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Ernesto Escobedo Tops Tiafoe In Indian Wells @ The BNP Paribas Open

Photo by @BNPPARIBASOPEN via Twitter



INDIAN WELLS—The first time Ernesto Escobedo entered the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, he was a small kid with big dreams seeking some selfies with the pros.


The 21-year-old Escobedo made a picture perfect main-draw debut today.


In a battle of young American success stories, the Los Angeles-born Escobedo bounced Delray Beach champion Frances Tiafoe out of the BNP Paribas Open first round with an impressive 7-5, 6-3 victory.


It was his third win over Tiafoe in as many meetings. The first two were 7-6 in the third set decisions at the Challenger level. Today, Escobedo faced only two break points.


Unlike some of his more highly-touted young contemporaries, Escobedo has earned his way into main draws qualifying in three of his four ATP tournaments this year.


Born on the Fourth of July, Escobedo’s work ethic was born from generations of family ties. His father, a UPS driver, and grandfather, both named Ernesto, set an example of effort from his childhood.


The family built an abbreviated backyard court and his dad sometimes shortened his work scheduled to coach his son on public park courts in Southern California.


“I mean, like my family sacrificed so much for me, especially, like, my dad,” said Escobedo, who entered the interview room still wearing his match clothes and baseball cap as if ready for another match. “I mean, he would take off time from work just to be with me on the court. So, I’m really grateful for that.”


Father Ernesto and mother Cristina stood and applauded the son nicknamed “Neto” from their front row seats after Escobedo torched a series of 90 mph forehands in the final game to close out a confident 82-minute victory that felt like payback to his parents.


“I mean, playing here, I mean, I feel like I’m doing him a favor, as well, because he, like, gave me so much,” Escobedo said of his father. “And it’s time for me to, like, pay him back.”


Though both Escobedo and Tiafoe have risen from modest circumstances, the world No. 117 said his decision to turn pro rather than accept a college scholarship wasn’t driven by economics. It was about making the most of his ability and opportunity.


“I mean, I never felt like the family was poor,” Escobedo said. “I felt like we had everything. Money doesn’t matter for me. If we have one dollar or a million, I’m still going to have a smile on my face, and my dad, as well. So, we didn’t care about the money. My dad just wanted just to give me and my sisters, like, a great opportunity for us.”


A bruising power baseliner who can dictate play with his pulsating forehand, Escobedo earned the biggest win of his career last month knocking 10th-ranked Jack Sock out of Acapulco, 7-5, 7-6 (3) to reach the round of 16.


Escobedo has room for improvement. He served just 48 percent today and his volleys are still a work in progress, but he’s made major strides this season.


Next up for Escobedo is a second-round date with 28th-seeded Feliciano Lopez.


The eight-year-old kid whose earliest Indian Wells memory was getting a photo with Mike Bryan gave his coach, former Dutch pro, Peter Lucassen, a birthday gift worth framing on his 30th birthday.


“I mean, without him, I wouldn’t be here,” Escobedo said. “I mean, it’s his birthday today. He just turned 30. I’m guessing he’s, like, pretty happy right now.”

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