• Semifinals Alcaraz wins his first duel against Auger-Aliassime

It has the number one ranking just one step away. Again. And if everything goes well on Sunday against Russian Daniil Medvedev, he will score the third Masters 1,000 of his career, his first Indian Wells, the "fifth major" of the circuit, with only 19 years. Carlos Alcaraz continues to write his particular story of greatness by leaps and bounds. There is hardly any time to digest what has been achieved. On Saturday afternoon he got rid of an always complicated opponent, Jannik Sinner, with less drama than expected in an ugly match and lacking rhythm. It doesn't matter. He is in his first Californian desert final. Another monumental achievement, although it no longer seems so.

The 7-6 and 6-3 that ended up closing the semifinal against the Italian giant is a misleading result. Alcaraz was not entirely fine. He signed his least showy performance in this tournament, without the characteristic lightning on court until almost the end of the match. But he knew how to do what Rafa Nadal says only the greats achieve: win even playing badly. Round tasks are not signed every afternoon.

Alcaraz started as a favorite. It is true that in the particular duel between the two have fallen two victories on each side, but the last one was taken by the Spaniard, an epic five-set battle in the quarterfinals that served him to take the US Open, his first Grand Slam. In addition, the Italian has not gone beyond number 9 in the ranking, currently installed in 13th place, and of his 7 titles – the same as Alcaraz – none is of magnitude. The one from El Palmar already has two Masters 1,000 in the bag, one step away from the third on Sunday.

Sinner was aware of this and began to feel the pressure in the fifth game on his serve. He tried to find the ace even with the second serve, a risky strategy that ended up costing him the break. Juan Carlos Ferrero, the coach of Murcia, immediately realized the downturn of the rival and encouraged his pupil to take advantage to put land in between, even without deploying his best tennis.

He succeeded, but it was a mirage. The 4-2 vanished in a few minutes after a partial 10-0 in favor of the 21-year-old Italian, in a clash full of ups and downs and without brilliance. Alcaraz made more unforced errors in the first set than in most of the rest of the tournament: 23. So bad was he playing, with constant inaccuracies, that he entered a phase of mere survival so as not to give away a partial that minutes before seemed on track.

He had to save a set ball before forcing the tiebreak. The sensations did not improve too much, keeping the score barely and fattening his already bulky account of unforced errors and few winning shots. Luckily for the Murcia, Sinner was not having his afternoon either, uncomfortable on the center court of Indian Wells, and could not prevent the Spaniard, in fits and starts, install the 7-6 on the scoreboard.

The partial advantage helped him to improve significantly, both in tennis and in his body language, rather gloomy until that moment. He began to work his first serve and to dominate the points more, looking for the depth and rhythm that he did not have in the first hour of play. They went into him even the lefts that had turned their backs on him in the first set. It took only one breaking ball to make it 2-0 and the feeling that the advantage was not going to slip away.

That's how it was. A victory worked in almost two hours of play that opens the doors of another important achievement. Last year Nadal pulled him out of the final after a powerful battle in three sets. It looks like this time it does not escape him.

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  • Carlos Alcaraz
  • Rafa Nadal
  • tennis