Alcaraz fight desert duel with Medvedev number no. 1 is at stake
Former world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev will battle it out for the Indian Wells Masters 1000 title after back-to-back semi-final victories on Saturday.
The Spanish Alcaraz, the second seed, the first seed who can return to the top with his third victory in the Masters 1000 title on Sunday, defeated the Italian Yannick Sinner, the 13th seed, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 to reach his third final in 2023.
After a delayed start to the season due to injury, Alcaraz won the title in Buenos Aires and reached the final in Rio de Janeiro last month.
Meanwhile, Medvedev is on a 19-match ATP winning streak and is seeking his fourth title in as many tournaments after victories in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.
The sixth-placed Russian – who never made it past the fourth round in Indian Wells – survived a late surge from Frances Tiafoe to cruise to a 7-5 7-6 (7/4) victory over the 16th-ranked American.
In control of most of the match, Medvedev needed eight match points to finally put it away with a header on his last chance.
Medvedev said: “I’m really happy that I managed not to lose this match and not have regrets or nightmares or anything else.”
Alcaraz, who beat Sinner in an epic five-set match en route to the US Open title last year, had gained the upper hand over the Italian with an early break in the first set, but took it back with a sloppy match that included four. Unintended errors and allowed Sinner to level the set at 4-4.
With Alcaraz suddenly struggling, Sinner held the lead at 5-4 and built up the pressure with a set point at 6-5. Alcaraz saved with a back-to-back shot followed by a textbook shot winner.
Alcaraz was reinvigorated by the tiebreaker, sealing the set with a court winning backhand, and breaking Sinner in the second game of the second set – sealing the break with a slam dunk.
Leading 4-2, Alcaraz emerged from a 0-30 jam with the help of three straight unreturnable serves, capping it off with a confident match that he opened with a header and ended with a thunderous forehand.
“Playing against Yannick is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “I knew I had to step up my game. It was really close in the first set.
“In the second, the nerves calmed down, I played more relaxed and that was the key to everything.”
Alcaraz was looking forward to taking on Medvedev.
He said, “I am an ambitious man.” “I want to play against the best players in the world and I would say Daniel is the best player at the moment.
“Amazing winning streak – it’s going to be a tough challenge but I’m ready for it.”
– Crazy ending –
Called on, Medvedev appeared to be in control for most of the match, showing no sign of trouble with his right ankle, which he sustained in his fourth-round victory over Alexander Zverev.
Tiafoe reached the Masters 1000 semi-final without dropping a set, but Medvedev held him at bay in the opening set, winning 24 of his 27 serve points.
Unable to convert three break points in the fifth, Medvedev suddenly broke through in the 11th, another backhand into the net from Tiafoe giving him a chance to convert Medvedev with a forehand.
Medvedev quickly gained the advantage in the second half, breaking Tiafoe on the opener with a winning forehand that slipped inside the sideline when he fell.
Leading 5–3, Medvedev had three opportunities to claim the match on Tiafoe’s serve in the ninth game and, after failing to convert, was broken for the first time in a sloppy serve game that featured three valid faults – including a double fault on the breaking point.
Undeterred, Tiafoe broke to love in the next game, but the American again refused to concede, surviving four more match points on the way to a break of serve to force a tiebreak.
“It was crazy in the end,” Medvedev said. “It got really tight. I would say that (after) 6-5, 40-0, I think I got really tight when I was like, ‘Oh my God, so many missed opportunities.'” This can’t go well for me.'”