given that Alcaraz’s level only appears to have risen since that meeting in New York in August. The Rio Open presented by Claro champion attributes that improvement to intense off-court fitness work, allowing him to stay at the top of his game for longer.

“My team and I know how important it is to be strong physically,” the 18-year-old said earlier this week. “It was one thing we knew I had to improve a lot. It was a great focus during preseason. I am really happy. It gives me more confidence. I have more of a chance to keep my level high during a three or four-hour match against the best players.”

This consistency will be put to the test against the rock-solid game of Norrie. “I’m going to be happy if I keep the level [from tonight],” Alcaraz said after beating Gael Monfils in straight sets in the fourth round. “But I always say that you can improve every day, you can do better every day.”

Second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury face their first seeded opponents of the tournament when they take on No. 7 pairing Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski as the doubles quarter-finals are rounded out on Thursday.

Ram and Salisbury are looking to add to their maiden Masters 1000 title together, won in Toronto last year. The American-British pairing followed that run with a US Open triumph in September but have not reached the quarter-finals in two previous appearances together in Indian Wells. Ram has had success in the California desert before, however, lifting the trophy with Raven Klaasen in 2017.

Awaiting in the semi-finals will be an unseeded pairing. Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin take on Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev in Thursday’s other quarter-final, the latter duo flying high after it took out third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in the second round.


STADIUM 1 start 11:00 am
WTA – [6] M. Sakkari (GRE) vs [17] E. Rybakina (KAZ)
WTA – [5] P. Badosa (ESP) vs [21] V. Kudermetova

Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP – [4] R. Nadal (ESP) vs [WC] N. Kyrgios (AUS)

Not Before 6:00 pm
ATP – [19] C. Alcaraz (ESP) vs [12] C. Norrie (GBR)
ATP – [7] W. Koolhof (NED) / N. Skupski (GBR) vs [2] R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR)

STADIUM 2 start 3:00 pm
ATP – [PR] S. Gonzalez (MEX) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs A. Karatsev / A. Rublev

Not Before 5:00 PM
WTA – [5] G. Dabrowski (CAN) / G. Olmos (MEX) vs [7] A. Muhammad (USA) / E. Shibahara (JPN)

Not Before 7:00 PM
WTA – Y. Xu (CHN) / Z. Yang (CHN) vs A. Cornet (FRA) / L. Fernandez (CAN)

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Day 9 Preview: Rublev Continues Title Hunt Against Dimitrov

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2022

Day 9 Preview: Rublev Continues Title Hunt Against Dimitrov

Fritz faces Kecmanovic

Andrey Rublev is a winning machine.

The World No. 7 has triumphed in his past 12 matches and will aim to keep his career-best run going when he faces Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday.

The 24-year-old has been a dominant force on the ATP Tour over recent weeks and is bidding to capture his third consecutive title, after lifting trophies in Marseille and Dubai in February.

“When you win two tournaments, it gives you great confidence that you don’t need to stress,” Rublev said earlier this week when discussing his strong start to the season. “You are more relaxed when you train and you train in a more positive way and with good intensity. The main thing is to keep this form going now.”

Rublev is a nine-time tour-level titlist, with five of his victories coming at ATP 500 tournaments. However, the seventh seed is yet to crack the code at an ATP Masters 1000 event, with his best results at this level coming in Monte-Carlo and Toronto last season, where he reached the championship match.

Rublev looks like he might change that record this weekend though as the action in Indian Wells hits fever pitch. He has earned straight-sets wins over Dominik Koepfer, Frances Tiafoe and Hubert Hurkacz so far in the California desert, but faces a tricky test against an opponent who has fond memories at the hard-court tournament.

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Dimitrov soared to the semi-finals in Indian Wells in 2021, earning standout wins against Top 10 stars Daniil Medvedev and Hurkacz. Like Rublev, the Bulgarian is yet to drop a set at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden this week, coming into the clash off the back of a victory over American John Isner.

Little has separated Dimitrov and Rublev in the past, with the pair locked at 2-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, with three of their four meetings coming on outdoor hard. However, they have not met since Beijing in 2019, when Rublev was the World No. 35, the same ranking Dimitrov is currently.


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Friday’s other singles quarter-final will see American Taylor Fritz continue to fly the flag for the home crowd when he takes on Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.

There is something in the Indian Wells air that brings the best out of the World No. 20, with Fritz reaching his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final at the event last October, when the tournament was played outside its regular March slot due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old, who upset Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Alexander Zverev en route to the last four in 2021, has showcased his fighting qualities this week, edging Jaume Munar and Alex de Minaur in third-set tie-breaks. 

