In our last article, our accumulator of Fourth Round matches (Rublev, Medvedev, Davidovich Fokina, Tiafoe 2-0) came up just short. Our Quarter Final treble that we tweeted fared better though, with Tiafoe (to win a set), Sinner and Alcaraz coming through to give us a 2.6/1 win and leave us up 5.19 units for the tournament!
We are now approaching the closing stages of Indian Wells, with a new champion set to be crowned on Sunday. Three of the Semi Finalists were picked by us at the start of the event, with Charlie going for Daniil Medvedev at 11/4 and Carlos Alcaraz at 13/2 E/W, and myself (Luke) going for Jannik Sinner as my wildcard at 10/1 E/W. The other Semi Finalist is Frances Tiafoe (50/1 at the start of the event), who we have tipped a few times this week and has impressed on every outing so far, not dropping a set. The Semi Finals and Final promise to be intriguing and high-quality matches: below I describe where I think they will be won and lost, finishing with another tip.
Daniil Medvedev (1/4) vs Frances Tiafoe (3/1)
The Russian has not been quiet about his dislike for the conditions here, but it hasn’t stopped him winning. So far, he has beaten Nakashima, Ivashka, Zverev after overcoming an ankle injury and Davidovich Fokina. That ankle injury occurred with Medvedev a set down, and if anything, he got better afterwards and managed to win a tight contest against Zverev, who played well. Frances Tiafoe has been in great form this week, not dropping a set in wins against Giron, Kubler, Tabilo and Norrie.
As I mentioned in my previous article, whilst the slow conditions are not ideal for Medvedev’s fairly flat groundstrokes, as they can sit up a bit to be attacked, they do make it very hard for anyone to hit through him, because he is defensively so good. In this match, Tiafoe will have to be on the front foot and look for opportunities to attack. To have a chance of winning, he will have to serve well, as he has done so far this event, and try to limit the pressure put on his service games. This week, Tiafoe has been hitting a powerful ball off both sides with a good amount of margin for error, and then waiting for the opportunity to attack, and has executed it very well. However, it will have to be perfect against one of the best defenders in the world, who will not give him many short balls or opportunities. Medvedev is also clever enough to not offer his opponents angles to attack, which Tiafoe usually thrives off. He was able to really frustrate Zverev with this tactic, and it forced the German into errors. Tiafoe is also a good mover, so I think this match will have a lot of long rallies, which I feel like Medvedev will win more of due to his patience. Let us also not forget that the Russian is more than capable on the front foot too. He will also have had two days off before this match, meaning his ankle injury sustained against Zverev shouldn’t be a factor.
For Tiafoe to win this match, he has to take some risks, and come into the net which he did well against Norrie. Given Medvedev’s current form, the American has to play his very best to win this match, but given Tiafoe’s level this week I expect a close contest with Medvedev coming through and extending his win streak to 19.
Carlos Alcaraz (8/15) vs Jannik Sinner (11/8)
Given this is Carlos Alcaraz’s first hard court tournament since he had to retire against Rune in the Paris Masters last year, it is impressive he has made the Semi Finals without dropping a set, having beaten Kokkinakis, Griekspoor, Draper (via retirement), and Auger-Aliassime for the first time in four meetings. As he showed last year in Miami and the US Open, these slow American hard courts are ideal conditions for him. They allow him more time on his groundstrokes, allowing him to hit powerfully off of both sides. In addition to this, he is arguably the best mover on tour, so it makes it very hard for people to hit through him when it is this slow. One of the few players who has a chance at doing this is Jannik Sinner. He beat Gasquet, Mannarino and Wawrinka without dropping a set and then had a tough battle against defending champion Fritz in the Quarter Finals, and after a few wobbles at the end of the second and start of the third sets, eventually held his nerve to close out the match. His ball striking in that match was sublime, dealing with Fritz’s weight of shot by hitting it back even harder and dominating the long rallies. He is also an excellent mover, not quite as good as Alcaraz but he does have very good retrieval skills.
These two players are fairly well matched: I would give Sinner the edge in attacking and Alcaraz the edge in defending but there is not much in it. Their two biggest weaknesses are their serves and returns, it is harsh to call them weaknesses but compared to other top players they aren’t as good (Medvedev and Tiafoe both have far superior serves, for example). Sinner has improved around the net, but is not as good as Alcaraz who has excellent touch and feel. However, he must be careful using the drop shots on this occasion, which he does a lot usually, due to the hard court not helping him as much as clay or grass, and Sinner’s exceptional foot speed. One thing that does set them apart is their court positioning: Alcaraz likes to stand deep in the court and can generate power from miles back. Sinner on the other hand, is able to generate more power because he loves to take the ball early, and usually stands very close to the baseline, which also takes time away from his opponent. One issue with this is the conditions: due to them being so slow, it allows opponents more time to get to his powerful shots and makes them slightly easier to control, which means they can hit better depth and force Sinner to either hit half volleys or move deeper in the court, where he is less effective. Alcaraz’s ability to do this effectively will be a key factor if he wins this match.
Looking at the head to head complicates matters even more. At ATP level, they are tied 2-2. Alcaraz won their first meeting indoors in Paris in two close sets in 2021, then Sinner beat him in four sets at Wimbledon last year. In the Umag Final on clay, Alcaraz was a set and 1-0 up then could only win one further game as Sinner won the title. Finally, they had a 5-hour classic at the US Open, with Sinner serving for the match and Alcaraz saving match point to win in five sets. Once again, I expect a close contest, but I give Alcaraz the edge due to his defensive ability, which I feel is more important than attacking in these conditions.
Double: Medvedev to win & over 21.5 games (11/8), Alcaraz to win and over 21.5 games (7/4) – 5.53/1