Sebastian Korda’s fast-moving rise hit another milestone on Thursday as the American beat Thanasi Kokkinakis in straight sets to secure a first career-win at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
the world no. 38 found a little extra at key moments at the ATP Masters 1000 event to secure a 6-3, 6-4 first-round victory and set a second-round clash with Rafael Nadal. With the win, Korda backed up his straight-sets triumph over Kokkinakis in the pair’s only previous meeting at the Delray Beach quarter-finals in February.
“It was a great win,” said the American after the match. “I think in all my years of playing here at Indian Wells, since I was 12 years old, I’ve never played at night. So it was a new experience for me, I’m super happy with the way I played and just a great match overall.
“I just stuck with the tactics that I brought into Delray, and they worked really well tonight.”
The accomplished performance continues a solid start to 2022 for Korda, who enjoyed a stellar 2021 season in which he notched a personal-best 31 wins, secured his first ATP Tour title in Parma and reached the championship match of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals .
In Kokkinakis he came up against an opponent riding a wave of his own. The Australian lifted his first tour-level trophy at the Adelaide International 2 in January, but he could not find the form that inspired him to the title in his hometown as his American opponent progressed in California.
Both players struggled on serve early on in blustery conditions, but it was Korda who edged ahead as he broke three times to secure the first set.
The level increased in a tighter second set as both players began to acclimatise to the wind, and there were no break chances until Korda made a decisive move in the ninth game by breaking to love. The American held his nerve to save two break points before converting his first match point and improve his overall record at ATP Masters 1000 events to 8-5.
Korda’s shot-making was more consistent throughout. According to Infosys ATP Stats, the American struck 22 winners to his opponent’s 12 and was also effective at the net, winning 67 per cent (14/21) points coming forward as he secured victory in 89 minutes.
The #NextGenATP American can now look forward to a second-round clash with 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal. Korda won just four games across three sets in the pair’s first meeting at Roland Garros in 2020.
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Flying high after winning a maiden ATP Tour title in Santiago in February, Spain’s Pedro Martinez continued his good form with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Joao Sousa.
world no. 49 Martinez consistently found a way to pressure his Portuguese opponent on serve to reach the second round in Indian Wells for the second time. The Spaniard broke five times in the match to secure victory, and will next face defending champion Cameron Norrie.
Elsewhere, Czech Tomas Machac enjoyed his ATP Masters 1000 main-draw debut as he downed Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 7-5 to set a meeting with World No. 1 Daniel Medvedev.
The qualifier produced a resilient performance to edge No. 89-ranked Popyrin, saving 13 of 14 break points he faced while converting four of his own on his way to victory.
Another qualifier, American Christopher Eubanks, cut through the serve and volley game of countryman Maxime Cressy to clinch his first tour-level win of the year.
Eubanks broke Cressy only once in the match, but it was enough to earn a 5-7, 7-6(8), 6-4 win to reach the second round in Indian Wells for the second year in a row. He will next face eighth seed Casper Ruud.
Earlier on Thursday Federico Coria secured his first career win in Indian Wells, beating Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 7-6(5).
The Argentine produced a solid performance to take advantage of an erratic display from his opponent, who struck 25 winners but also 34 unforced errors. world no. 65 Coria will now face 27th seed Daniel Evans in the second round.