Frances Tiafoe has not found much success at the Indian Wells Masters, but the young American is off to a strong start this year after defeating Benoit Paire 6-4 6-4 on Thursday. 

Playing in his first match since a fourth-round loss at the US Open, the world number 49 eased past the man ranked one spot below him, reaching the second round at the event for the first time since 2016. 

Tiafoe came up with the big shots when he needed them, converting four of five chances to break Paire's serve, as the veteran suffered 30 unforced errors to just 20 winners. 

"I definitely took a long time off after the Open, the longest time I’ve taken in the middle of the season in a while, so [I was] a little rusty in the beginning and in the days leading up I wasn’t feeling great," Tiafoe said in his on-court interview.

"Happy to just get a first round under my belt. Obviously tonight was up and down, Benoit wasn’t having the best of days, but you take that."

Tiafoe will face his 32nd-seeded countryman Sebastian Korda next. 

 

NISHIKORI GOOD AS EVER IN DECIDER

Kei Nishikori is among the most reliable players on the ATP Tour in deciding sets, and he prevailed in the third yet again with a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2 defeat of qualifier Joao Sousa. 

Only world number one Novak Djokovic has a better winning percentage than Nishikori's 147-55 mark (72.8) in deciders, and the Japanese veteran put away Sousa with relative ease after dropping the first-set tie-breaker. 

Nishikori hit 40 winners with 23 unforced errors in the match, to Sousa's 22 winners and 20 unforced errors. He moves on to face 18th seed Daniel Evans in the second round. 

 

PAUL SPOILS LOPEZ MILESTONE

Feliciano Lopez achieved a milestone just by stepping on the court as he set a record by appearing in his 139th ATP Masters 1000 event – one more than Roger Federer – but that was the only positive as the 40-year-old Spaniard fell to Tommy Paul 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

The 24-year-old American, ranked 60th in the world, won 70 per cent of his service points to prevail in his Indian Wells debut. 

Another tournament newcomer, Germany's Daniel Altmaier, defeated former quarter-finalist Sam Querrey 6-2 6-4 in just over an hour. 

Another USA veteran, Steve Johnson lost 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 7-5 to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who also is playing the event for the first time. 

Alex de Minaur was again stunned by Marcos Giron as the third seed crashed out of the Sofia Open in the second round. 

Following his success over De Minaur at the Moselle Open last week, Giron beat the world number 26 once more as he battled to a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) victory in two hours. 

The unseeded American, appearing for the first time in Sofia, rallied from a break down in the second set to reach an ATP Tour quarter-final - where he will meet John Millman - for the fourth time this season. 

Millman, who is seeded eighth, lost the first set against qualifier Illya Marchenko but recovered well to comfortably triumph 5-7 7-6 (7-0) 6-3. 

However, it was far more straightforward for the other favourites, with top seed Jannik Sinner avoiding a second-set blip to defeat Egor Gerasimov 6-2 7-6 (7-3) and Gael Monfils getting a walkover against Ilya Ivashka. 

Number five seed Filip Krajinovic coasted past fellow Serbian Laslo Djere 6-3 6-0 in just over an hour to set up a quarter-final tie with Kamil Majchrzak. 

In Thursday's other match, world number 56 James Duckworth smashed Benoit Paire 6-4 6-4 in just an hour and 15 minutes to collect his 11th win in his past 12 outings. 

Duckworth, who reached his first ATP Tour final in Nur-Sultan last week, will now challenge defending champion Sinner in the next round. 

Benoit Paire is through to the second round of the Sofia Open following a 6-4 7-5 win over seventh seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. 

The Frenchman - ranked no. 49 in the world - marked his debut at the ATP 250 event by ending a three-match losing run, progressing after one hour and 37 minutes on court. 

Paire, who recorded five breaks of serve en route to victory, will be up against either James Duckworth or Emil Ruusuvuori next. 

"[I am] happy about the win," Paire said in his on-court interview. "It was not easy. Alejandro is a very good player, so I had to be focused on my game. 

