Something in the Indian Wells air seems to inspire Tommy Paul.
The American produced a top-class performance to defeat World No. 3 Alexander Zverev 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, upping his level in the deciding-set tie-break to complete the biggest win of his career.
“I like playing here,” said Paul after the match. “I like the conditions. The fans really support [the American players] here, and that’s why we all love it. It feels like a real home tournament.”
Paul reached the fourth round in California in 2021, beating then-World No. 5 Andrey Rublev on the way to his best run at an ATP Masters 1000 event, and he continues to look comfortable on the big stage at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
It’s also not the first time Paul has impressed against the top players on Tour. It was his fourth win over a Top 10 opponent, a tally that includes a straight-sets win in his only previous meeting with Zverev in Acapulco in 2020. The American hopes to reproduce such victories more regularly as he looks to push further up the ATP Rankings.
“I would hope that I can be in the Top 10,” said Paul. “That’s what it takes, you’ve got to beat more Top 10 players and I played well today, so I’m happy.”
FOLLOW THIS WEEK’S ACTION
The 2021 Stockholm champion came racing out the blocks on Stadium 1, surging to the first set after breaking twice as his opponent struggled to settle.
The match looked to be going only one way as Zverev found himself 15/40 down in the fifth game of the second set, but the German’s biggest weapon inspired a mid-match comeback. He won 24 consecutive points on serve as he fended off those break points, took the second set and surged to a 4-2 lead in the decider.
That weapon soon became Zverev’s downfall, however. Having established a 4-2 lead in the third set, a pair of double faults gifted his opponent the break back. An absorbing encounter fittingly ended with a deciding tie-break, but it was Paul who elevated his game to roar to a 6/1 lead, sealing victory with his second match point to the delight of a raucous home crowd.
According to Infosys ATP Stats, Paul’s efficiency coming forward was key to his win. The American won 71 per cent (29/41) of points at the net, completing the win in two hours, 17 minutes.
“I never felt out of the match,” said Paul. “My gameplan in the tie-break was to play more aggressive than I did the whole match, and see if he comes up with the goods. When I come to the net, see if he comes up with big passing shots, and if he did that, then too good. That was my process.”
De Minaur reached the fourth round in Indian Wells for the first time in 2021, and the 23-year-old gave himself a chance of matching that run with a solid display against his countryman. He broke Millman three times on his way to a 7-6(4), 6-3 win.