Ingenious Carlos Alcaraz beats Daniil Medvedev in Indian Wells final

Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz appears to be coming into form just when he needs to – Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

Carlos Alcaraz claimed his first title since last summer’s Wimbledon in a whirl of spectacular strokeplay, confirming that he has rediscovered his mojo after a sketchy six-month spell.

The 16,000-strong crowd in Indian Wells – which included movie-star couple Tom Holland and Zendaya – were thrilled by Alcaraz’s miraculous feats of agility and invention. Despite a tight first set, world No 4 Daniil Medvedev ended up as the stooge in this conjuring show.

The eventual scoreline – 7-6, 6-1 – makes this look like an absolute towelling for Medvedev. But in fact it was a more competitive affair than last year’s final here, which involved the same two players and lasted just 70 minutes as Alcaraz strolled to a 6-3, 6-2 win.

This time, Medvedev broke at the first opportunity, catching Alcaraz off guard by changing his trademark deep receiving position and moving forward much closer to the baseline.

Alcaraz was erratic in the early stages, but he drew inspiration from an apparently impossible retrieval shot in the ninth game, in which he ran back to scoop up a Medvedev lob with his back to the net.

This extraordinary rally carried on for another six shots before Alcaraz finished it with a forehand pass down the line, curling the ball sideways around Medvedev via canny use of the Magnus effect (the same quirk of physics that David Beckham used to employ on his free-kicks).

It always feels as though Alcaraz uses such moments to charge himself up. It’s not enough for him to grind away from the baseline: he has to delight himself with his own ingenuity, and to give the crowd something to remember as well.

The first set went to a tie-break, which saw a few nervous misses from both men. But in the end, Alcaraz remained the more adventurous player, and used his inside-out forehand – a calculated gambit, on these slow courts – to overpower the more conservative Medvedev.

Now the tension dropped away and Alcaraz freed his arms even more, striking one astonishing 99mph forehand winner as he zipped through the second set in barely half-an-hour’s explosive work. He thus became the first back-to-back champion in Indian Wells since Novak Djokovic went on a three-year run between 2014 and 2016.

Commentating on the match for Sky Sports, 1980s legend Marina Navratilova said that Alcaraz was the best mover she had ever seen on a tennis court. “The balls that he gets back, you’ve turned around, you’re ready to walk [to the next point].”

This was Alcaraz’s fifth Masters 1000 title to go with his two majors – a remarkable collection of trophies for a man still two months short of his 21st birthday. He has chosen a good time to spark up his form, because he has a lot of points to defend in the coming months, having not only won Indian Wells last year but also Barcelona, Madrid, Queen’s and of course Wimbledon.

Earlier, the women’s final had produced another masterclass from world No1 Iga Swiatek, who needed only 68 minutes to sweep to a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Maria Sakkari.


Swiatek’s bakery was open for business in Indian Wells – Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

Sakkari’s record in finals now stands at two wins from ten attempts, which suggests some mental frailties in these big moments. She gave away an early hint of her state of mind when she began her opening service game with a double-fault – a mistake which helped Swiatek to break at the first opportunity.

“Sorry I didn’t put on a better fight,” Sakkari said a. “It was pretty quick for you guys. Iga, you really deserve the best. You have created something incredible. I’m really hoping we can play a lot more finals.”

Swiatek has now extended her lead over Aryna Sabalenka in the rankings table, moving to a daunting total of 10,715 points. For comparison, men’s world No1 Novak Djokovic has 9,725.

The conditions in Indian Wells are a gift for Swiatek. The abrasive court surface responds well to top-spin, so that her heavily whipped groundstrokes often climb to shoulder height. Asked on Friday to name her main assets as a player, she replied “The intensity and the discipline and my top-spin.”

Her opponents tend to fade as matches progress. As with Rafael Nadal, there is something exhausting – suffocating, even – about the way Swiatek is always making you play from uncomfortable heights and positions.

Already this season, Swiatek has handed out four 6-0 “bagel” sets and seven 6-1 “breadsticks” in her 22 matches. It all makes good content for the fan who created a social-media account entitled “Iga’s bakery”.

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