"I had to serve well and do my best and that is what I did and I am very happy and proud of my game today.  

"I played well in the first game, it was good for my confidence. The most important thing is to stay on my game and stay focused. I was solid today so I am very happy." 

Also in Monday's action, Adrian Mannarino was another seed to suffer an early exit, going down in straight sets to Gianluca Mager. 

Miomir Kecmanovic came through a tight two-set contest to knock out Adrian Andreev, including taking the opener via a tie-break. 

Andy Murray battled through to the second round of the Moselle Open with a 4-6 6-3 6-2 victory over sixth seed Ugo Humbert on Tuesday.

Murray chose to play in the event as a wildcard to improve his world ranking and avoid tougher first-round encounters, such as facing Stefanos Tsitsipas at the U.S. Open, and he recovered from going behind in the opening set to ease through his first-round tie.

Humbert, who is ranked 26th in the world, came into the clash 87 places ahead of the two-time Wimbledon winner but failed to make home advantage count as the Scot dispatched of him in just over two hours.

Karen Khachanov, who is the seventh seed in Metz, avoided a similar first-set scare to overcome Alexandre Muller 4-6 6-1 6-3, while Marcos Giron edged past Arthur Rinderknech 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.

That win sets up a second-round tie with fourth seed Alex de Minaur, with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina sneaking past Gilles Simon 4-6 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 in Tuesday's other match.

Frenchman Benoit Paire crashed out of the Astana Open to world number 97 Egor Gerasimov as he lost 7-5 6-4.

John Millman, the fifth seed, did not endure similar struggles as he recovered from losing the first set to ease past Dmitry Popko 3-6 6-1 6-4.

Meanwhile, Ilya Ivashka coasted past Elias Ymer 6-2 6-4 in just over 90 minutes to secure his second-round berth in the Czech Republic.

Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas survived three-set scares at the National Bank Open on Tuesday, but five-time tournament champion Rafael Nadal departed Toronto without even taking the court. 

Top seed Medvedev, who won just three games against Nadal in the final in 2019, the last time the tournament was played, prevailed 4-6 6-3 6-4 in his opener against Alexander Bublik.

The man Nadal beat to win the title the previous year, Tsitsipas, failed to convert on five match points in an epic second-set tiebreak but recovered to down Ugo Humbert 6-3 6-7 (13-15) 6-1.

Nadal pulled out ahead of a scheduled match against Lloyd Harris, who beat him last week in Washington as the 20-time grand slam winner struggled with a foot injury. 

Countryman Feliciano Lopez replaces Nadal in the draw and will face Harris on Wednesday. 

Elsewhere Tuesday, sixth seed Casper Ruud needed more than two hours to put away Marin Cilic 6-3 3-6 6-3, while 14th seed Grigor Dimitrov suffered a quick 6-3 6-4 exit against big-serving American Reilly Opelka.

A pair of unseeded veterans advanced, with 2016 finalist Kei Nishikori a 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 winner over Miomir Kecmanovic and John Isner defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokini 6-4 6-1 in just over an hour.

Two days after appearing in his first ATP Tour final at the Citi Open, Mackenzie McDonald fell 6-3 6-4 to Benoit Paire in his Toronto opener. 

In other first-round matches, Karen Khachanov beat Cameron Norrie 6-4 5-7 6-4, Frances Tiafoe downed Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4 6-3, Dusan Lajovic handled Emil Ruusuvuori 3-6 6-3 6-3 and Nikoloz Basilashvili defeated Jenson Brooksby 2-6 6-0 6-4.

Cameron Norrie breezed past Nick Kyrgios and John Isner downed countryman Jack Sock to advance to the quarter-finals at the Atlanta Open on Thursday. 

The third-seeded Norrie defeated Kyrgios 6-1 6-4 in less than an hour as he tries for a second consecutive title after collecting his first ATP Tour championship at Los Cabos last week. 

The former University of Georgia star Isner, a five-time champion in Atlanta, beat Sock 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 despite serving only 13 aces after hitting 36 in his previous match. 

