Results for Men’s Qualifiers in Indian Wells
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
The attention in Indian Wells might be focused on the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. There is however another story which often goes untold, that is the story of the qualifiers.
48 players battled against each other for just 12 places in the main draw. The qualifying competition saw a series of shocks with the top two seeds, Yuichi Sugita and Austin Krajicek, failing to qualify for the main draw. Qualifying for the main draw is a big achievement for the lower ranked players on the tour but how did they fair on the main stage in the first Masters event of 2016?
Renzo Olivo continued his positive start to the season with a hard fought three sets win over Italy’s Salvatore Caruso followed by a much more impressive straight sets triumph over top seed Sugita at Indian Wells. The 23-year-old hasn’t won a title since 2012 but has enjoyed a reasonable start to this year. After qualifying for his maiden Grand Slam draw in Melbourne, where he defeated Jiri Vesely in the first round, the Argentine defeated Fernando Verdasco to reach the quarterfinals of the Ecuador Open. Playing in his maiden Masters main draw match in Indian Wells, Renzo faced experienced Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. He was no match for the world No.44, losing 6-2, 6-4.
Another surprise qualifier was France’s Vincent Millot. Prior to this week, the 30-year-old hasn’t played in the main draw of a Masters tournament since the 2011 Monte Carlo Masters. The world No.166 ended his Masters drought wins over wildcard Nicolas Meister followed by American second seed Krajicek. Millot fired seven aces and saved 3/3 break points to defeat the second seed 6-3, 6-4, to reach the main draw. The Frenchman continued his run in the main draw with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-3, win over wildcard Mackenzie McDonald to grab his first ever win in the main draw of a Masters tournament. The Frenchman’s dream run was ended in the second round by seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga produced nine aces in his 7-5, 6-1, win over the world No.166.
Continuing the French delight was Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who was the highest seed to successfully reach the main draw in California. The top-20 doubles player eased through qualifying with a straight sets win over Benjamin Mitchell before coming through a more testing 6-3, 7-6(3), triumph over 14th seed Mischa Zverev. The run is not surprising considering the Frenchman’s start to the year. He achieved his best Grand Slam performance at the Australian Open by reaching the third round as a qualifier. He continued his promising form by winning the Bergamo Challenger in Italy last month.
Herbert’s first round opponent was another qualifier, Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalík. Kovalik reached the main draw after outlasting Ecuador’s Giovanni Lapentti 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, in a match that lasted over two hours. The first round match between the two qualifiers, which was their first meeting on the tour, saw a thrilling encounter. Kovalik had three opportunities to win the match in straight sets but failed to convert after being edged out 9-11 in the second set tiebreak. Despite the best efforts of the Frenchman, Kovalik held his nerve to clinch the victory 6-4, 6-7(9), 7-6(5). The Slovakian faced Austrian talent Dominic Thiem in the second round. Thiem has already won two ATP titles this year in Argentina and Mexico. Impressively Kovalik gave Thiem a tough match before going out 7-6(4), 7-6(3), in what was a very admirable performance from the world No.182.
Michael Berrer has happy memories of Indian Wells. Prior to this year’s tournament, the German has won four main draw matches at the event. The German has never won more than two main draw matches at any other Masters tournament in his career. Berrer continued his Indian Wells record with back-to-back wins over Jonathan Eysseric and 13th seed Andrey Rublev to book his placed in the main draw of the tournament for the sixth time in his career. Drawn against Juan Monaco in the first round, who is on the comeback from a wrist injury, the 35-year-old edged his way to a 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, win. Berrer’s run came to an end in the second round after losing 6-2, 6-4, to 21st seed Jack Sock.
Peter Polansky’s use of a protected ranking to enter the qualifying draw paid off. Defeating Irish 22nd seed Jame McGee in the first round, he faced El Salvador’s Marcelo Arevalo. After dropping the opening set, the Canadian battled back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The 27-year-old has played 12 main draw matches at Masters tournaments in his career, losing nine of them. Unfortunately for Canadian fans his losing streak increased to ten after he suffered a straight sets defeat to Fernando Verdasco in the first round.
Marco Trungelliti’s 2016 continued on a positive note after he defeated 9th seed Edouard Roger Vasselin 7-6(4), 6-4, to reach his first Masters main draw. The 26-year-old already achieved a breakthrough earlier this year by winning his first grand slam main draw match against Kovalik. Facing Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, he subsided 6-4, 6-4.
Regarding the American interest in the qualifying tournament, five home players successfully navigate their way to the main draw. Headlining them was Tim Smyczek, who had to fight his way past two talented American teenagers to progress to the main draw. After edging past Michael Mmoh 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-5, in the first round, he battled past French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul in another two-hour marathon. The reward for Smyczek was a first round match against former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, who is playing in only his second tournament since returning to the tour from injury. He was no match for the Argentine, crashing out 6-4, 6-0.
Ryan Harrison enjoyed a more straightforward route to the main draw. At the Indian Wells tournament in 2010, Harrison won his first main draw match in a Masters event against Taylor Dent. In the qualifying event at this year’s tournament, he cruised past Matthew Barton and Jason Jung in straight sets to reached the main draw for the seventh consecutive year. Since 2010, Harrison hasn’t lost in the first round and he continued that tradition with a 6-3,7-6(3), triumph over Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic. The second round saw a clash between him and tenth seed Marin Cilic, a player who he defeated two weeks ago at the Acapulco Open. Lightning failed to strike twice after Harrison succumbed 6-4, 6-3, to the Croat.
Alexander Sarkissian breezed past Sekou Bangoura in his opening qualifying match before experiencing a scare against Mitchell Krueger in the second round. The 25-year-old trailed 5-7, 0-2, before clawing his way back to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. In his first main draw match in a Masters tournament, the Californian-based player endured a nightmare after losing 6-2,6-0 to Josh Millman.
Bjorn Fratangelo dropped a total of nine games during his qualifying campaign. The 2011 French Open Boys’ champion eased his way past Joshua Milton before producing an impressive 6-3, 6-2, victory against Czech veteran and 15th seed Radek Stepanek. The next test was Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili, a player who reached the semifinals at the Sydney International earlier this year. Playing for a chance to grab his maiden main draw win on the ATP Tour, the American displayed some of his best tennis to clinch the victory 6-4, 6-4. His chance for a second ATP Tour match win seemed impossible with a second round encounter against world No.1 Novak Djokovic. As the odds mounted against him, Fratangelo stunned the tennis world when he took the first set against Djokovic after just 35 minutes of play. Becoming the fifth player this year to take a set off the world No.1, Frantangelo failed to claim one of the biggest shocks in Indian Wells history after Djokovic swiftly restored order to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. Despite losing, the American recieved high praise from the ten-time Grand Slam champion.
“All credit to Bjorn on playing a great match, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable at all on the court,” Djokovic said after the match.
“I was just trying to find a way, trying to hang in there and make it through.”
“He deserved every point he got. He played a great match, especially in the first set.”
Finally, 2014 Wimbledon Boys’ champion, Noah Rubin, impressed many during his qualifying campaign. Facing Dennis Novikov for a place in the main draw, he eased his way past 7-5, 6-3. Rubin’s schedule leading up to the Masters tournament has been extremely diverse with him playing a Futures, Challenger and ATP 250 tournament. The tournament selection might seem a bit unauthorized but it has done wonders to the Americans confidence. Unfortunately for the young player, he was edged out in the first round by the much more experience Rajeev Ram, losing in two tiebreakers.