Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin del Potro both advanced in the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the year with straight set wins in the California desert.
* Article originally published by me for UBITennis.net *
Dimitrov needed just one hour and nine minutes to see off Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-0 in the second match on Stadium 2 to reach the third round in Indian Wells. The Bulgarian squandered an early break advantage and got pegged back to 3-3, but then raced away with the match, winning nine of the next 10 games to see off the Russian.
In the following match on the same court, del Potro reached the third round for the first time since his run to the final in 2013, battling past Federico Delbonis 7-6(5), 6-3 in an entertaining all-Argentine clash. Delbonis recovered from a break down and had a set point, pushing his compatriot all the way in the first set. However, a strong tiebreak from the 31st seed proved to be telling, with del Potro needing just the one break in the second to secure victory.
Dimitrov defeats Youzhny 6-4, 6-0
Dimitrov, seeded 12 at this event, has made a blistering start to 2017, picking up two titles in Brisbane and Sofia, while also reaching a second Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open (l. Nadal). Meanwhile world number 82 Youzhny came into this match with a 5-5 ATP record so far for the season, with a quarter-final run in Chennai being a highlight. The Russian defeated fellow countryman Medvedev 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round but could not find a way past his opponent on this occasion.
Dimitrov produced some flawless tennis in the early exchanges of the match, breaking the Russian immediately following a double fault. The 12th seed looked to be cruising, up 40-15 on serve in the third game, but failed to clinch the hold, going wide with an inside out forehand down the line to relinquish his lead.
Matters nearly got worse for the Bulgarian in the seventh game after a couple of unforced errors left him down 0-30 on serve. Dimitrov raised his level, taking four points in a row, closing with a forehand winner to move back in front at 4-3.
Serving to stay in the opening set, Youzhny faltered. The 34-year-old made a few untimely mistakes, finishing with a forehand into the net in what was an error strewn set from both men, the Russian making 18 unforced errors and Dimitrov making 14 as he sealed it 6-4.
After suffering huge disappointment at the end of the first set things looked to be going from bad to worse for Youzhny as he found himself facing two break points in a lengthy second game. Dimitrov missed his return of serve on the first before his forehand broke down on the second to give his opponent a lifeline. After squandering a third break point the 34-year-old had a couple of chances to escape with the hold but appeared to be struggling in the heat as he prepared to face another break point. The world number 82 produced one of the points of the match, closing with a lob on the backhand side to keep his hopes alive, yet more errors eventually proved costly for the Russian as he dropped serve in a game which lasted over 10 minutes.
Failure to hold on in that game proved to be the straw that broke the camels back for Youzhny as he dropped serve in the fourth game and once again when serving to stay in the match to hand victory to Dimitrov 6-4, 6-0.
The Bulgarian next faces 17th seed Jack Sock, who defeated qualifier Henri Laaksonen 6-3, 0-6, 6-4.
del Potro defeats Delbonis 7-6(5), 6-3
In the first meeting between del Potro and Delbonis it was a slow start from both players, but the 31st seed secured an immediate break of serve. The former US Open champion looked in complete control as he played what will go down as one of the shots of the tournament, lobbing his countryman with a hotdog shot to move to a 0-30 advantage in the fifth game. After Delbonis recovered to hold serve it proved to be a turning point.
Delbonis capitalised on some unforced errors from the 31st seed in the following game and secured the break back on his second opportunity to level at 3 games all. The world number 49 had to stave off three break points in the seventh game but hung tough, playing some big time tennis to move in front for the first time in the match. It looked as though this shift in momentum in Delbonis’ favour might bring him the first set, as he brought up a chance to take it in the tenth game. del Potro responded, reeling off three points in a row to keep his hopes alive.
Both players held their subsequent service games to take them into a first set tiebreak. A double fault from Delbonis handed his countryman a first mini break, which the 31st seed used to his full advantage, moving 6-3 in front. Delbonis hit back to save two set points but went wide with a forehand down the line on the third to seal a tough first set for del Potro 7-6(5) after one hour and 14 minutes.
The second set proved to be far more straightforward for the 31st seed as he secured the only break of the set in the fourth game. Delbonis battled hard as he had done throughout the match, saving two break points in that game before squandering a game point of his own which subsequently led to him relinquishing his serve.
Throughout most of the second set del Potro was solid as a rock on serve. With the exception of trailing 0-30 in the fifth game, the Argentine only dropped a further two points on serve. The former finalist here won 14 out of the 15 points when his first serve found the mark and del Potro closed out the match with a hold to love to seal a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory in one hour and 51 minutes.
Next up for the Argentine, a third round clash with defending champion Novak Djokovic following his straight sets win over Kyle Edmund 6-4, 7-6(5).