Carlos Alcaraz in buoyant mood after winning ‘perfect tournament’

Carlos Alcaraz described Indian Wells as “the perfect tournament” after lifting the title and returning to world number one in the rankings.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost top spot to Novak Djokovic after being forced out of the Australian Open through injury but has quickly rediscovered his best form and did not drop a set all fortnight.

Alcaraz was scintillating in the final, producing a dazzling display of all-court tennis to ease to a 6-3 6-2 win over Daniil Medvedev, ending the Russian’s 19-match winning run.

“It feels amazing to lift the trophy here, to recover the number one,” he said. “I would say this has been the perfect tournament.

“I expect the toughest match. But I played perfect, let’s say. Against Daniil you have to play your best, and tactically at your best level, as well. Against him it’s always a tactical match, and I did perfectly. That’s why it looks easy, but it wasn’t.”

Having been unable to enter the United States because he is unvaccinated against coronavirus, Djokovic will also miss this week’s Miami Open.

Alcaraz, though, must successfully defend the title he won in Florida last year to prevent the Serbian immediately regaining the number one ranking ahead of the clay season.

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his victory
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his victory (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

The updated rankings, meanwhile, confirm that Rafael Nadal has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in 18 years.

The Spaniard is still sidelined by the hip problem he suffered at the Australian Open and is now down at 13th, his lowest ranking since April 17, 2005.

Medvedev was disappointed with his performance but, having begun the season low on confidence, this was another very strong tournament after a run of three titles in a row.

The 27-year-old, who has made his feelings clear all fortnight about the slow court, said: “I’m disappointed with the result but the week was amazing. Because Indian Wells, to make the final, I’m just super happy and proud, because it’s a clay court on a hard court. That’s a good result for me.

Elena Rybakina (left) defeated Aryna Sabalenka in the women's final
Elena Rybakina, left, defeated Aryna Sabalenka in the women’s final (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

“A lot of points, a lot of things to see in the season. I’ve started it really well. I made already more points than last year at that point. I see only good things, and I’m looking forward to Miami, for sure.”

The women’s final was a rematch of the Australian Open title decider, and this time it was Elena Rybakina who got the better of Aryna Sabalenka, winning 7-6 (11) 6-4.

Russian Rybakina initially struggled after winning her maiden grand slam tournament at Wimbledon and not seeing the benefit in the rankings because of the removal of points but she is now up to seventh in the world and looking to push further.

“I think the biggest goal is of course to be number one,” said the 23-year-old, who defeated top-ranked Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals.

“There is still a long way to go. So this is kind of the end goal, I would say. For now I’m seven but you know how quickly the rankings change. So I need to always focus on the next tournament I play.”

Sabalenka’s serving troubles of last season were evident in a topsy-turvy first set with 10 double faults, and she hopes to learn from the experience.

“There will be some days when old habits will come back and you just have to work through it and not every match will be going your way and you will be serving perfectly,” she said.

“So it’s just a kind of reminder that that’s OK to still struggle with something. That’s OK to not play your best and to keep fighting and keep using the rest of the weapons.”