Alcaraz chases Indian Wells title and return to No. 1
Top seeded Carlos Alcaraz could replace Novak Djokovic with a win at the ATP Masters in Indian Wells, and the 19-year-old Spaniard says he’ll give it his all.
“I’m going for it,” Alcaraz said Wednesday as first-round matches kicked off in the California desert.
Alcaraz is chasing a third prestigious Masters 1000 title and if he succeeds, he will become the second player after compatriot Rafael Nadal to win three podium finishes as a teenager.
The young star will face tough opposition from former world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, who is moving to Indian Wells after winning three consecutive tournaments in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.
Some of the shine has faded with Djokovic winning his 22nd Australian Open Grand Slam title this year, absent due to US restrictions on non-citizens who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Injury forced Nadal out, but eight of the world’s top 10 players are here, including third-placed Stefanos Tsitsipas, runner-up to Djokovic in Melbourne, and fourth-placed Kasper Ruud.
Defending champion Taylor Fritz of the United States is in fourth place behind Medvedev.
Fritz beat Nadal in a dramatic final last year to become the first American to win the Indian Wells men’s title since Andre Agassi in 2001.
His current world number 5 makes him the highest-ranking person in the US since Andy Roddick ranked fifth in September 2009.
“Of course, there are a lot of great players in this draw who have a chance to win the tournament, but I say that I have a chance to win the tournament,” Alcaraz said.
“For me to win the tournament and be number one again is a really good goal.”
Alcaraz downplayed any lingering injury concerns after he pulled out of the ATP 500 at Acapulco last week with a right hamstring strain.
Alcaraz was clearly prevented from losing to Cameron Norrie at the Rio Open on February 26, although he had beaten Norrie in the final in Buenos Aires seven days earlier.
Alcaraz’s South American run followed a four-month injury hiatus during which he missed the Paris Masters with a ruptured abdomen and the Australian Open with a hamstring injury.
However, Alcaraz said he is not overly concerned about the spate of injuries.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Alcaraz said, adding that he thinks it’s largely a matter of “bad luck.”
“I do the right thing off the court,” he said. “I’m doing a great job and I’ve just been unlucky sometimes.”
While Tsitsipas downplayed his chances on Wednesday, saying he was still struggling with a shoulder injury he sustained after reaching the Australian Open final, Medvedev was understandably seething with confidence when he arrived in California.
– Medvedev aims higher –
“I feel great,” Medvedev said. “Of course, as always in tennis, this is a new week on the completely opposite side of the world, but there is a level of confidence.
“I’ve never had three titles in a row, so I feel great.”
He hopes his current hot form will help him change his fortunes at Indian Wells, where he has yet to reach the quarter-finals in his previous five games.
“Let’s see if I can do better this year,” said Medvedev, who will play American Brandon Nakashima in the first round of the second round. Nakashima edged out fellow veteran John Isner 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 on Wednesday.
The men also feature former champions Cameron Norrie and Dominic Thiem. Norrie won the title 17 months ago when the Indian Wells tournament was held in the fall due to the postponement of the schedule due to the pandemic.
Norrie, whose 18 match wins in 2023 are second only to Medvedev’s 19, will open against Diego Schwartzman, who defeated Argentina’s Federico Coria 6-1, 6-2 in the first round.
Meanwhile, Tim is making his first appearance in Indian Wells since defeating Roger Federer for the title in 2019.