INDIAN WELLS (United States), March 18 — Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner renew their rivalry Saturday in the semi-finals of the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters 1000, where a title would see Alcaraz return to number one in the world.
The 19-year-old Spaniard and 21-year-old Italian are 2-2 in four prior meetings, but it was Alcaraz who came out on top in their most dramatic clash — a five-set US Open quarter-final that lasted five hours and 15 minutes, its 2:50am finish the latest in US Open history.
Alcaraz would go on to lift the trophy and become the youngest world number one in the history of the rankings.
He says adding a third Masters 1000 title to his resume is more important than supplanting Novak Djokovic atop the rankings, but Sinner could prove a serious obstacle to both.
“I’m in a much, much better position (than) where I was one year ago,” Sinner said after he took down fifth-ranked defending champion Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals.
“I also know my body better, when to practice or when maybe to only do the gym.
“Also mentally was tough last year, so this year I feel much, much better. I’m in a good position right now.”
Alcaraz, whose 2023 campaign got off to a late start in February because of injuries, has made up ground quickly, claiming a title in Buenos Aires and reaching the final in Rio.
He said he was up for the challenge he expects from Sinner, who is seeking his first Masters 1000 title. It would be his second title of the season after a triumph in Montpellier last month.
“Great battles,” Alcaraz said of their matches to date. “I’m going to enjoy that match.”
The winner of the match will face either red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev or Frances Tiafoe, who is aiming to follow the footsteps of compatriot Fritz to the title in the California desert.
Medvedev, who has never found the slow hard courts of Indian Wells congenial, has nevertheless managed to reach the final four for the first time as he goes for a fourth straight ATP title after victories at Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.
It has been a bruising week for the world number six, who rolled his right ankle in a three-set victory over Germany’s Alexander Zverev and needed attention for a cut thumb after another tumble in his quarter-final win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Medvedev, his win streak at 18 matches, doesn’t mind that the longer the streak goes, the more the pressure ratchets up.
“I like pressure, because pressure comes, the better result you do, the more pressure,” said Medvedev, a former world number one who had dropped out of the top 10 after a disappointing start to the season.
Tiafoe, meanwhile, has roared into the semi-finals without dropping a set as he chases his first Masters 1000 title, one that would launch him into the top 10 for the first time.
The American, who has lost all four prior matches against Medvedev, believes his big serve and forehand can break through Medvedev’s defences.
“I’m able to take the racquet out of players’ hands,” Tiafoe said after he beat former champion Cameron Norrie in the quarter-finals. “I have grown as a player tremendously and it’s showing. I’m really happy with my progress.” — AFP