De Minaur, Whittington advance at Indian Wells
Alex De Minaur and Andrew Whittington stand one win from the Indian Wells main draw after winning their first-round qualifying matches on Tuesday.
Australian teenager Alex De Minaur is through to the second-round of BNP Paribas Open qualifying in Indian Wells after beating Go Soeda on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old, a wildcard entry into qualifying, recovered from a second-set lapse to record a 6-3 2-6 6-3 win over the Japanese player.
He was joined in the final round of qualifying by Andrew Whittington, who brushed aside ATP #NextGen star Andrey Rublev for the loss of just four games.
It is the first time at Indian Wells for both De Minaur and Whittington and the Aussie pair’s form demonstrated just how much they are enjoying the spectacular desert setting.
Earlier on Tuesday, another Aussie, Matt Ebden, went down in straight sets to Nikoloz Basilashvili.
It is the second time the West Australian has fallen to Basilashvili in recent weeks; the Georgian also got the better of Ebden in the ATP Memphis quarterfinals in February.
De Minaur goes on to face No.4 seed Radu Albot, who beat Vincent Millot on Tuesday.
A win in that match would send De Minaur into the main draw, joining compatriots Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and Jordan Thompson.
“Every match is really tough. The level (at ATP events) is definitely higher – so I really have to keep my focus and concentration the whole match. So I think that’s helped me and it’s a good sort of learning curve,” De Minaur said.
“Especially starting (this season) in Australia, I had a couple good wins there and then I think I used those wins to give me a little bit of confidence and know that I’ve got this level, so I can compete against these higher-ranked players.”
He was impressive against Soeda – a player ranked 122 spots higher at No.140 – in the two hour, 10 minute match, taking his returns early and aggressively and producing power belying his slight stature.
Despite the Japanese player running off four straight games to close out the second set, De Minaur refocused in the third, breaking in the seventh game for a 4-3 lead and breaking serve again to secure victory on his second match point.
Whittington, meanwhile, described his performance as one of his best matches of 2017.
“Andrey is a really good player and I had to come out and play one of my good matches. And I did today so that was good. I’m enjoying it here – it’s an unbelievable tournament and happy to get a W in the first round,” he said.
“I think it was a little closer than 6-3 6-1. We had a lot of close games. I think I just played those tight points really well and backed myself and in the end it went my way. Pretty pleased with the way I played.”
Whittington next faces Italy’s Federico Gaio, who upset 11th seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in straight sets.
“It would be an absolute privilege to be in the (main) draw. Obviously I’ve got one more to go,” Whittington said.
“Just gonna rest up, get ready for tomorrow and hopefully I can replicate what I did out there today.”
The fourth Aussie in qualifying, Sam Groth, fell to Frenchman Julien Benneteau as dusk fell on Tuesday.
Groth trailed by a set and a break before asserting himself in the match, breaking back in the sixth game of the second set and moving ahead 5-0 in the ensuing tiebreak.
Yet Benneteau reeled off the next seven points to claim a 6-4 7-6(5) victory.