WATCH: Paul engaged in a lengthy debate with umpire Nacho Forcadell over whether he could communicate with his coach during a match delay.


MIAMI—Up against an in-form opponent in changeable conditions, Tommy Paul found himself relying on a fairly new constant to kick off his Miami Open campaign and overcome Marc-Andrea Huesler, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Paul is among the rare few to make a major racquet switch in the middle of his career, moving from the Wilson Blade—and a brand he’s used since his junior days—over to the Yonex VCORE 98, a change the American felt was a long time coming.

“Three or four years ago, before I signed with Wilson, I tried out the Yonex racquets and I liked them, but we couldn’t get them to where they were just right,” he explained in the Miami Open mixed zone. “At the end of the year, I was excited to try them out again. It was actually weird: I was using one string for the whole pre-season, and right before I got to Australia, I decided to go back to my old string and switch.”

Despite tinkering through the off-season, the No. 16 seed admitted he was still on the fence before the year began.

“I went down there with three Wilson racquets and three Yonex racquets because I thought, ‘If the first week doesn’t go well, I’m going back to the Wilson.’ I didn’t even end up playing that well the first week but I felt so comfortable with the racquet that I stayed with them.

“I left my Wilson racquets in Adelaide so by then, I was fully committed!”

Paul upset two seeds en route to the Australian Open semifinals in January.

Paul upset two seeds en route to the Australian Open semifinals in January.

The decision ultimately paid off: Paul surged into his first Grand Slam semifinal and made his Top 20 debut at the age of 25. Heading to Miami after a solid run at the BNP Paribas Open, he encountered numerous issues on Butch Buchholz Court, including a lengthy debate with umpire Nacho Forcadell when he was prevented from communicating with his coach during a delay to treat a heat-stricken spectator.

“I wasn’t even getting coached,” he insisted after the match. “I was just telling my team and talking about the dude up in the stands. We weren’t talking about any coaching stuff but the umpire said we couldn’t have any conversation with your coach. I was like, ‘I thought we just changed that rule.’ I’m super confused by what we can and cannot do on court at any given time.”

Echoing friend—and fellow Yonex player—Frances Tiafoe’s call for a rowdier court experience, Paul was open to the idea for less arcane protocol that he feels bogs matches down.

“I think what Frances said is great: open the whole thing up, let people walk around, let young people drink beers while we play tennis, and let me have a conversation with someone in the crowd.

“For me, it’s not always the best, but Foe could do those things for the whole match and still play great tennis. I think that’d be something really interesting to watch.”

Paul has a shot to put on another show in the third round when he takes on No. 20 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Sunday.