Tennis: Despite having a target on their back, Alcaraz still tries to have fun

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Teenager Carlos Alcaraz said he was unfazed by the pressure of being perceived as a favorite after his meteoric rise to the top of tennis, adding that he is not distracted by the lure of becoming the No. 1 to be in the world and just try enjoy every game.

The 19-year-old Spaniard, second in the world, became the youngest No. 1 after winning the US Open in September. He can oust Novak Djokovic and return to the top with a win over Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s Indian Wells final.

He could have a second shot at the top spot as Djokovic is set to miss this week’s Miami Open after the Serb was denied a special permit that would have allowed him to enter the United States despite not having been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Alcaraz defeated Jannik Sinner 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 on Saturday to reach his third final of 2023 after winning the title in Buenos Aires and then in Rio de Janeiro in February after more than three months finished second due to abdominal and hamstring injuries.

“It doesn’t change too much for me,” he said. “I don’t think about being the favorite in every game. I don’t think I have to win every game.

“I just have goals in mind, I have things I need to do and that’s all I think about. I try to enjoy every game. I think of nothing else.

“I know if I win tomorrow I’ll be number 1. I’ll try not to think about it. I have to do everything perfectly. That’s all I’ll be thinking about tomorrow.”

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Russia’s Medvedev, a former world No. 1, defeated Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) and extended his winning streak to 19 games.

After victories in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai, he is aiming for his fourth title in as many tournaments.

The 27-year-old, who is on a 19-game winning streak, is the first player since Andy Murray in 2016 to reach four finals in five weeks.

Medvedev said his second-round win over Alcaraz at Wimbledon in 2021 – the only previous meeting between the pair – was not a benchmark for their showdown on Sunday.

“He was definitely not the same player that he is now,” Medvedev said. “So in a way it’s going to be like a first game… in terms of how we’re going to go about it tactically, physically or tennis-wise.”

“He’s incredible, he has incredible skills that are hard to compare to anyone… He’s going to be great fun to play against.”

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