The 19-year-old Spaniard (2nd) beat Italy's Jannik Sinner (7th) 6-7 (4/6), 3-13 27-6 (7/5), for their reunion, six months after their Homeric duel that turned in his favor in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows. Earlier, the 7-year-old Russian (6th), had logically dismissed 7-4, 16-<> (<>/<>) the American Frances Tiafoe (<>th), without ever flinching, despite seven missed match balls.

This duel in the sun, in the Californian desert, between the last two winners of the US Open, promises to be very indecisive, as they display a resplendent form for several weeks.

Alcaraz, who won his first major title in New York last year, becoming at 18 the youngest player in history to ascend the ATP throne, has had to recover from a thigh injury picked up in January. For his return, he won in Buenos Aires and only lost in the final then in Rio De Janeiro, against the British Cameron Norrie.

"He is extraordinary"

Medvedev is unbeaten in 19 matches, with titles won in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai. The last to reach four finals in five weeks was Andy Murray in 2016. And the last to win five in as many weeks was Ivan Lendl in 1981. Proof that after a 2022 season inside, his level of play is close to that which allowed him to triumph at the US Open in 2021.

"I'm ambitious. I want to play against the best players in the world. Because to be the best, you have to beat the best. And I think Daniil is the best player right now," Alcaraz said.

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells, March 18, 2023 © Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

The Spaniard and the Russian have only met once, in the second round of Wimbledon in 2. And the second had crushed the first. But in two years a lot has changed, with the blossoming of the prodigy of Murcia...

"This victory counts, certainly, in our face-to-faces. But Carlos was not the same player as today. In a way, it will be like a first match, from all tactical, physical, tennis points of view," Medvedev said.

And to cover his future opponent with praise: "He is extraordinary, he has incredible abilities. It's hard to compare him to anyone. Maybe +Rafa+ (Nadal), but Rafa is left-handed... When he hits a forehand, it's very impressive. I don't think anyone can hit that hard and with so much lift. That's why he was No. 1 in the world."

"It's a wall"

The 27-year-old Russian, who preceded the Spaniard on the roof of world tennis for a few weeks last year, obviously has arguments to make, with his science of the game and his ability to return all the balls - "it's a wall", synthesizes Alcaraz admiring -. Especially since he seems in full possession of his means, despite a twisted ankle, during the 8th final won against the German Alexander Zverev, after more than three hours of intense struggle.

"I'm playing better and better. I would even say that it was after hurting myself that I started to play better on this court, even though these are not my favorite playing conditions. But when you're in the final, you can't complain," smiled Medvedev, who also cut his right thumb in the quarters, beating Spain's Alejandro Davidovich.

His confidence is all the greater, as he finally manages to play his best tennis in this tournament, where he had never before exceeded 8th. Despite the injuries, therefore, and the slowness of the courts, which he sharply castigated at the beginning of the competition, when he was still getting his bearings.

Alcaraz, who also reached the final of the event for the first time, expects a fight at all times. "We're going to have to play at a very high level, thinking it's going to be war. I'll have to do everything... Perfectly."

© 2023 AFP