Top seed Carlos Alcaraz was far from his best but did enough to beat Italy’s Jannik Sinner 7-6(4) 6-3 on Saturday and set up an Indian Wells final showdown with red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev in the California desert.
In a rematch of their thrilling U.S. Open quarter-final that the 19-year-old Spaniard won in five hard-hitting sets en route to winning the title, Alcaraz needed to save a set point in the opening frame against Sinner before reasserting his control.
Sinner, who ended Taylor Fritz’s title defense in the quarter-final, got the first break for a 2-1 lead but Alcaraz broke at love to draw level at 4-4 before going on to grab the tightly-contested frame.
In the second set, Alcaraz stepped up the pressure, often having Sinner scrambling around behind the baseline. He broke early for a 2-0 lead and was well on his way after a perfectly-weighted lob landed just inside the baseline for a 3-0 lead.
From there, Alcaraz relied on an array of shots and raw power to turn what had been a close encounter into a rather comfortable victory to improved to 3-2 against Sinner.
Alcaraz will now turn his focus to Sunday’s showdown with fifth seed Medvedev where a victory would return the Spaniard to top spot in the world ranking for the first time since January.
In the early match, Medvedev squandered seven match points before finally getting past Frances Tiafoe 7-5 7-6(4) to secure a place in his first Indian Wells final.
“Always better to finish on your first match point and not on the eighth,” said Medvedev. “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.”
The victory extended what has been an impressive run for the Russian, who has won 19 consecutive matches and is one victory away from adding another title to the ones he collected in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai over the last month.
Medvedev had a glorious opportunity to grab an early break until Tiafoe, who entered the match having not dropped a set in Indian Wells, impressively stormed back from 0-40 in the fifth game of the opening set to hold serve.
But Medvedev made the most of his next break point when he desperately swatted the ball from near his toes from where it clipped the net cord and dropped inside the line to pull ahead 6-5 before going on to serve out at love to take the set.
Medvedev then struck an unbelievable forehand pass down the line to break Tiafoe in the opening game of the second set and five games later turned aside the first break point he faced all day and grabbed what looked to be a comfortable 4-2 lead.
But Tiafoe did well to save three match points on serve to pull within 4-5 and then levelled the set a game later when Medvedev double-faulted on the second break point he faced.