INDIAN WELLS, United States, March 20, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Spain's Carlos Alcaraz swept past Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to win the Indian Wells ATP Masters 1000 and secure his return to number one in the world.
US Open champion Alcaraz ended Medvedev's 19-match winning streak, denying him a fourth title in as many tournaments to ensure he will supplant Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic atop the rankings.
"It feels amazing to lift the trophy here, to recover the No. 1," Alcaraz said. "I would say this has been the perfect tournament."
Serbia's Djokovic, barred from entering the United States because he hasn't been vaccinated against Covid-19, sat out Indian Wells and will miss the Miami Open starting this week, where Alcaraz is the defending champion.
Alcaraz, 19, who became the youngest world number one ever after his triumph at Flushing Meadows last year, claimed his third Masters 1000 title and joined compatriot Rafael Nadal as the only players to win at least three as a teenager. Nadal won six before turning 20.
He was unstoppable on Stadium Court, breaking through what he'd called the "wall" of Medvedev's formidable defenses.
Medvedev, coming off titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai, could find no answer as Alcaraz fired winners from all over the court, defying the windy conditions.
"Daniil obviously didn't play at his best level, but I'm very happy for my performance and how I played this tournament."
He said the big change in him since a semi-final defeat to Nadal last year at Indian Wells was his comfort level on the game's biggest stages.
"I think my tennis didn't improve so much since last year. What I improve a lot is to not take the pressure, just to play relaxed. That, for me, is the most important thing.
"That's why I show a great level, because I feel like I have no pressure. I enjoy."
Medvedev certainly wasn't able to ratchet up the pressure on him.
A stinging backhand winner gave Alcaraz an early break in the opening set as he raced to a 3-0 lead.
He gave himself a set point with a sharply angled forehand volley and sealed it with an unreturnable serve, then won the first 10 points of the second set on the way to a 4-0 lead.
He didn't face a break point as he polished it off in one hour and 11 minutes, a diving volley winner giving him match point that he converted with another service winner.
- Not easy -
"I expected a tougher match," he said. "Against him is always a tactic match, and I did perfect today. That's why it looks easy -- but it wasn't."
Alcaraz has returned to number one despite a late start to the year. Injury forced him to miss the Australian Open, where Djokovic claimed a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.
Since launching his season in February Alcaraz has won a title in Buenos Aires and reached the final in Rio de Janeiro.
But to stay at the top he'll have to successfully defend his Miami title over the course of the next two weeks.
Medvedev, a former world number one and US Open winner himself, was disappointed that he didn't play his best, but pleased to get past the fourth round at Indian Wells for the first time, despite twisting his ankle in a win over Alexander Zverev and cutting his thumb in another tumble against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
"Why didn't I play my best? I don't know. Maybe it was his ball. Maybe it was the wind, was pretty windy today, and for him it was easier to go through this wind, and that's normal.
"But the week was amazing," added Medvedev never a fan of the slow hard courts of Indian Wells.
"I had a pretty toxic relationship with the courts here," he said during the trophy ceremony as he reeled off a long list of those to thank.
"I would like to thank this court. I was giving a hard time to it, so it gave me a hard time also, rolled my ankle, but it gave me the chance to finish the tournament so thanks a lot to this court."