Second-seeded Jannik Sinner fell 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 to Australian qualifier Christopher O'Connell, leaving the tournament without its top two seeds after Milos Raonic was upset by Brandon Nakashima on Wednesday. 

O'Connell, ranked 132 in the world to Sinner's 23, had not won a main-draw match this year before defeating Denis Kudla in the opening round and will now face Isner in the quarters.

Norrie will meet Emil Ruusuvuori, who advanced when Benoit Paire retired down 3-0 in the third set after the pair had split the first two sets 4-6 6-4. 

Ruusuvuori is into his second career ATP quarter-final after making it to the semis at Nur-Sultan last year. 

Sixth seed John Isner sent down an Atlanta Open joint record 36 aces as he overcame countryman Jeffrey John Wolf in three sets on Tuesday.

World number 35 Isner was dominant on his first serve, winning 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 to claim a spot in the second round where he will face Jack Sock who beat Ricardas Berankis in three.

Isner's 36 aces equaled the previous Atlanta Open record set by Sam Querrey on Monday in his three-set win over Peter Gojowczyk.

American fifth seed Taylor Fritz also progressed on Tuesday with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Russian Evgeny Donskoy.

French seventh seed Benoit Paire got past Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-5 6-7 (2-7) 6-4, while enigmatic Australian Nick Kyrgios beat South African Kevin Anderson 7-6 (7-4) 6-3.

Teenage American talent Brandon Nakashima knocked out Trent Bryde, while Australian Chris O'Connell beat Denis Kudla and Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori got past Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.

Nakashima, who got a special exemption entry into the Atlanta Open, next takes on top seed Milos Raonic.

Hugo Gaston showed admirable spirit as the young Frenchman saved four match points in a gripping tie-break against Cristian Garin en route to reaching his first ATP Tour semi-final.

Garin, the fourth seed, responded impressively to going a set down and then got to match point four times in their third-set tie-break, but he could not hold his nerve and Gaston got the job done 6-4 1-6 7-6 (13-11).

The Chilean was on the back foot right from the start Gaston broke him in the first game, and although Garin did hit back to make it 3-3, his opponent quickly had the advantage again and went on to seal the first set.

Garin's response was emphatic and clinical, dropping just three points on his serve and taking both of the break points that came his way to level the match.

The pair could not be separated in a back-and-forth third set, but Garin was the first to get match point at 6-5 in the tie-break – they would trade another six equally between them before Gaston finally prevailed at 13-11, leaving the 20-year-old satisfied.

"I am very happy to be in my first [ATP Tour] semi-final," Gaston said after.

"It was a great fight. It was a really long match. I always tried to play my game, and it is a good win for me. I hope I can continue like that."

Up next for Gaston will be Laslo Djere after he saw off Arthur Rinderknech 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4, while Casper Ruud – the highest seed remaining – is also into the final four.

The Norwegian was victorious at the Swedish Open last week, his second title of the year, and dispatched Benoit Paire on Friday to reach another semi.

Ruud won 6-2 5-7 6-3 in just under two hours and will face Vit Kopriva, a qualifier, who secured his first semi-final appearance thanks to a stunning 6-1 6-0 win over Mikael Ymer.

At the Croatia Open in Umag, top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas cruised into the last four with a straightforward 6-2 6-1 defeat of Stefano Travaglia, setting up a meeting with either Filip Krajinovic or Carlos Alcaraz.

The other semi will be contested between Richard Gasquet and Daniel Altmaier, who produced something of a shock by ousting second seed Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-4.

The veteran Frenchman came through against Damir Dzumhur 6-3 7-6 (9-7), clinching the second set at the fourth opportunity.

Top seed Denis Shapovalov's Swiss Open Gstaad campaign came to an abrupt end as Vit Kopriva provided a second-round shock to eliminate the Wimbledon semi-finalist.

The world number 10, who has recently been praised by both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, took the first set 6-2 with ease before Kopriva, making his ATP Tour debut this week, emphatically fought back 6-3 6-2 to secure a memorable comeback victory.

