Carlos Alcaraz draws level in his growing Jannik Sinner rivalry | Tennis News - Hindustan Times

Carlos Alcaraz draws level in his growing Jannik Sinner rivalry

By, Mumbai
Mar 17, 2024 09:49 PM IST

Tennis fans used to the Big Three rivalries will hope this Spanish-Italian version ages nicely after the Indian Wells semi-finals.

It was arguably the most anticipated match when the Indian Wells draw was announced. Once Novak Djokovic was knocked out early, there was no doubt it was the blockbuster showdown to look forward to. Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, ranked second and third respectively, had a lot riding on their young shoulders heading into their semi-final clash on Sunday. Unsurprisingly, though, they didn’t disappoint and added a memorable eighth chapter to their rivalry.

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates a point against Jannik Sinner of Italy in their men's semifinal match during the BNP Paribas Open (Getty Images via AFP)
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates a point against Jannik Sinner of Italy in their men's semifinal match during the BNP Paribas Open (Getty Images via AFP)

For very long, tennis fans were spoilt for choice in terms of rivalries at the top of men’s tennis as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic rewrote the record books. It seemed it would be a while before a new set of players would evoke such frenzy among crowds. But Alcaraz, 20, and Sinner, 22, are electrifying, have tasted Grand Slam glory, and are slowly establishing their match-up as compulsory viewing.

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Their latest clash ended with a fairly straightforward 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 scoreline in favour of Alcaraz, which helped the Spaniard draw level at four-all in their head-to-head meeting. However, the match did provide a number of thrilling moments. In the opening set, interrupted by a lengthy rain delay, it was Sinner who played with authority and took full advantage of his opponent’s mistakes. The Italian, who had opened his Grand Slam account by winning the Australian Open in January, was unbeaten in 2024 and on a 19-match winning streak. Alcaraz, who won the Indian Wells title last year after beating Sinner in the semi-finals, looked out of sorts from back of the court.

All that changed once the second set began. Earlier this month, eight-time Major winner Andre Agassi had suggested that Alcaraz is perhaps still figuring out that go-to shot which can help channelise his energy and dictate points. Against Sinner, the Spaniard looked more assured in his shot-making and used his forehand smartly. It allowed all his other trickery to be more effective and stopped Sinner from regaining his rhythm.

With his first-serve percentage improving as well, Alcaraz took fewer risks but ended up hitting more winners in the second and third sets. In his previous two meetings with Sinner, he had come up short after running out of answers from the baseline. This time, he stayed patient and showed a lot more trust in his game.

“Every time that I'm going to face Jannik I'm going to get nervous,” said Alcaraz. “That's for sure because I know that I have to play 100 per cent if I want to beat him. It doesn't get me nervous, the fact that I (might be) behind in head-to-head. It gives me extra motivation to give my 100% just to beat him in that head-to-head. I try to play my best every match against him, to be able to catch him. I think I did it (today). We are equals right now, if I'm not wrong. So the next time that I'm going to face him, I'm not going to think about battling that.”

Two points in the match stood out. The first came when Alcaraz was leading 3-1 in the second set. Sinner sprinted twice to the net before finding a ridiculous cross-court angle to draw an error. The second came at 1-1 in the third when Alcaraz showed jaw-dropping athleticism and reflexes at the net to floor Sinner. On both occasions, the crowd erupted in passionate applause and one reminisced about how the battles between the Big Three compelled fans to hold their heads in disbelief.

“Every time that I'm playing against Jannik, I think for both of us, it's an amazing fight,” said Alcaraz. “But for the crowd, it is an amazing match that I think they enjoy every time that we are playing each other. I think the energy that people bring to us is special.” Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev staged a comeback to beat American Tommy Paul 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 and set up a repeat of last year’s final. Playing on his preferred hard court, Medvedev has the game to beat the best but Alcaraz will be high on confidence after seeing off his big rival.

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