With the demise of both the defending champion and last former champions at this year’s quarter final stage at the Indian Wells Masters, a new name is guaranteed to appear on this year’s trophy and that will be resolved Sunday when the last two left in the draw, Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz, meet in the final.
Really happy to win, for sure, It was a crazy match. I mean, the ending, tough. Daniil Medvedev
And it will prove a more than intriguing match for both are former world number ones and both have won the US Open for their only grand slam titles to date. In addition, both are on excellent runs having opened their seasons on top form.
Medvedev was first through and eventually dispatched the home hope, Frances Tiafoe, 7-5 7-6(4) on his eighth match point!
“Really happy to win, for sure,” a relieved Medvedev said after his 106-minute encounter. “It was a crazy match. I mean, the ending, tough. I still feel not stressed but like it’s definitely better to win like 7-5, 6-3, because then you get the energy level down. That’s fine. I know how to go through it, so that’s not a problem.
“But still, always better to finish on your first match point and not on the eighth. But that’s what makes tennis also a fun sport, and I’m just really happy that I managed not to lose this match and not to have regrets, nightmares, whatever. Happy to be in the final and looking forward for tomorrow.”
With the second semi-final between Spain’s Alcaraz and Italy’s Jannik Sinner still to be decided, the Russian added on the player he expected to be facing Sunday, the Spanish teenager: “He’s amazing. He has amazing skills which are tough to compare to everyone, I would think maybe to Rafa, but it’s tough to compare because Rafa is lefty, so you cannot really compare their ball. Once he hits through the forehand, it’s amazing to watch. I don’t think there is anyone who can hit this strong and also with topspin.
“That’s why he was No. 1 in the world, youngest No. 1 in the history. That means something. It’s gonna be great and fun to play against him if he manages to close out the match.”
As noted, he did with a 7-6(4) 6-3 scoreline but Sinner kept him busy for nearly two hours before capitulating.
Of the two semis, it was the Medvedev and Tiafoe clash which proved to be the more exciting with the Russian dominating the early stages and Tiafoe attempting to apply pressure as he saved break points while fending off his opponent’s attacking game.
That was maintained in the second with Tiafoe losing his serve early and it certainly looked all over for the American hope until the match reached the finishing lane where Medvedev stumbled.
After missing match points on Tiafoe’s serve, he had a chance to serve for it but Tiafoe rose to the occasion to grab a stunning break back thanks to a double fault, the only one he committed during the match.
Tiafoe’s hopes however, wouldn’t last long as Medvedev promptly broke back and then served for it at 6-5, 40-0 only to stumble yet again!
In the ensuing breaker, Medvedev got up 5-1 only for Tiafoe to briefly fight back once more before conceding a place in the final.
For the Muscovite it will be his 31st career final, 7th at Masters level as he chases his 19th title tomorrow and, if successful, it would be a remarkable 4th consecutive title in virtually as many weeks!
In contrast the second semi Alcaraz was dominant throughout against the 21-year-old Italian to secure his third win in five meetings against a player he will no doubt be encountering often throughout his career.
Alcaraz got an early break, but Sinner managed to keep with him and even held a set point on the 19-year-old’s serve who fended it off to force a tie-break which he won relatively comfortably.
That set the scene for a quick early break in the second allowing Alcaraz to storm through with his powerful game into the final.
“I feel great,” Alcaraz said. “This is a tournament that I love playing. I have great memories, my first semi-final for a Masters 1000 here against Rafa. It was really special for me. Coming back this year and making final is really special moment for me.”
“It was a tough moment for me,” Alcaraz explained at letting his first set break slip away. “I didn’t make the right things. I’d say it was everything too fast and, yeah, in that moment you have to be slow, think well, and it wasn’t my case.
“I think at that point the match, it was close. You know, I think he started to play better. I was fighting against myself.”
For Alcaraz it will be his 11th career final and third at the Masters level as he chases his 8th career title and third at the Masters level. Success will also lift him back to the top of the world rankings!
“Well, I will try not to think about that, just to, as I said, just to think about the things that I have to do,” Alcaraz commented. “Tomorrow I would say gonna be a really tactical match against Daniil. Is gonna be really tough. I have to make, let’s say, everything perfect. That’s all I’m gonna think tomorrow.
“He’s a wall,” Alcaraz said of Medvedev. “He return every ball, impossible shots. I talk with my team that the returns are almost, you know, in the corner of the court and (he is) still winning the points.
“He’s an amazing runner, he’s an amazing player. I probably hit my best shots to, you know, hit winners against him.”
Alcaraz and Medvedev have met just once before with Medvedev coming out ahead in the second round at Wimbledon in 2021 when the Spaniard was a green 17-year-old. A lot of water has passed under the bridge in the past couple of years!