Number three seed Casper Ruud battled past Dennis Novak 6-4 7-6 (7-5), while Benoit Paire, who only had two ATP wins in 2021 before the Hamburg European Open last week, was 6-4 to the good before Tallon Griekspoor was forced to retire due to injury.

Ruud, who has already won two ATP events in 2021 and three in his career, will now meet sixth seed Paire in the quarter-final stage.

But eighth seed Feliciano Lopez did not enjoy similar success as the world number 96 Mikael Ymer fought past the Spaniard to win 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 and set-up a quarter-final clash with Kopriva.

At the Umag Open in Croatia, third seed Filip Krajinovic breezed past Radu Albot to record a 6-4 6-2 win.

Krajinovic's countryman and number two ranked player Dusan Lajovic also went through with a 7-5 6-4 win against Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

Benoit Paire made a strong start as the Swiss Open Gstaad got under way on Monday.

Number six seed Paire was a 6-3 7-6 (7-2) winner in his first-round match against Jozef Kovalik.

The Frenchman was not broken in the match, saving all eight of the break-point opportunities he offered up to Kovalik during a competitive 85-minute contest.

Paire's win follows a quarter-final appearance at the Hamburg European Open last week as the 32-year-old begins to recover from a dreadful first half of 2021.

Prior to his run in Hamburg, Paire had only won two ATP Tour matches this year.

Mikael Ymer had to come from behind before he progressed with a 4-6 6-3 6-3 win over lucky loser Enzo Couacaud.

The top four seeds at the ATP 250 event – led by Wimbledon semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov – get a bye through the first round and are therefore yet to begin their campaigns.

At the Croatia Open Umag, meanwhile, Radu Albot came out on top as he claimed a three-set victory over Holger Rune, with top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and defending champion Dusan Lajovic not in action on day one.

Benoit Paire was gifted a place in the second round at the Hamburg European Open by Ricardas Berankis' foot injury, but fellow countryman Richard Gasquet could not get past Marco Cecchinato in his first-round clash in Sweden.

Lithuania's Berankis forced Paire to a first-set tiebreak but, due to rolling his ankle earlier in the game, then had no option but to retire hurt.

His retirement granted Paire just his third ATP win of 2021.

At the same event, there was also a first ever ATP win for Sebastian Baez, who coasted past Corentin Moutet 6-1 6-2 to claim a straight-sets victory.

In the Nordea Open, held in Bastad, Italian Cecchinato triumphed over former world number seven Gasquet 6-2 5-7 6-3 to reach the second round.

The 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist, who fought off Gasquet's second-set comeback, will now face either Federico Coria or Francisco Cerundolo in the next round.

In the other first-round ties, Yannick Hanfmann recorded a straight-sets win over Thiago Monteiro, while Elias Ymer, playing in his home country, beat Taro Daniel 6-2 6-7 (6-8) 6-4.

It proved to be a tough day for home players at the Lyon Open as Roger Federer found out who he will face first in the main draw in Geneva.

All four Frenchmen in action on Monday were knocked out in Lyon, including 2018 finalist Gilles Simon.

Aljaz Bedene knocked out the world number 68 in straight sets, two breaks of serve in each enough to secure a 6-2 6-3 triumph after one hour and 13 minutes on court.

Sebastian Korda overcame both Pierre-Hugues Herbert and the rain to progress to the second round, a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 triumph wrapped up quickly following a delay.

Having been 5-4 ahead in the second set when play was halted, Korda clinched victory on his first match point upon the resumption, in the process snapping a run of four successive defeats on the ATP Tour.

Cameron Norrie will take on top seed Dominic Thiem next after his 7-5 6-3 win against Corentin Moutet, while Ugo Humbert let slip a one-set lead as he was beaten by Yoshihito Nishioka.

Meanwhile, at the Geneva Open, there was a maiden victory for French teenager Arthur Cazaux as he came out on top against compatriot Adrian Mannarino.

The 18-year-old held his nerve in a decider despite this being his first tour-level contest; Reilly Opelka or Pablo Cuevas will be next up in the event.

