And then there were two! On Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open, tennis’ version of March Madness comes to an end with a blockbuster men’s final between top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz and No.5-seeded Daniil Medvedev…. Get primed on their second career meeting as each bids for their maiden BNP Paribas Open title.
Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev first got acquainted as competitors in 2021 when Medvedev eased past the then-18-year-old in the second round at Wimbledon, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
Before you read into that contest, played on Wimbledon’s storied and slick lawns, hear what both players have to say about their initial meeting.
“He was definitely not the same player as he is right now,” Medvedev told reporters of Alcaraz after defeating Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 7-6(4) at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Saturday afternoon. “So in a way, it’s going to be like a first match between us in terms of how we are gonna go tactically or physically or tennis-wise.”
A finalist at long last 🙌@DaniilMedwed tallies a 19th straight win to defeat Tiafoe and advance to a first Indian Wells final 7-5, 7-6(4).#TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/uGzuuYsqot
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 18, 2023
Alcaraz shares the same sentiment about that match in 2021.
“If I’m not wrong, when I played against him he was No. 2 in the world,” Alcaraz correctly told the press on Saturday, after battling past Italy’s Jannik Sinner, 7-6(4), 6-3. “I just started to play on the tour, so I was not experienced player. For me, was a strange match.”
A lot has changed for Alcaraz since the summer of 2021. Back then he was 75 in the world and very much learning the ropes on tour. 20 months later he is a Grand Slam champion and a former World No.1, just like Medvedev.
The Spaniard could be No.1 again on Monday, but he’ll have to earn his first win over Medvedev to make that happen.
“Right now is totally different,” Alcaraz concluded. “I’m an experienced guy, or at least I’m more experienced [than I was during that] match. I know how to play against him. I have practiced with him a few times, as well, so it’s not new thing for me right now. It’s gonna be a totally different match.”
Now that we’ve got that bit of backstory out of the way, let us focus on the here and now.
Sunday’s BNP Paribas Open men’s singles final will be a clash of two torrid tennis players, who have improved with every single match this year at Indian Wells.
Medvedev, who entered the tournament having won three titles in succession, at Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai, has parlayed his confidence into his deepest run ever in the California desert. He had never been beyond the round of 16 prior to 2023, and not many considered him a favorite when the draw began, due to the fact that he mixes with Indian Wells’ slow-playing hard courts like oil does with water.
But five victories later the No. 5 seed is playing flawless tennis as he zeroes in on the title.
He’s even learning to enjoy the process of adapting to the conditions.
“We laugh about it because every day in Indian Wells, different,” he said. “Sometimes wind, sometimes the ball is flying, sometimes it doesn’t fly. So it goes in the net. You have to adapt. If it’s flying, you have to adapt. So I don’t know. Let’s see what Indian Wells has for us tomorrow.”
Alcaraz is a different story. The conditions here are perfect for his game, and he has been thriving on it ever since he took the court for his first match against Thanasi Kokkinakis last week. There’s a reason the man they call Carlitos is the only player who hasn’t dropped a set at Indian Wells this year.
It was clear last year, when Alcaraz pushed Rafael Nadal to three sets in an epic semifinal, that he’d have a bright future in the California desert.
“This is a tournament that I love playing,” he said. “I have great memories, my first semifinal for a Masters 1000 here against Rafa. It was really special for me. Coming back this year and making final is really special moment for me.”
Indian Wells finalist No.✌️#TennisParadise | @carlosalcaraz pic.twitter.com/oIm8zkNgUy
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 19, 2023
It may be Alcaraz who prefers the conditions, but Sunday’s clash will feature two players equally versed in the art of winning big matches on big stages.
So throw out their first meeting and the technical jargon. Forget about the past and focus on Sunday. That’s what champions have always done, better than all the rest.