Carlos Alcaraz’s bid to return to World No. 1 collides with Daniil Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak on Sunday in a blockbuster final at the 2023 BNP Paribas Open. (Watch the final from 12am CET/7pm ET)
The pair may be first-time finalists at the opening ATP Masters 1000 event of the year, but their respective runs to this year’s championship match can hardly be considered a surprise.
After the start of his season was delayed until February due to injury, Alcaraz has racked up a 13-1 record for 2023 and is yet to drop a set in Indian Wells. If the 19-year-old defeats Medvedev, he will leapfrog Novak Djokovic to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time since January. A major motivation, but not one that will distract the Spaniard from the job at hand.
“I know if I win tomorrow I’m going to become the No. 1, [but] I will try not to think about that,” said the top-seeded Alcaraz after he defeated Jannik Sinner in straight sets in Saturday’s semi-finals. “[I will] just think about the things that I have to do. I would say it is going to be a really tactical match against Daniil… I have to make everything perfect. That’s all I’m going to think [about] tomorrow.”
Alcaraz Makes More ATP Masters 1000 History By Reaching Indian Wells Final
Medvedev will rise one spot to No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings regardless of the result on Sunday and the 27-year-old has been the dominant force on Tour for the past month. He has notched 19 straight victories across four tournaments on three different continents, lifted titles in Rotterdam, Doha, and Dubai, and is now one win away from becoming the first player to claim four tour-level titles in five weeks since Andy Murray in 2016.
“Once you win, you never want to stop,” said four-time Masters 1000 champion Medvedev on Saturday. “No matter which record I broke or made even, or [being] the first one since 2016 to go in four finals, I just want to win tomorrow.”
Medvedev may be tempted to turn to his 1-0 ATP Head2Head series lead against the Spaniard for confidence ahead of his first Masters 1000 final since the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters. Yet the fifth seed acknowledges that the present-day Alcaraz is a completely different prospect to the 18-year-old he defeated in straight-sets at Wimbledon in 2021.
“It counts in our head-to-head and it has to count, that’s how tennis works,” said Medvedev after his semi-final victory against Frances Tiafoe. “I also have my matches which I lost when I was not at the top, but he was definitely not the same player [in 2021] that he is right now.”
“Right now is totally different,” concurred two-time Masters 1000 titlist and 2022 Indian Wells semi-finalist Alcaraz. “I’m an experienced guy, or at least I’m more experienced than that match. I know how to play against him. I practised with him a few times, as well, so is not new thing for me right now. So it’s going to be, I think, a totally different match.”
Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak has been powered by his trademark attributes: precise serving and relentless hitting from the baseline. Alcaraz’s ability to penetrate those defences with his blistering groundstrokes will be crucial to deciding the outcome of Sunday’s final.
“He’s a wall. He returns every ball, impossible shots,” said Alcaraz. “I talked with my team that the returns [against him] are almost in the corner of the court and [he is] still winning the points… I probably [have to] hit my best shots to hit winners against him.”
Alcaraz’s all-around attributes raise the possibility that the Spaniard will deploy serve-and-volley tactics to capitalise on Medvedev’s renowned deep return position. Tiafoe used the tactic to good effect in Saturday’s semi-final, and Medvedev is prepared for more of the same from Alcaraz.
“It’s just an opportunity they have, and that’s always for sure the question to me if they start doing it, do I advance my position?” said Medvedev. “Sometimes I do, sometimes not… So I give this opportunity, and then I try to kind of use it to my advantage to try to pass them. At the same time I know that if my return is a little bit somewhere off, there is a big chance they just go open court.”
Having never previously been past the fourth round in Indian Wells, Medvedev found a way to reach the final despite rolling his ankle against Alexander Zverev in the fourth round and cutting open his right thumb against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the quarter-finals. Yet the World No. 2 and two-time Masters 1000 champion Alcaraz represents his biggest challenge yet.
“He has amazing skills which are tough to compare to everyone,” said Medvedev. “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, the youngest No. 1 in history. That means something. It’s going to be great and fun to play against him.”
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