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Men's Semifinal: Alcaraz Rains On Streaking Sinner’s Parade, Returns to Final
3 Min Read · March 16, 2024

On Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open, rain wreaked havoc in the first set of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz’s eighth career meeting. When the clouds cleared and the sun entered the picture after a lengthy delay at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the pair of rivals proceeded to wreak havoc on one another – in the most thrilling manner. 

The crowd loved every minute…

Meeting in the semifinals in the California desert for the second consecutive year, No.2 seed Alcaraz and No.3 seed Sinner traded blows across a thrilling three-set battle before Alcaraz emerged with a satisfying victory to stretch his Indian Wells winning streak to 11, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. 

“Playing here is magic,” an elated Alcaraz told the crowd after snapping Sinner’s career-best 19-match winning streak. “You guys make me feel like I’m playing at home – it’s a big part of these results, hopefully I can keep going like this and I can make one more step.” 

In the latest edition of a rivalry that has become known for out-of-this-world shot-making, the pair delivered yet again. 

Exhibit A: this crowd-pleasing bit of wizardry on the first point of the fifth game of the second set.

“This point was crazytown,” Tennis Channel’s Jim Courier gushed of the dynamic exchange while commentating the match. 

Jaw-dropping rallies executed at breakneck speed have become the norm for Sinner and Alcaraz, and the above point was one of many that elicited groans of delight from a packed Stadium 1 crowd that featured sporting royalty (Rocket Rod Laver) and entertainment royalty (Charlize Theron) alike. 

“This is one of the best places to play tennis, no?” Sinner told reporters in his post-match press conference. “Packed stadium. Two young players trying their best. This is fun, to play there – for sure you want to win, but there will be occasions in the future where you win some and you lose some. There is nothing you can do about it.”

Both players had their shining moments over the course of the encounter, and it was Sinner who landed the first strikes. The 22-year-old Italian calmly navigated the tricky terrain of returning from a lengthy rain delay, backed Alcaraz into a corner with heavily weighted groundstrokes and swept through four games on the trot in a 19-minute span to lock up the set, 6-1. 

Alcaraz switched on the style in set two, the Spaniard cleverly taking Sinner out of his rhythm with a series of perfectly placed drop shots, pace-changing slice, and sneaky forays into the net. With Sinner on the scramble for much of the set, the pair engaged in several cat-and-mouse points for the highlight reel – Alcaraz took the majority and closed out the set on the strength of a single break, 6-3. 

“That’s something that I’ve been working on,” Alcaraz said, of his ability to turn the match around after a tough opening set. “I had to make adjustments, I had to be strong and wait for my chances. 

“I had to change my game a little bit in the second set, that was a good thing for me, to change my style a little bit – I changed the return position, and that’s why I gave myself a chance to put more balls in play so I could wait for my chances [to attack].” 

Confidence is currency in tennis, and Sinner may have had the lion’s share early as he rode into Saturday’s clash undefeated at 16-0 on the season, but by the time the third set neared its conclusion, it was Alcaraz who was in firm command. 

With darkness encroaching and the stadium lights kicking in, the 20-year-old two-time Grand Slam champion engineered a break in the fourth game of the decider and never looked back as he cruised to a satisfying victory in two hours and five minutes.

Alcaraz evened his record against Sinner to 4-4, winning against the Italian when trailing by a set for the first time (1-2). 

Sinner believed that his game became too predictable in the second and third sets against his rival. He added that he will take the positives from the loss and try to learn from the defeat.

“I was too predictable at some points,” he said. “I think that's the lesson for today. We will work on certain things, and hopefully I will get better.”

With his win Alcaraz becomes the first defending champion to return to the final in his Indian Wells title defense since Roger Federer (2018). On Sunday he’ll face either Daniil Medvedev or Tommy Paul in his bid to complete the first successful title defense at the BNP Paribas Open since Novak Djokovic in 2016. 

Pretty heady company, to say the least.

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