As for Federer, he will begin his campaign on Tuesday, the 39-year-old having played just two matches so far this year after undergoing two knee operations in 2020.

The Swiss superstar now knows he will be up against Pablo Andujar, who overcame Australia's Jordan Thompson in straight sets.

Tennys Sandgren saw off Salvatore Caruso 6-3 6-4, while Dominik Koepfer came through a tight tussle with Benoit Paire that spanned two hours and 39 minutes.

David Goffin made an encouraging start to the Monte Carlo Masters as he beat Marin Cilic, though Jordan Thompson found things much harder against Benoit Paire.

World number 14 Goffin had lost his previous three matches heading to Monaco, but the Belgian delivered a sharp performance on Sunday, winning 6-4 3-6 6-0.

Open Sud de France champion Goffin did not start well, and had to come from 3-0 down in the first set, but Cilic made 52 unforced errors to help his opponent progress.

"It’s a good win. [This is my] first tournament on clay [in 2021]. Starting with a victory is good," said 2017 Monte Carlo semi-finalist Goffin, quoted on the ATP website.

"I did what I needed to do to win that match. I was playing better and better. In the first and second set, I had problems with the returns. In the third set, I was more consistent. It was a good match."

Goffin will face Marco Cecchinato or Dominik Koepfer in the second round, where he has been joined by Australian Jordan Thompson.

Thompson, the world number 62, needed three hours and two tie-breaks to beat Paire 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5), as the Frenchman's dismal string of results in 2021 continued.

Paire has now won just one of 10 matches this calendar year, while Thompson registered a fifth win of the season.

Lorenzo Musetti built on his good form with a first-round victory over Michael Mmoh at the Miami Open on Thursday.

Emerging star Musetti defeated American qualifier Mmoh 6-4 6-4 to set up a second-round meeting with 23rd seed Benoit Paire.

Former US Open champion Marin Cilic also progressed in a three-set victory over Federico Coria, while Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sebastian Korda, Tennys Sandgren and Jordan Thompson were other winners.

Former top-five player Kevin Anderson was among those to bow out in the first round of the ATP 1000 event.

 

STAR ON THE RISE

Italian teenager Musetti continued his rapid rise with a hard-fought victory over Mmoh.

The 19-year-old Musetti reached the semi-finals of last week's Mexican Open, where he beat both Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov en route to the semi-finals.

This week, Musetti battled past wildcard Mmoh in one hour, 38 minutes.

"Last week was a fantastic run in Acapulco," Musetti said in his on-court interview. " I played a really good match, it was a tough match.

"I think my lethal weapon is the backhand down the line."

 

CILIC SLICE OF FORTUNE

Former world number three Cilic secured his place in the second round with a 6-3 2-6 6-4 victory against Federico Coria.

However, Cilic – the 2014 US Open winner – had a huge slice of luck to claim a break back in the first.

The Croatian got lucky down a break at 2-1 but up 30-40 in the first when he mishit his overhead attempt, striking his frame and bobbling over for a drop shot winner to level.

"It was important for me to keep my head down, keep the focus and just try to get the best level I could today," Cilic said.

 

FOND MEMORIES FOR THANASI

Australian qualifier Kokkinakis' fond memories in Miami returned with a 6-3 6-3 win over Shintaro Mochizuki as he continues his positive return from a shoulder injury.

Kokkinakis beat then-world number one Roger Federer in Miami in 2018.

Korda won his Miami Open debut match, triumphing 6-3 6-0 over Radu Albot to set up a meeting with 10th seed Fabio Fognini.

Jordan Thompson will face Milos Raonic after accounting for Federico Delbonis 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 in two hours, 12 minutes.

Sandgren – a two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist – got past Pedro Martinez 6-4 2-0, with the Spaniard retiring.

Wimbledon and US Open runner-up Anderson was a surprise casualty, going down 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 to lucky loser Damir Dzumhur.

"I know that my game can be much better than what I'm showing right now and my position in the ATP Rankings can be much better," Dzumhur said.

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