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It was the final that many expected in the ATP draw in Indian Wells, but with a result that was perhaps somewhat surprising. 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz handily defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 in just over an hour to claim his first title at the Masters 1000 event.
Medvedev had been coming in hot with victories in three successive tournaments including Rotterdam, Qatar and Dubai. Did he run out of steam in the final against Alcaraz or did the Spanish phenom just have superior tactics and delivery on this day?
Certainly it seemed as though Alcaraz had a plan in mind and was able to carry that out exactly as he had hoped. It was noticeable that Alcaraz was taking advantage of how far back Medvedev was standing behind the baseline mixing in well-timed drop shots to catch him off guard and use the space he was leaving him on court to his advantage.
Having a coach like Juan Carlos Ferrero is also a big asset for Alcaraz that is worthy of mention. Like Alcaraz, Ferrero too ascended to the World No. 1 ranking and captured big titles on both clay and hard courts.
Alcaraz is helping to bring the sport to new heights with his intense physical play that sees him cover the court as well as any of his peers while also utilizing a wide arsenal of shots designed to make his opponents uncomfortable.
Read expert analysis from Indian Wells
Speaking this week on Match Point Canada, former World No. 4, respected tennis coach and analyst Brad Gilbert was impressed with how Alcaraz has raised the bar over the past year on the ATP.
“Before it was Andre and Pete, and then (with) all the things that Pete did, who would have thought that three guys would have blown past Pete? I don’t know that we’ll get anyone in my lifetime to blow past what we’ve just seen. But I just think that you’re seeing more athleticism. I do think the game gets constantly better. And seeing the explosiveness from Alcaraz and I’ll say it the men’s the margins are just razor slim.”
Despite missing the end of 2022 and the start of this tennis season, including the Australian Open, due to injury, Alcaraz is playing like he never missed a beat. Asked after his win over Medvedev what’s improved in his already dangerous game this year and he revealed it’s less to do with the actual tennis and more so how he mentally prepares for his matches.
“What I improve a lot is to don’t take the pressure, just to play relaxed, you know. That’s for me the most important thing. That’s why I show a great level, because I — well, I feel like I have no pressure. I enjoy. I’m playing relaxed. I would say I improved that a lot, and that’s why I’m playing a good level.”
Alcaraz is now back to No. 1 in the world, although he will have to defend his title at the Miami Open if he wants that reign to continue. With the way he’s been playing this year, achieving the so-called Sunshine Double does not seem at all out of his reach.
In singles action, Denis Shapovalov fell in the opening round to Ugo Humbert 7-5, 6-4 as his post-Aussie Open struggles continue.
Félix Auger-Aliassime meanwhile played one of the most exciting matches of the men’s event in his round-of-sixteen encounter against American Tommy Paul. Auger-Aliassime saved a remarkable six match points en route to the victory. Then in the quarters he ran into the unbeatable Carlos Alcaraz who defeated him 6-4, 6-4. Despite the straight-set scoreline, both players battled hard and Félix can be proud of what he brought on court against the rising Alcaraz.
Reunited and it feels so good! Canadian tennis fans were undoubtedly pleased to see childhood friends and top-level talents Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov back together again in doubles. Aside from team competitions like the Davis Cup and ATP Cup, the pair have only played as doubles partners in four ATP events. The previous three were the National Bank Open in Toronto in both 2016 and 2018 and Montpellier, France in 2020.
The pair made it to the quarter-finals in Indian Wells before being taken out by Matthew Ebden and Rohan Bopanna (Shapovalov’s former doubles partner) 6-4, 7-5.
Speaking of Ebden and Bopanna, the doubles partners would make their way to the finals where they prevailed 6-3, 2-6, 10-8 for the title over the No. 1 seeded duo of Neal Skupski and Wesley Koolhof. Hats off to the 43-year-old Bopanna for continuing to play so well at his age. He must be drinking from the same fountain of youth that kept Canada’s Daniel Nestor going for so long!