INDIAN WELLS: World number three Alexander Zverev crashed out at the ATP Indian Wells Masters on Sunday, stunned in their opener 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2) by the American Tommy Paul, 39th in the standings.
After losing a first set in which Paul ruthlessly punished his second serve, Germany’s Zverev leveled the match with the only break in the second set of game 10.
After holding his serve three times and breaking Paul in game six of the third, Zverev appeared to be on his way to victory.
But the German immediately served four double faults to get the break back and Paul dominated the tiebreak with the same aggression he showed in the first set.
“I played at a very high level today,” said Paul, who picked up the biggest win of his career. “I knew how I wanted to play it, so I went out and executed well.
“It got a little crazy in the second set, and I got a little lucky at the end, but I played the breaker well, so I’m pretty happy with my performance.”
Zverev was playing his first tournament since being disqualified from the Mexican Open in Acapulco after losing his temper and repeatedly smashing his racket into the referee’s chair.
The 24-year-old Tokyo Olympic gold medalist was fined $40,000 for verbal abuse and unsportsmanlike conduct. An additional $25,000 fine and an eight-week ban were suspended provided he did not commit another code violation for 12 months.
In the other men’s second round, seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev pushed his ATP winning streak to 10 games, shaking off a slow start to beat Dominik Koepfer 7-5, 6-4.
Rublev, on the rise after titles in Marseille and Dubai this year, trailed 4-2 before twice beating 51st Koepfer to pocket the first set.
He finished with 32 winners against the German and won 11 of 15 points at net to tidy up the game.
Sixth-seeded Matteo Berrettini of Italy also cruised through to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Danish qualifier Holger Rune.
But Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded ninth, lost 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (4/7) and 6-3 to Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands.
31st seeded Alexander Bublik sent former world number one Andy Murray packing with a 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 win over the three-time Grand Slam champion.
Bublik, who just won his first career ATP title in Montpellier in February, beat Murray for the first time in three career meetings.
More disappointment for Murray’s British compatriot Emma Raducanu, beaten in the third round by Croatian Petra Martic 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 7-5.
The 19-year-old Briton, who won an unlikely US Open title as a qualifier last year, served for the match at 5-4 in the third.
But the 13th seed couldn’t muster a match point and lost the next three games, a series of forehand errors spelling the end of his challenge in a final loss of serve.
It was the latest setback for Raducanu, who was ousted in the second round of the Australian Open in January and suffered a hip injury in Guadalajara last month.
Martic, ranked 79th in the world, picked up her first victory against a top-20 player in more than two years.
“I really wanted it so badly,” Martic said. “I’m just happy that I stayed calm when I wasn’t playing so well. Because I think it was ups and downs on both sides.
Poland’s third-seeded Iga Swiatek, the highest-ranked player remaining on the women’s side, struggled early but dominated late in a 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-1 win over Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
Former world number one Simona Halep crushed Coco Gauff’s 18th birthday celebrations, beating the young American 6-3, 6-4.
Halep, the 2015 WTA champion from Indian Wells, handled the high winds beautifully, her 11 winners nearly matching her 12 unforced errors while the aggressive Gauff’s unforced errors soared to 33.
Halep said she was pleased with her performance in the difficult conditions.
“I think I played smart tennis,” said the Romanian, who saved all four break points she faced.