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Indian Wells: Alcaraz Rolls Past Zverev

Mar 16th 2024

Alcaraz subdues Zverev 6-3, 6-1 to reach Indian Wells semis

Carlos Alcaraz, just twenty years of age, is a two-time grand slam winner and the defending champion at Indian Wells. Standing in his way of a title defense was world #6, Alexander Zverev. 

The twenty-six-year-old German with twenty-one career titles has reasserted himself amongst the top ten after undergoing ankle surgery and rehabilitation following a horrific fall at the 2022 French Open.

The Spaniard currently ranked #2, achieved the #1 ranking following his US Open victory in 2022. He claimed his second slam title last July on the lawns of the All England Club and though he reached two other finals last season (Rio & Cincinnati) has failed to win another title. 

The German led the head-to-head 5-3 including a four-set victory in the quarters at the 2024 Australian Open. Alcaraz won two of three matches last season including a straight sets victory at the US Open and was primed for battle having lost the last two.     


Zverev won the toss and chose to receive. Alcaraz opened with a mishit forehand but made four consecutive first serves and held to 15 while Zverev opened with an ace up the tee, faced deuce, and with an overhead smash, leveled at 1-1.

Alcaraz dialed up the intensity as he stepped to the line to serve. After winning the first point with a barrage of crosscourt forehands, play was suspended as bees swarmed the Stadium 1 court. The match was suspended for one hour and forty minutes and the players appeared hesitant as they returned to the court to warm up. 

At 5:10 pm local time, Alcaraz made 3/3 first serves, hit another forehand crosscourt winner, and held at love. Zverev struck two winners including a 132mph ace but with a slew of unforced errors including a double fault, faced break point, and dumped serve.

Alcaraz struck an incredible forehand down the line and backhand volley winner on game point for another love hold while Zverev gifted another double fault yet held to 30 for 2-4.

The reigning Wimbledon champion continued to dominate the baseline rallies and extract errors from his opponent. Although he made two consecutive errors to open the seventh, he hit three winners including another crosscourt forehand to secure the game.

The German serving with new balls and to stay in the set, opened the eighth with an ace out wide and despite leading 40-0, needed five more points to hold. Alcaraz opened with a well-placed lob and overhead smash and clinched the set 6-3 with another love hold. 

The 2-time Nitto ATP Finals champion served first in the second and though he reached game point after a winning serve and volley, faced four deuce, break point, and with a netted backhand, dropped serve.

Alcaraz was exceedingly effective when serving but inflicted the most damage when returning. The former number one made 5/5 first serves and with a crisp crosscourt backhand volley, held to 15 to consolidate the break. Zverev was running out of time and options. Despite making 5/8 first serves, he faced deuce, break point, and dumped serve following two consecutive forehand errors. 

Alcaraz opened the fourth with a netted forehand but with two consecutive winners including an ace out wide, held easily to 15 while Zverev won the opening point of the fifth – an extraordinary 34-shot rally – after Alcaraz netted a backhand. The German made three consecutive first serves and for the first time, held at love.

The 2022 US Open champion replied in kind with three consecutive first serves and a love hold for 5-1. Zverev serving to stay in the match, quickly faced triple match point and after a total of three hours and seven minutes, conceded it when the ball clipped the tape and dropped over.  

The delay of play which lasted longer than the match, was a metaphor for it. Alcaraz was relentless on serve, the baseline, and at the net and mercilessly applied pain and pressure that for Zverev, was unending.

The world #2 finished with one ace, zero double faults, and won 87% of first and 75% of second serve points. More astonishing, however, was his effectiveness when returning. He won 49% of first and 50% of second serve return points while holding the German to just three aces. 

He did not face a break point while converting 4/5 and struck seventeen winners to just six unforced errors. It was a sublime performance from a young man determined to defend his title. He will, however, face a daunting task in the penultimate round. Waiting in the wings is the reigning Australian Open champion and world #3, Jannik Sinner. 

The Italian two years older than Alcaraz, made moves at the end of last season and has not looked back. With two consecutive titles to start the season, he is looking for his first in the desert. He leads the head-to-head 4-3 but they have split the last four including a straight sets victory for Alcaraz last year in the semis at this event.