Indian Wells Masters 2024: Alcaraz, in search of the lost rhythm | Tennis | Sports

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No matter how good he is and how much talent he has, Carlos Alcaraz is still a 20-year-old upstart who continues to discover the ins and outs of the professional career and who continues to polish himself in search of a marked identity in the game. There is that quality, probably without equal in this new cycle that is taking shape, and all those sparkles that give it a unique and distinguished, delicious seal, but at the same time its pattern is logically incomplete and it tries to respond on the fly to the demands of today’s frenetic world, which requires you to go faster and faster, win and win. The Murcian (6-7(6), 6-0 and 6-1 against Matteo Arnaldi) accepts and understands the tolls, but at the same time suffers the fears typical of someone who continues to discover a new universe.

For example, the first episode of this Indian Wells in which in addition to facing the defense of the title, always an extra burden from a mental point of view, he must handle an uncomfortable situation with the ankle that was damaged two weeks ago in Rio de Janeiro . “Yes, I was probably nervous because it was the first game. There were a lot of things in my head,” he admitted after defeating the Italian (in 2h 13m) after losing the first set. “Obviously I want to do well, and in this first game I didn’t know how (the joint) was going to respond because it was the first one that played at high intensity. A lot of things were coming to my mind, I couldn’t concentrate one hundred percent, and that made me a little nervous. My game is aggressive all the time, so when you get nervous you don’t hit or move as well as you want. That is the big difference,” continued the world number two.

The fact is that the setback suffered in Brazil – grade 2, moderate sprain – and the need to fulfill the script with the exhibition against Rafael Nadal in Las Vegas have meant that the one from El Palmar has landed in the first Masters 1000 of the season with physical doubts, given that the tennis player, very young, continues learning to live with pain, condition sine qua non in this tennis thing. So he and his physio, Juanjo Moreno, have worked tirelessly in recent days so that the right ankle would arrive in the best conditions for the Californian tournament, but the answer was uncertain. Having overcome the uncertainty of the first test and without letting his guard down, Alcaraz now trusts in gaining time, sensations and games to recover the spark that he has not been able to achieve after his time in Australia.

“I arrived without having played too many games (eight, since in Rio I barely lasted 15 minutes rallying). Last year I came here with more matches in my legs and with more rhythm. “I’m recovering from the injury and I’ve been thinking about it all the time, so I haven’t been able to train as I would have liked,” says the Spaniard, reinforced after Friday’s performance. “It (the ankle) surprised me, I was able to move normally and without thinking about it. I have felt really good and I trust that it will get better. To reach a good rhythm I have to go step by step. I think that is the big difference compared to last year,” he continues, while the references highlight that the landing from one course to another has been very different.

A year ago, Alcaraz entered the desert with a series of eight victories and a single defeat, and with the Buenos Aires title in his pocket; This time, the record is 6-3, he has not won any laurel since Wimbledon (July) and he feels the threat of the Italian Jannik Sinner in his neck, who continues without letting up – 13 matches, 13 victories since January – and could lose him from the second step of the world list if he manages to win the crown next Sunday. In any case, the young man from Murcia is not one of those guys who shrinks in the face of adversity and hopes to meet his best version again to sign a good route in Indian Wells and Miami, so that again, for the third consecutive year, good inertia acquired in this phase can serve as a wishbone to tackle the clay court tour, starting in April. The one, he and his team think, is a consequence of the other. Question of confidence.

He now faces – without a defined schedule at the time of writing – Felix Auger-Aliassime for a place in the round of 16. The 23-year-old Canadian cannot escape the negative spiral that trapped him last spring, when his results began to decline and his spirit deteriorated until he disappeared from the picture. top-10 and drop to 31st place. A temporary joy in Basel (October) did not give him his wings either and in the current year he has not been able to shake off the irregularity either. He is not accompanied by the precedent of a year ago, when he was precisely beaten by Alcaraz in the quarterfinals. In any case, the American is one of the few rivals who dominate the head-to-head against him (3-1), along with Novak Djokovic (3-2), Sinner (4-3) and Alexander Zverev (5-3) . The Spaniard, then, has an immediate challenge before his eyes.

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