Nadal now 17-0, No. 1 Medvedev crashes out at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Rafael Nadal is still perfect in 2022.

The Spaniard defeated 27th-seeded Daniel Evans 7-5, 6-3 in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open, improving his record to 17-0 this year in pursuit of an ATP Tour-leading fourth title.

Nadal tied Roger Federer (2018) and Pete Sampras (1997) for the third-best overall start to a season in the Open era that began in 1968.

Daniil Medvedev’s rise to No. 1 in the world came crashing down in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Gael Monfils. Medvedev needed to reach the quarterfinals in the desert to stay at the top, where he replaced Novak Djokovic.

“Is it better to be No. 1 for let’s say one week in your life or never touch it?” Medvedev said. “You know, I think it’s still better to at least touch it.”

Djokovic will reclaim the No. 1 ranking next week. The Serb is unvaccinated against COVID-19, so he wasn’t allowed to enter the United States to play at Indian Wells or the upcoming Miami Open.

So far this year, no one is touching the fourth-ranked Nadal.

He became the first player to win 400 matches in ATP Masters 1000 events.

After sitting out much of last year because of injury, Nadal has been on a tear. He won titles at Melbourne, the Australian Open for his record 21st Grand Slam title and Acapulco, and is chasing a third career title at Indian Wells.

Nadal’s win over Evans under a searing desert sun had him coming from a break down in the first set. It ended with the Spaniard serving out the match at love, ripping a forehand winner on triple match point.

“It’s an important victory against a tricky opponent,” Nadal said. “It’s not an easy opponent to play. He plays tactically very well, using very well his slice, then playing aggressive, changing rhythms on the points.”

Before his first match in California, Nadal withdrew from the hard-court event at Miami, which begins March 21. He turns 36 in June and is dealing with chronic pain in his left foot and tendinitis in both knees.

“I cannot make drastic changes like I did in the past,” he said, “so that’s why I decided to stop after here and to have three weeks before the clay court season starts for me.”

Nadal survived a scare in his first match against Sebastian Korda. The 21-year-old American served for the match leading 5-2 and 5-4 in the final set.

“It was very important that I can win these first two matches without playing fantastic, but today was a little bit better than the first day,” Nadal said.

Monfils reached the fourth round at Indian Wells for the fifth time in six years after his second career upset of a No. 1 player. He knocked out Nadal in the quarterfinals at Doha in 2009.

“I just felt good today,” Monfils said. “Tactically, I was good. I’m full of confidence.”

Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz defeated countryman and 15th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-0 and next plays Monfils.

Reilly Opelka beat 13th-seeded Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round match against Nadal. The 24-year-old American is coming off two straight finals appearances that went to tiebreakers in both sets. He won at Dallas and lost at Delray Beach, Florida.

Jenson Brooksby defeated No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

In women’s action, No. 4 seed Anett Kontaveit lost to Marketa Vondrousova 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5). Defending champion Paula Badosa beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6 (4), 6-1. No. 6 seed Maria Sakkari defeated Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-0.

Two-time tournament winner Victoria Azarenka lost to Elena Rybakina 6-3, 6-4. Late in the match, Azarenka bent over at the service line and hung her head. The chair umpire came out to check on her and it appeared Azarenka was teary-eyed. She eventually regained her composure and finished out the match.

No. 20 Elise Mertens ended the run of Australian qualifier Daria Saville, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. No. 21 Veronika Kudermetova advanced when qualifier Marie Bouzkova retired with the Russian leading 6-4, 0-2.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.