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Men’s Tennis Final In Indian Wells • BNP Open • Carlos Is Himself Again By Alix Ramsay

Photo credit: Rob Stone/@RobStoneTennis

By Alix Ramsay

For a man who was not sure if he could compete at all at the BNP Paribas Open, Carlos Alcaraz was looking awfully happy. He had just beaten Daniil Medvedev to win the title (as he had done last year), his first title since winning Wimbledon last summer.

Last month, he turned his right ankle in his opening match in Rio de Janeiro. The good news was that the ligaments were not badly damaged but, even so, he came to the Californian desert with many doubts in his mind. When he started to practise with his main rivals, he was not sure if he could last the distance but then, once he set foot on the match court, his mood changed. The confidence returned and with the crowd roaring him on, he improved with every round he played.

It was not a classic final with Medvedev by any means. True enough, there were some sensational rallies but in the first set in particular, there were too many errors: one moment of magic followed by a double fault or a fluffed groundstroke. But as the match wore on, Alcaraz started to pull away from the world No.4.

Alcaraz did everything that little bit better than his rival: he served better on both the first and second deliveries; he returned better, he hit more winners and made fewer errors. By the second set, Medvedev could not lay a glove on him just as had been the case in last year’s final. Alcaraz took the $1.1million winner’s cheque 7-6, 6-1.

Photo credit: Rob Stone/@RobStoneTennis

“This is definitely your court,” Medvedev told his conqueror in the trophy presentation ceremony. “Hopefully one day you will let me play a little better here. Maybe I won’t have to play you in the final because that hasn’t worked out too well for me so far.”

Alcaraz now leads Medvedev 4-2 in their career rivalry and, after snapping Jannik Sinner’s 16-match winning streak for 2024 in the semi-final (and 19-match winning run in all), he has pulled level with the Italian on four wins apiece in their rivalry. His place at No.2 in the rankings has been secured and there is another Masters 1000 event to come in Miami next week. All in all, it had not been a bad couple of weeks for the bloke with the dodgy ankle.

“What I learned from these weeks is that you can overcome all the problems that you have,” Alcaraz said. “It doesn’t matter what problems you have. If you believe in yourself, you have a really good team around, you work hard, everything can turn around. I think that’s the most lesson that I take from this tournament.

“I had really difficult months. Let’s say the last two months it was difficult for me to find myself. I didn’t enjoy, let’s say, stepping on the court. I wasn’t myself on the court the last two months, three months, so it was difficult for me.

“It means a lot to me, lifting this trophy, winning this tournament, because I overcome a lot of problems in my head, a lot of problems physically. It was so special for that. Not that I didn’t win a tournament since Wimbledon.

“For me, if I win tournaments or not, I don’t care. It’s about enjoying playing tennis: once I step on the court, putting my game. It’s what only matters. That’s why I’m really, really happy to lift this trophy, because I found myself at this tournament, and I felt really, really good.”

Photo credit: Rob Stone/@RobStoneTennis

As for Medvedev, he was happy enough. He finds the desert conditions harder than most and yet he had chased Alcaraz all the way to the finish line two years in a row now. And last year, he hopped on the Red Eye, headed for Miami and won the tournament – he rather hopes that he can do the same this time around, too.

“The first thing I asked my coach in the locker room was: “I don’t feel I have any regrets. Do you have any regrets?” He said, “Yeah, we can talk about one shot here and there, but in general the match was not bad. He’s playing good.”

“He managed in the first set at one moment to raise his level. I kind of managed to be there and to try to catch his level, but I was just a little bit down. In the end, this down was going down, down, down, and he was going up, up, up. So the result is a fair result for the match that it was.

“But I’m happy. Last time I managed to do it I won Miami, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Looking to the future, Medvedev, at the age of 28, knows well enough that the likes of Alcaraz and Sinner are the future. But, for the moment, the Russian is still a contender – and a fellow grand slam champion. His job is to stop the young lads from racing past him and leaving him eating their dust.

“Carlos and Jannik, for the moment, just them, they already established themselves to say we are here, we’re going to try to win as many tournaments as possible,” Medvedev said. “Then it’s always a question, do they win nine, 10, 12 slams – which is amazing – or do they go for 25 to beat Novak, which is a bit more of a special number. And you never know. Who knows?

“I’m sure that Carlos and Jannik will have a lot of slams. But as long as I play, I hope I can sometimes try to beat them because it’s a very tough job, very tough task.”

With no Novak Djokovic in Miami – he says he needs to balance his “private and professional schedule” – there is every chance we will see Messrs Alcaraz, Medvedev and Sinner doing battle for the silverware. And in Miami, Medvedev thinks the conditions make for a far more even playing field. Watch this space.