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Ricky’s pick for the Indian Wells final: Alcaraz vs. Medvedev

Outside of the GOATs, who were never in in the BNP Paribas Open draw to begin with, the tournament could not have asked for a better final matchup.

Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev will battle for the Indian Wells title on Sunday afternoon. Alcaraz is the top seed and will regain the No. 1 ranking in the world from Novak Djokovic if he lifts the trophy. Medvedev, a former world No. 1, has won three titles and 19 matches in a row.

This is the showdown any tennis fan should want to see. One, they are the two best players in the world right now aside from Djokovic. Two, they have never gone head-to-head with both of them at their peak. Their only previous encounter came at Wimbledon in 2021, when Alcaraz had just turned 18 years old was ranked 75th, and lost 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

Medvedev will obviously be facing a much different Alcaraz this time. The Spaniard won the U.S. Open last summer to become No. 1 in the world, and he would still be there–with room to spare–if not for a leg injury that forced him out of the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals and the 2023 Australian Open. Now healthy, Alcaraz is 13-1 this season and would almost certainly be 14-0 if he had not struggled with more leg problems in the Rio de Janeiro final against Cameron Norrie. The 19-year-old has not dropped a single set this fortnight while defeating Thanasi Kokkinakis, Tallon Griekspoor, Jack Draper, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Jannik Sinner.

While that is difficult competition (especially in the last two rounds), Alcaraz now runs into a whole different beast in the form of Medvedev. The Russian’s current surge features titles in Rotterdam, Doha, and Dubai, complete with a straight-set rout of Djokovic in the Dubai semifinals. Medvedev mauled opponents for the most part in those three events, but his Indian Wells campaign has been a bit of a circus with minor physical problems, major mental issues (relating the court speed), and seven match points squandered in the semis against Frances Tiafoe. The world No. 6 preceded that 7-5, 7-6(4) defeat of Tiafoe with victories over Brandon Nakashima, Ilya Ivashka, Alexander Zverev, and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Alcaraz has an edge based on form throughout this particular tournament, and the surface also favors him. However, Medvedev has rarely had much trouble winning matches that he technically shouldn’t win. Amidst all the complaining he has done in the desert in between games and in between sets, during points and between points Medvedev’s mental strength has been spectacular. The guy has simply forgotten how to lose.

“That makes me even happier mentally that I still managed to win, because try playing a tiebreak when you just lost seven match points,” the 27-year-old said after beating Tiafoe. “And I managed to start it well straightaway [playing] great shots and great rallies.

“So I feel like mentally, in general–even with the…let’s call it tantrums that I had this week…in general mentally last four weeks have been amazing.”

In what is almost certain to be an extremely competitive contest, that just might be the reason why Medvedev keeps his streaks alive.

Pick: Medvedev in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dimonator.