Indian Wells 2023: Alcaraz and Medvedev, ‘carpe diem’ in the Indian Wells final | Sports

“Come on, smile once, smile!”

From the boxJuan Carlos Ferrero puts his index fingers to the corners of his lips and happily draws the smile of the joker, urging his player to celebrate. Carlos Alcaraz gives him a mischievous look, like someone who has done his homework at the last minute, and raises his fist victorious after having had a very bad time, knowing that once Jannik Sinner (7-6(4) and 6 -3, after 1h 51m), he will have a golden opportunity this Sunday: if he manages to beat the Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final (not before 00:00, Movistar Deportes), he will raise his first trophy in Indian Wells and, in parallel, will recover the world number one that Novak Djokovic defends. It will be, in the strictest sense of the expression, a duel of moments. Carpe Diem in California.

The one from Moscow arrives –7-5 and 7-6(4) to Frances Tiafoe in the other semifinal– on the back of an extraordinary sequence, supported by the 19 victories that he has chained during the last month and that have brought him three titles: Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai. She intimidates the fierce Medvedev, again with an appetite after a long hibernation process, and so does Alcaraz, who has only had a month of competition and three tournaments (as many finals) to recover his effervescence. It had been a decade since Spanish tennis had a male representative in the outcome of the tournament; then it was Rafael Nadal, champion three times, and now it is Alcaraz who aspires to join the Majorcan (2007, 2009 and 2013), José Higueras (1983) and Alex Corretja (2000).

Two years ago Paula Badosa reached the summit in the Californian desert, today surrounded by questions. And, for a long time, the ghosts also lowered Alcaraz’s spirits this Saturday, who after a promising start and a timely demarcation –break to the fifth game -, suddenly flu and gives up all the ground obtained. In a jiffy, the Murcian loses the service to white, Sinner bills one point after another (11 successive) and the Italian raises an emergency situation, 5-4 and 15-30 above; that is, only two hits away from winning the first set. Ferrero, aware that his tennis player has submerged in the mud, uses the emotional defibrillator.

“You can’t be negative!”, he chides him first. “Very bad!”, Alcaraz himself reproaches himself for missing a very clear shot. “It is time to be calm. Think about how you’ve played all week! Zero emotions, huh? ”, The coach affects from the side, aware that the game is settled on a very thin ledge and that a centimeter here or there can decant it. The one from El Palmar barely resists, in tow, with the drive jammed –23 errors in this first set, 20 with the right hand overall– and strangely diluted, gripped at those moments by the tension and stress to which the linear deployment of Sinner subjects him, a cyborg who seems not to feel or suffer, neutral in joys and sorrows. He squeezes the Italian, who comes to have a set ball and does not convert. There he sees the escape his rival. Suddenly too, Alcaraz reacts and is saved. Just as he has disconnected and has been lost, he returns.

Ahead, the “wall”

When push comes to shove, it gets bigger. “All the meat on the grill to the rest! Shoot, shoot!”, Ferrero advises him when the Murcian achieves the break and immediately after signs the second set 3-0, incorporated into the locker after a vibrant exchange in which both have engaged in a noble melee, decided thanks to a balloon. Sinner stirs, Sinner retorts, Sinner doesn’t bow. The parabola circumvents its 188 centimeters. The meaning of mourning does not change. Calm recovered and now enjoying himself, Alcaraz closed with 26 winners that prevailed over his 32 unforced errors. In a rather greyish version and with a lagoon in between, winning acquires a double value.

“It has been hard for me, I have not done things well,” Alcaraz reconstructs before journalists. “Everything was going too fast and in those moments [con 4-2 a su favor, en la manga inicial] you must be calm and think, and it has not been the case. He has started to play very well, and I have started to fight with myself. It has been hard, yes”, admits the number two, who this Sunday could become the second tennis player under the age of 20 to win three Masters 1000 [previamente, Miami y Madrid]along with Nadal. The Balearic captured six before turning twenty and Medvedev, none of the four that appear in his record.

Medvedev, during the semifinal against Tiafoe.
Medvedev, during the semifinal against Tiafoe.JULIAN FINNEY (Getty Images via AFP)

“He [Alcaraz] He is not the same player from then ”, the Muscovite (27 years old) refers to the only precedent between the two, in 2021 at Wimbledon (6-4, 6-1 and 6-2). “So, in a way, it’s going to be like a first game between us. He has incredible abilities and knows how to use them, hardly comparable. It’s incredible how he hits it with his right foot; I don’t think there is anyone who hits with such force and also with effect”, continues number six in praise; “The question is: Will he win five, 10 or 23 bigs and break the record? It’s going to be great playing against him. I think the surface [que él ha criticado duramente durante las dos semanas, “horrible” y “lenta”] It benefits him, but I’m confident.”

Meanwhile, the Spaniard foresees a “very tactical” final and anticipates that he will have to do “everything perfect”. He remembers that when they both met on the grass in London, one was the number two in the world and the other had barely made it onto the ATP circuit. Today, however, the story is quite different. “I have experience,” he replies. “Or at least, more experience than that day”, he qualifies before X-raying the Russian and retiring to regain strength: “Medvedev is a wall, he returns them all and makes impossible shots. Even hitting him from a corner he is able to make the point for you. He’s unbelievable, but I know how to play against him; We have already trained together a couple of times and I have some clues. It will be a totally different game.”

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