Top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz beat 11th-seeded Jannik Sinner 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., on Saturday to move within one win of grabbing the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.
The 19-year-old Spaniard will face Russian Daniil Medvedev in Sunday's final. Medvedev, seeded fifth and ranked sixth in the world, dispatched American Frances Tiafoe in the other semifinal Saturday, winning a tight battle 7-5, 7-6 (4).
Ranked No. 2 in the world, Alcaraz made much quicker work of the 21-year-old Sinner than in their last match -- last year's historic US Open quarterfinal that lasted five sets and 5 hours, 15 minutes and ended at 2:50 a.m. local time, the latest finish in Open history.
But that isn't to say Saturday's match was easy for Alcaraz. After breaking Sinner's serve to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, Alcaraz gave one back to the Italian to make it 4-4. Sinner had set point on Alcaraz's serve while up 6-5, but Alcaraz forced deuce before taking the game and then the tiebreaker.
"Playing against Jannik is never easy. I had to overcome a little bit of problems. I had set point down," Alcaraz said of the first set. "I knew that I had to increase my level to (beat) Jannik. It was a really close first set. In the second set I put out all the nerves and played more relaxed. I think it was the key of everything."
According to the ATP Tour, along with playing for the No. 1 ranking, Alcaraz on Sunday will look to become only the second player with three ATP Masters 1000 titles as a teenager, joining countryman Rafael Nadal. Alcaraz already has titles in Madrid and Miami.
As for his opponent, Medvedev enters the final on a roll, winning his last 19 matches and three tournaments he has entered. Sunday will be his first final in Indian Wells.
Like Alcaraz, Medvedev had a much bigger struggle than a straight-sets win may otherwise indicate. The 27-year-old and former world No. 1 faltered on seven match points and lost serve twice before finally putting away the 25-year-old Tiafoe.
"It was crazy at the end," Medvedev said. "I got super tight. I would say that (after) 6-5, 40-0, I think I got tight at deuce when I was like, 'Oh my god, that's a lot of opportunities missed, this could go not well for me'.
"So I got really tight, (but) I still managed to continue playing good. ... The ace (on match point) was a relief, I'm just really happy that I managed not to lose this match."
Medvedev has titles at Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai in his current run.
"I'm playing better and better I would say," said Medvedev, who rolled his ankle in the fourth round and cut his thumb in the quarters. "When I rolled my ankle I started playing better on this court!"
Alcaraz and Medvedev has met once before, a straight-sets win by Medvedev at Wimbledon in 2021.
--Field Level Media