Alcaraz jeopardizes desert duel with Medvedev with No. 1

Former world number ones Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev will fight in straight sets for the first Indian Wells ATP Masters 1000 title on Saturday after two semifinal wins.

Spain’s second-placed Alcaraz, the top seed who can return to the top on Sunday with a third Masters 1000 title, defeated 13th-placed Italy’s Jannik Sinner 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 for his third final of the year to be reached 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.

Medvedev is now on an ATP winning streak of 19 games and is aiming for his fourth title in as many tournaments after wins in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.

The sixth-placed Russian, who never made it past the fourth round at Indian Wells, survived a late attack from Frances Tiafoe to win 7-5, 7-6 (7/4) over the 16th American.

Medvedev was in control for most of the game, needing eight match points to eventually walk away with an ace on his final opportunity.

“I’m just very happy that I managed not to lose this game and not have any regrets, nightmares or whatever,” said Medvedev.

Alcaraz, who beat Sinner in an epic five-setter en route to the US Open title last year, had got the better of the Italian with an early break in the first set but he returned it with a sloppy game with four unforced errors and allowed Sinner to level the set to 4-4.

With Alcaraz suddenly struggling, Sinner held at 5-4 and increased the pressure with a set point at 6-5, which Alcaraz saved with a drop shot followed by a textbook volley winner.

A revived Alcaraz blasted through the tiebreaker, sealing the set with a backhand cross-court winner and breaking Sinner in the second game of the second set – sealing the break with a stunning lob.

Alcaraz led 4-2 via a 0-30 jam with the help of three straight irreversible serves and finished it with a confident game that he opened with an ace and finished with a thundering forehand winner.

“Playing against Jannik is never easy,” said Alcaraz. “I knew I had to raise my level. It was really close in the first set.

“In the second I calmed the nerves, played more relaxed and (that) was the key to everything.”

Alcaraz was looking forward to taking on the red-hot Medvedev.

“I’m an ambitious guy,” he said. “I want to play against the best players in the world and I would say that Daniil is the best player at the moment.

“Amazing win streak – it’s going to be a tough challenge but I’m ready for it.”

– crazy ending –

A dial-in Medvedev had been in control for most of the game and showed no signs of trouble with his right ankle, which he twisted in a fourth-round win over Alexander Zverev.

Tiafoe had reached his first Masters 1000 semifinal without dropping a set, but Medvedev held him in check in the opening set, winning 24 of his 27 service points.

Medvedev failed to convert three break points in game five and suddenly broke through in the 11th, another backhand from Tiafoe netting him a chance which Medvedev converted with a net-flying forehand.

Medvedev quickly got the better of it in the second, breaking Tiafoe in the opening game with a forehand winner that curled back into the sidelines as he fell.

Leading 5-3, Medvedev had three chances in the ninth game to win the match on Tiafoe’s serve and after failing to convert he was broken for the first time in a sloppy service game with three unforced errors – including a double fault breaking point.

Undeterred, he broke love to Tiafoe in the next game, but the American again refused to concede, surviving four more match points en route to a break of serve to force the tie break.

“In the end it was crazy,” said Medvedev. “I got super tight. I would say that (after) 6-5, 40-0 I think I got tight at Deuce when I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a lot of missed chances. This might not go well for me.'”


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