Fritz will carry a 1-0 ATP Head2Head series lead into his match against Kecmanovic, who is enjoying a dream run in the California desert.

The Serbian earned just his second Top 10 win when he overcame World No. 6 Berrettini on Wednesday. With his standout triumph, the World No. 61 booked his place in the last eight at a Masters 1000 for the second time, after also advancing to the same stage in Indian Wells on his tournament debut in 2019.

“He is playing really well,” Fritz said when asked about facing Kecmanovic. “He’s a really good ball-striker and I think it’s going to be a lot of big hitting probably.”

Kecmanovic will be aiming to reach the semi-finals at a tour-level event for the first time this year after losing in the last eight in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago in February.

In the doubles, Americans John Isner and Jack Sock will look to advance to the final when they take on Andrey Golubev and Alexander Zverev. Isner and Sock soared to the title in Indian Wells in 2018, defeating Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in the final. Meanwhile, second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury will play Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin as they aim to win a second Masters 1000 crown as a team this week.


STADIUM 1 start 12:00 noon
ATP – [7] A. Rublev vs [33] G. Dimitrov (BUL)
ATP – M. Kecmanovic (SRB) vs [20] T. Fritz (USA)

Not Before 6:00 PM
WTA – [24] S. Halep (ROU) vs [3] I. Swiatek (POL)
WTA – [5] P. Badosa (ESP) vs [6] M. Sakkari (GRE)

STADIUM 2 start Not Before 6:00 pm
ATP – [WC] J. Isner (USA) / J. Sock (USA) vs A. Golubev (KAZ) / A. Zverev (GER)
ATP – [PR] S. Gonzalez (MEX) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs [2] R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR)

Did You Know?
Rublev earned 11 straight victories in 2020, collecting titles in St. Petersburg and Vienna, before he lost to former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the third round at the Rolex Paris Masters. He has now bettered that run here in Indian Wells, with his fourth-round win over Hurkacz his 12th in a row.

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Isner/Sock Overcome Lopez/Tsitsipas For Semi-Final Berth

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2022

Isner/Sock Overcome Lopez/Tsitsipas For Semi-Final Berth

Americans face Golubev/Zverev in Indian Wells final four

John Isner and Jack Sock’s hunt for a second BNP Paribas Open title continued apace on Wednesday as they came through a tricky test against Feliciano Lopez and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 2018 champions ended their opponent’s six-match unbeaten run to reach the semi-finals in Indian Wells with a 7-5, 6-4 victory in front of a pumped up home crowd.

An engrossing encounter was expected from a match that featured four players who have all spent time in the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings for singles, and it didn’t disappoint. It was Isner and Sock who stepped up at crucial moments, however, sealing victory in 78 minutes to extend their record as a pair in the California desert to 9-1.

Isner and Sock timed their move perfectly in the first set, breaking for 6-5 after taking a sudden-death point on the Tsitsipas delivery, Sock then serving out to put the Americans in command.

Lopez and Tsitsipas looked to be in deep trouble as they found themselves an early break down in the second set, but the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC champions showed no intention of going down quietly, breaking back to level at 3-3.

It wasn’t enough to deny Sock and Isner, though. The pair struck again at the tail end of the second set, breaking before serving out to love to complete the win.

The American pair showed nerves of steel throughout as it saved five from six break points faced in the match, assisted by strong serving numbers. According to Infosys ATP Stats, Isner and Sock won 79 per cent (33/42) points behind their first delivery.

Both players possess strong records in Indian Wells, even when not playing together. It is a fifth semi-final appearance for Isner, and a fourth for Sock. The latter also lifted the trophy in 2015 with Vasek Pospisil.


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Isner and Sock can now look forward to a semi-final showdown against Andrey Golubev and Alexander Zverev, who defeated the American duo of Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul, 6-4, 7-6(3).

The Kazakh-German pairing saved all five break points they faced in the match, with each team winning a sudden-death point on serve in consecutive games midway through the second set.

Golubev and Zverev were lights out on first serve in the contest, winning 87 per cent (41/47) of points in their first deal.

Golubev, the doubles World No. 27, is now two wins away from his first ATP Tour title. He has reached three finals in his career, including two in 2021.

Zverev, the singles World No. 3, is seeking a third ATP Tour doubles title. He won two with his brother Mischa Zverev, in Acapulco in 2019 and Montpellier in 2017, with the pair reaching seven finals from 2015-19.

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