A three-week break from competition appeared to have done Jannik Sinner no harm at all on Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open, where the 11th-seeded Italian downed Richard Gasquet 6-3, 7-6(2) in his opening match at the hard-court ATP Masters 1000 event.
Sinner was playing his first match since having a seven-match win streak snapped by Daniil Medvedev in the Rotterdam final on 19 February, and he made an uncertain start to his maiden ATP Head2Head meeting with the 16-time tour-level titlist Gasquet. Yet despite falling 0-2 behind early, the 21-year-old soon began to dominate with his trademark clean ballstriking, finishing with 28 winners in an accomplished one-hour, 34-minute triumph.
“[I’m] happy to be here, to step on court again,” said Sinner after his win. “Happy that I’m physically ready again and obviously it was a tough match today. Especially in the beginning I was a little bit tight, and then I started to loosen up a little bit and won the first match here which is very important for me.”
Sinner held his nerve against Gasquet in a tight second set that featured no break points for either player, dominating the tie-break to secure the win and improve his season record to 13-3. He showcased high-class decision-making throughout the match, combining aggressive groundstrokes with solid defence when required.
“I prefer to go more than less [aggressive],” said Sinner, when asked about his tactics for the desert conditions. “But for sure there is a balance you need to accept. Especially here, it can be a little bit breezy, a little bit windy… For sure the balance on the court is very important.”
The World No. 13, who lifted his seventh ATP Tour title in Marseille as part of his February winning streak, will next take on Frenchman Adrian Mannarino as he bids to reach the fourth round in Indian Wells for the third consecutive year. Mannarino knocked off 19th seed Lorenzo Musetti 6-4, 6-4, also on Saturday.
Sinner was soon joined in the third round by eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian overcame some stubborn resistance from Pedro Martinez to clinch a 7-6(5), 6-4 win in two hours and 26 minutes on Stadium 2.
Like Sinner, Auger-Aliassime also had to battle through some early struggles en route to victory in California. The 25-year-old Martinez served for the first set at 5-3, but could not capitalise on the opportunity as his higher-ranked opponent forced a tie-break despite having converted just one of his 15 break points in the opening set.
After clinching the tie-break by converting his second set point, Auger-Aliassime locked in behind his serve and claimed the only break of the second set in the ninth game for a hard-earned victory in his first tour-level meeting with Martinez. The 22-year-old will play 27th seed Francisco Cerundolo or home wild card Jack Sock next as he bids to reach the fourth round in Indian Wells for the first time.