And then there were four! On Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open, tennis’ version of March Madness continues with men’s semifinal action. Get primed on pivotal matchups between the top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz and rising Italian Jannik Sinner, as well as a blockbuster between No.5-seeded Daniil Medvedev 2022 US Open semifinalist Frances Tiafoe.
Read on for a preview of both popcorn-worthy Saturday matchups…
Through their four previous meetings, rising American Tiafoe has had the hardest time figuring out how to play with Medvedev. The 2021 US Open champion has bamboozled Tiafoe in all four of their previous meetings, winning 10 of 11 sets in the process, but the version of Tiafoe that fans are witnessing in the California desert this week is vastly improved, more confident and more lethal.
No longer content to run the baseline, Tiafoe now prides himself on taking the initiative.
“I’m using my speed a lot more to be aggressive, not just to react to balls and out the corners and stuff,” he said after defeating Cameron Norrie in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. “I’m doing that much better now. Using my speed to be aggressive, coming forward much more, sticking volleys, and just being athletic out there.
“It’s tough for guys. I’m really coming at you.”
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 15, 2023
Will it be tough for Medvedev, the unorthodox tactician, who is a nightmare matchup for so many?
Not much has been lately.
The former World No.1 has reeled off 18 consecutive victories, a streak that dates back to the start of his title run in Rotterdam in early February. Since then, titles in Doha and Dubai followed. Here at the BNP Paribas Open, Medvedev has shown his steel early and often, shaking off a badly twisted ankle and a cut thumb in successive matches to prolong his winning ways.
Though the slow-playing hard courts aren’t his favorite, he’ll be the favorite against Tiafoe, based on his current form and the pair’s head-to-head.
But don’t sleep on Tiafoe, who is playing the best tennis of his life and hungry to make a big splash on home soil.
Alcaraz and Sinner is one of those matches made in heaven. Two ultra-talented freaks of nature that bring out the best in one another’s game, the pair’s budding rivalry has tennis purists foaming at the mouth.
Anybody who witnessed the pair battle for five hours and fifteen minutes at last year’s US Open knows that Saturday’s second men’s singles semifinal will be must-see tennis.
The fans are excited. The pundits are excited. Alcaraz and Sinner are excited, too.
“I love playing really tough matches, you know, close matches, matches with high quality,” Alcaraz explained. “I love playing those kind of matches. Jannik is a great player. Great ball striker, as well. So I love every match that I play against him.”
The pair have split their four previous meetings, with Alcaraz winning both matches on hard courts.
More importantly, each edition of the rivalry has given us countless moments of drama and shotmaking excellence. As these two future stars evolve their blossoming games, the quality of their rivalry rises right along with it.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 17, 2023
If edition five of the matchup is anything like the previous four, prepare to be jumping out of your seat all night long.