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Indian Wells: Murray sees off Alcaraz, Swiatek dominates

  • Matt Trollope

Andy Murray recovered from a set down against Carlos Alcaraz to reach the third round at Indian Wells for the first time since 2016.

The former world No.1, a wildcard at this year’s rescheduled tournament, outlasted the Spanish teenager after more than three hours of play to set up a clash with Alexander Zverev.

Also progressing to the last 32 were second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and top Italians Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner while No.7 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime was stunned in straight sets by Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

On the women’s side, second seed Iga Swiatek dominated 25th seed Veronika Kudermetova 6-1 6-0 to move through to the fourth round, where she will meet fellow Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko.

No.4 seed Elina Svitolina survived Sorana Cirstea’s challenge in a third-set tiebreak yet Simona Halep was shocked 7-5 6-4 by Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who had earlier beaten US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

Sasnovich will next face follow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, who won a battle of major champions against Petra Kvitova, while US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez overcame Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final result on Sunday. 

Murray rises to Alcaraz challenge

An impressive Murray dropped just five games in his opening-round win over Adrian Mannarino and carried that form into his match-up with the 18-year-old Alcaraz, roaring to a 0-3, 0-40 lead.

But Alcaraz, the 30th seed and a recent US Open quarterfinalist, played more daring, powerful tennis to hit his way through Murray and eventually wrest the first set away.

Murray’s experience and fighting spirit increasingly shone through; he saved four break points across the third and fifth games of the second set, and four more earlier in the third, to eventually prevail.

Despite the apparently comfortable scoreline, the second and third sets took almost two hours to complete.

“It was hard conditions. It was very hot. Because of the nature of the court here, you're going to play some long rallies, especially against a player like him," Murray said.

“At times I played some really good tennis. It wasn't my best match. I can certainly still do things better. I thought I competed well today, which was probably the most pleasing part for me.”

Murray, who hit only two winners in the second set, described the courts as “painfully slow” after notching back-to-back victories for just the second time since Wimbledon. 

It remains to be seen how the 34-year-old recovers for his third-round clash against Zverev as he seeks three straight wins at a tour-level tournament for the first time since he won the ATP Antwerp title two years ago.

Murray, currently ranked No.121, has never lost to Zverev in two prior meetings -- including a win at last year’s Western & Southern Open from a break down in the final set -- but this year the German is flying. 

Zverev’s three-set win over rising American star Jenson Brooksby was his 17th victory from his past 18 matches. 

“I played some good matches against him in the past,” Murray said. “He'll certainly go in as the overwhelming favourite. But if I play a high-level match, I'll be right in there.”

Sinner, meanwhile, extended his winning streak to five thanks to a resounding 6-2 6-2 win over Australian John Millman. 

No.10 seed Sinner, a recent champion in Sofia, stands one win away from a potential fourth-round meeting with fellow Italian Berrettini, whose 6-4 7-5 win over Chilean Alejandro Tabilo sets up a clash with 31st seed Taylor Fritz.

Also winning on Sunday were 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, 13th seed Cristian Garin and 14th seed Gael Monfils, while No.22 seed Alex de Minaur snapped a four-match losing streak by beating fellow Aussie Aleksandar Vukic 6-4 7-5. 

Swiatek through, Halep out

Poland’s Swiatek needed just 54 minutes to complete her rout of Kudermetova and has dropped a total of only five games en route to the fourth round.

There she will meet Ostapenko, who out-hit Yulia Putintseva 6-3 2-6 6-3 to progress further than she ever has at Indian Wells. 

“I'm pretty happy that I was so confident,” Swiatek said. “I was really disciplined, and that's like the important word for me right now, because like mentally and physically I think it's pretty hard to do that at the end of the season.”

Halep, meanwhile, was the latest victim in Sasnovich’s giant-killing run. 

The Romanian trailed Sasnovich 7-5 2-0 and although she worked her way back into the second set, she was broken to love in the penultimate game and did not recover.

Sasnovich is yet to drop a set in three wins so far at Indian Wells and next faces countrywoman Azarenka, who out-steadied a physically-hampered Kvitova 7-5 6-4.

Later, in a high-quality battle, 23rd seed Fernandez recovered from a set and a break down to beat Pavlyuchenkova 5-7 6-3 6-4. 

Fernandez's victory, achieved after two hours and 42 minutes, sets up a meeting with Shelby Rogers in the last 16.