Indian Wells: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz defeated Félix Auger-Aliassime for the first time in his career to book a semi-final clash with Yannick Sinner in Indian Wells.
Women’s top seed Ija Swiatek was lined up for a grudge match in the last four against Elena Rybakina, who stunned the Polish world number one in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January.
The Carriers recorded their first victory over Auger-Alyssum in four meetings with a 6-4 6-4 victory to keep their bid to regain the world number one ranking on track.
“It’s great to finally beat Felix, the way I did it, and I played at a great level,” said Spaniard Alcaraz, 19, who described it as possibly his best game of the season.
Italy’s Sinner reached the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over defending champion Taylor Fritz and now has a chance to avenge his loss to Alcaraz in a thrilling quarter-final at last year’s US Open.
That five-set battle lasted five hours and 15 minutes, ending at 2:50 am for the last time in US Open history. The Cars would go on to lift the trophy and become the youngest player in the world to be ranked No. 1 in the history of the ATP rankings.
“We played several times and all the matches were very difficult,” Alcaraz said. “I love this kind of challenge, I’m going to enjoy it.”
Alcaraz didn’t drop a set in reaching the quarter-finals, but Auger-Alessime was the first top-10 player he faced this year.
This time, Alcaraz was up for it, saying his previous defeats to the Canadian had taught him to “stay out there”.
The two hour encounter was an exciting display of athleticism and shot making from both players.
Alcars saved the first break point he faced while serving in the first set, but after breaking to opener Thani Auger-Aliassime – who saved six match points in a fourth-round win over Tommy Poole – broke right away to set the tone for a tense back-and-forth battle.
Auger-Aliassime had already saved two break points in the tenth game when Alcaraz gave himself another point with a backhand, and with a break in his hand he served confidently.
Sinner braved rough conditions and winds to knock out Fritz, and made the deciding break in the ninth game of the third set when his powerful forehand to the corner forced the American’s miss.
Sinner polished it off with Love’s comment after 2 hours and 17 minutes.
“I knew the last games were going to be tough to close,” Sinner said. “I just tried to play hard, which I did.”
Swiatek, the reigning Indian Wells champion and winner of the French and American Opens last year, swept Romanian 83rd seed Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3.
Wimbledon champion Rybakina, who fell to Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final, outlasted Czech 76th seed Karolina Mochova 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-4.
“She’s playing really well and in the semifinals she’s always going to play against the best guys, so I’ll be ready,” Swiatek said of facing Rybakina.
Swiatek is competing, in her 50th week at No. 1, becoming only the second woman after Martina Navratilova in 1990-91 to win back-to-back titles at Indian Wells.
Cirstea did everything she could to stick with Swiatek, recovering an early break and holding off a break point to level the first set at 2-2.
But Swiatek, after acclimating to warm daytime conditions after two consecutive night games, won the next eight games to establish a firm grip on the competition.
Down 4-0 in the second period, Cirstea recovered one back and held serve 4-2 in a spirited display before being shut down by Swiatek.
“The most important thing for me was that I came back in the second set to finish it right,” said Swiatek.
Rybakina had everything she could afford from the often injured Muchova. She needed three match points, and squandered two on a backhand error before clinching it with her sixth header of the day.
The other semi-final berths were decided on Wednesday, when Daniil Medvedev – chasing a fourth straight ATP title after victories in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai – defeated Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina to set up a date with American Frances Tiafoe.
Sabalenka also progressed, as he edged out American Coco Gauff to book a meeting with 2022 finalist Maria Sakkari.