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Indian Wells: Alcaraz rallies to subdue Arnaldi in second round

World number two Carlos Alcaraz got off to a stuttering start in his Indian Wells Masters title defence on Friday but turned the tables to beat Matteo Arnaldi 6-7 (5/7), 6-0, 6-1.

The second-round success served as a welcome fitness test for the 20-year-old Spaniard, who rolled his ankle a fortnight ago in Rio and retired from his first-round match there.

Alcaraz gathered his forces after dropping the opening set against Arnaldi, cutting his unforced error count from 23 in the first set to a mere eight for the remainder of the contest.

The reigning Wimbledon champion lost just one more game as he came through in two and a quarter hours, concluding with 22 winners.

Alcaraz said his ankle felt better than expected.

“Honestly, it surprised me,” he said. “I felt great, moving normally without thinking about it.

“It was a really good match to realize that I am better than I imagined,” added Alcaraz, who next plays Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova also advanced with ease, beating American Bernarda Pera with the loss of just two games. Vondrousova took just 64 minutes to dispatch Pera 6-0, 6-2.

But Elena Rybakina’s WTA title defence ended without a ball struck as she withdrew before her scheduled opener with a gastrointestinal issue.

Alex de Minaur, the 10th seed coming off a triumph in Acapulco at the weekend, regained some Aussie pride as he crushed Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-1, 6-2.

German sixth seed Alexander Zverev moved through with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Australian Christopher O’Connell.

His compatriot Angelique Kerber lifted the tempo of her maternity return as she upset fellow Grand Slam winner Jelena Ostapenko in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

The 34-year-old German, who became a mum last summer and returned to the courts in January, won two consecutive matches for the first time since Wimbledon two years ago.

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