Tennis: World No. 2 on line in Alcaraz-Sinner semi-final showdown

AFP , Friday 15 Mar 2024

Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz will have to find a way past "the best tennis player in the world right now" when takes on Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals of the Indian Wells Masters on Saturday.

Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates his win against Alexander Zverev of Germany during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 14, 2024, in Indian Wells, California. Photo: AFP

 

The 20-year-old Spaniard, already a two-time Grand Slam champion, is chasing his first title since he vanquished Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last July.

Sinner, meanwhile, is on the ascendant. The 22-year-old Italian is riding a 19-match winning streak that stretches back through last year's Davis Cup finals.

His perfect 16-0 record in 2024 includes a maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and the title at Rotterdam last month.

Not only can he end Alcaraz's hopes of a title defense, with a victory on Saturday Sinner would be assured of claiming the world number 2 ranking for the first time come Monday.

"Honestly, I don't know how I'm going to approach the match," said Alcaraz after his beating Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1 in the quarter-finals.

"He's the best tennis player in the world right now, without a doubt. He's playing unbelievable. No losses this year.

"So, it's going to be a really difficult match. It's going to be a big challenge for me to see what my level is facing him."

Alcaraz, who retired from his opening match in Rio de Janeiro in February with a sprained ankle, has gone from strength to strength in Indian Wells, reaching the semis with the loss of just one set.

Against Zverev -- in a quarter-final disrupted by a swarm of bees -- Alcaraz didn't face a break point.

Sinner, who fell to Alcaraz in last year's Indian Wells semis before beating him at the same stage in Miami, has been just as impressive in reaching the last four without dropping a set.

"Carlos, it's always fun to play with him," said Sinner, who has won their last two encounters to leads their career head-to-head 4-3.

"We are good friends off the court. On the court, we just try to give 100 percent.

"Especially when he's serving really well, it's tough to play against him. I'm looking forward to every challenge."

The winner of the contest will take on either fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev or American Tommy Paul in Sunday's title match.

Medvedev was runner-up to Alcaraz last year at Indian Wells after years of struggling at the event.

The 28-year-old saw of seventh-seeded Holger Rune 7-5, 6-4 in the quarter-finals and said he was feeling stronger than he did last year -- when he fought his way to the final despite twisting his ankle in the fourth round.

"Last year was crazy with the ankle," Medvedev said. "This year I feel is a little bit more calm and straightforward, so maybe I can do better than last year. Let's see."

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