The 19-year-old Spaniard can return to the ATP throne if he wins the title on Sunday, but he will have to beat Russia's Daniil Medvedev (6th), who fell earlier 7-5, 7-6 (7/4) to American Frances Tiafoe (16th).

This final duel, in the Californian desert, between the last two winners of the US Open, was expected in the absence of Novak Djokovic, prevented from entering the United States because not vaccinated. And it looks very indecisive, as the two players display a resplendent form for several weeks.

"I am an ambitious man. I want to play against the best players in the world. Because to be the best, you have to beat the best. And I would say Daniil is the best player right now. Beating him will be a tough challenge, but I'm ready. I will give my best in the final," Alcaraz said.

Medvedev, with 19 consecutive victories, is seeking a fourth straight title after winning in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai in February. After a 2022 season inside, his level of play is approaching the one that allowed him to triumph at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

Russia's Daniil Medvedev after his victory against American Frances Tiafoe, on March 18, 2023 in Indian Wells © Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

Alcaraz, who succeeded him in New York, had to recover from a thigh injury he picked up in January. Since then he has won in Buenos Aires and only lost in the final in Rio De Janeiro against Britain's Cameron Norrie.

"More relaxed" in the 2nd set

It is clear that in Indian Wells, where he advances one box, since he was stopped in the semifinals last year by Rafael Nadal, his rise in power asserts itself with each match.

His reunion with Sinner, six months after their Homeric duel that had turned in his favor in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows, after 5:15 of an exceptional fight, attested to this.

Because the Italian, who was also in form, in the wake of a title won in Montpellier, before a final lost in Rotterdam in February, this time was equal only in the first set.

Russia's Daniil Medvedev (right) greets his opponent, American Frances Tiafoe, after their semifinal in Indian Wells, March 18, 2023 © Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

He may regret this missed set ball at 6-5, as Alcaraz then seemed somewhat feverish. But the latter quickly tightened the bolts in the tie-break, returning each ball with his "Iberian-speed" runs. On one of them, Sinner hesitated and made a mistake, giving his rival an opportunity he did not miss, with a big cross-backhand.

"I knew I had to raise my level to pass Jannik. It was very tight in the first set. In the second, I calmed my nerves, I played in a more relaxed way, that was the key to everything," he explained.

At the start of the second set, the prodigy from Murcia has indeed delighted the service of the Italian, again at the price of an exceptional defense, punctuated by a full line lob, under the connoisseurs of the legendary Rod Laver and those delighted with the singer P!nk and the actress Charlize Theron.

Alcaraz, who was also the most enterprising and the sharpest in this match (28 winning shots to 15) then never wavered to maintain this advantage, without conceding a single break ball to his opponent, closing the deal in 1:52 with a huge forehand slap.

© 2023 AFP