INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Carlos Alcaraz nimbled through the hallways of Stadium 1 at the BNP Paribas Open as the sun dipped into the desert and dark clouds rolled in.
He finished his trophy run at Indian Wells ahead of the storm and everything else, won the title without losing a set, and has the hottest hand in tennis, Daniil Medvedev. even won an unexpectedly lopsided final on Sunday.
His 6-3, 6-2 win — filled with beautifully camouflaged drop shots, charging volley winners and other dazzlements — didn’t just end Medvedev’s 19-game winning streak in haste. Alcaraz also returned to the top of the singles rankings on Monday, replacing Serbian Novak Djokovic, who has not been allowed into the United States because he has not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
A five-time Indian Wells singles champion, Djokovic is the most successful men’s hardcourt player in tour history. However, his decision to stop vaccinations caused him to miss a series of important events. That includes last year’s US Open, which Spaniard Alcaraz won to top the rankings for the first time at the age of 19.
“I’m a player, but I’m also a fan of tennis,” Alcaraz said in an interview on Sunday. No one wants to see someone who can’t, especially me, and I wish Djokovic could play every event, play him, share the locker room, and learn from him up close. I think.”
A tennis showdown is what most people want to see most, and it didn’t happen at the Australian Open in January, when Djokovic won his 10th title. Alcaraz missed it just before he was scheduled to leave Spain for Australia as he injured his leg after lunging in an attempt to take a shot in practice. He had already missed the end of the 2022 season due to a torn stomach muscle.
“It was tough. I missed Australia, a Grand Slam I really wanted to play and thought I had a chance to win,” Alcalaz said. “But it’s let me learn from what I’m not doing right. You can be on the court for two to three hours a day, but it’s also how you take care of yourself off the court. Yes, rest, eat well, and take the right supplements.”
The leading men haven’t all come together in the same spot yet this season, but the leading women have reunited in the desert with a fast-paced win between six-foot power players Alina Sabalenka of Belarus and Jelena Rybakina of Belarus. The Australian Open final was reproduced. Kazakhstan via Moscow.
While Sabalenka won the 3-set Classic in Melbourne, Ryvakina won 7-6 (11) 6-4 on Sunday, a nerve-wracking effort even the self-contained Ryvakina was struggling to keep poker on. Saved two set points in the opening set. face.
Sabalenka’s stumbling was a familiar one. It’s a double fault. They’ve ruined the first half of the 2022 season, but she got help from a biomechanics expert and performed well under duress in Australia. double faults (all in the first set, three in tiebreakers) and was clearly upset.
“There will be days when old habits come back. You just have to get over it,” she said of what she learned from her defeat.
Reigning Wimbledon champion and No. 7 Ryvakina dominated Saturday’s semi-finals after twice defeating this year’s No. 1 Yiga Sfiatek.
Alcaraz and Djokovic have only met once so far, with Alcaraz winning three tight sets on clay to win the title in Madrid last May. It’s not Alcaraz’s fault that we didn’t see each other here in the desert, but he came back in 1st place under unusual circumstances, so I can’t say it was his problem. Djokovic failed to score any ranking points after winning Wimbledon last year after points were stripped from the venerable tournament due to bans on Russian and Belarusian players, including Medvedev.
But Medvedev said after being approached on Sunday that Alcaraz had taken the top spot, he said it “couldn’t be helped” even if the rankings were different if Djokovic had played a full schedule.
“Carlos is rightfully the best in the world,” he said. “He has scored more points than anyone else in the last 52 weeks. That’s how the ranking works.”
Monday also brought bad news to Spanish tennis when Rafael Nadal dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since April 25, 2005, breaking a record that stood for almost 18 years. It’s hard to imagine Alcaraz or anyone else having that kind of consistency, but Alcaraz is clearly a heated talent. Sneaker acrobatics that can dominate and captivate.
It’s a rare combination that reminds us of former 20-time Grand Slam champion and back-to-back crowd pleaser Roger Federer in Alcaraz’s bedroom in his family’s home in Murcia, Spain. Like Federer, who retired last year at 41, Alcaraz is a great feline mover who likes variety and the element of surprise with sharp changes of pace and quick moves to the net.
“I think he looks a lot more like Roger than Rafa,” said Paul Annacone, the Tennis Channel analyst who coached Federer. “Because Rafa couldn’t take the ball this early when he was 19, and Rafa couldn’t get in front like this. It looked like there was something there, and that’s what this boy looks like.”
Neither Federer nor Nadal (or Djokovic) were No. 1 when they were teenagers. For Annacone, Alcaraz is “his most accomplished 19-year-old male player” in his memory, with a consistency and decision-making not usually found in younger players.
“What’s interesting to me is that not only are you good at athleticism – running, jumping, explosiveness, flexibility – but also your hand-eye coordination to get the ball early on the rise, go forward and volley. You’re looking at a prepared player,” said Annacone. “He can also back up and change the pace. He can do everything.
Medvedev certainly looked overwhelmed on this turbulent Sunday. rice field.
Not only did Alcaraz serve and volley effectively, but in his own game, baseline tennis, he beat Medvedev with powerful groundstrokes and deft touches (he had three forehands late in the game). He hit the drop shot winner with a straight).
His endurance is questionable, but it’s a convincing comeback. Last month, Alcaraz won on clay in Buenos Aires and reached the final in Rio de Janeiro, where Cameron lost to Norrie and re-injured his leg. But after a few days of rest and treatment, he seemed as agile as ever in Indian Wells.
The next stop for this beaming swing on America’s hard courts is the Miami Open, which starts on Friday, and Alcaraz will have a successful run to stop the still-out Djokovic from reclaiming the No. 1 spot. You have to defend your title well.
Their rematch will have to wait until the clay-court season in Europe, and hopefully by then.