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Indian Wells champ Alcaraz: “I overcome a lot of problems in my head”

  • Matt Trollope

Carlos Alcaraz ended a nine-month title drought at Indian Wells at the weekend, winning his first tournament since Wimbledon.

He remains at world No.2 after becoming the first player to defend the Indian Wells title since Novak Djokovic eight years ago. He is also the youngest ever player to defend a Masters 1000 title on two different surfaces, after also doing so at Madrid last year.

But perhaps more importantly, the performance indicated that the young Spaniard seems back on track after a turbulent period.

In our March edition of Five in Focus, Todd Woodbridge said it was understandable Alcaraz would experience this, given his rapid ascent and explosion in profile and popularity.

"This is a period of absolutely coming to terms with stardom, money, fame, pressure, time management,” Woodbridge said of the two-time major champion, a player still only 20 years old.

"He's young; he doesn't have that ability of Novak (Djokovic), yet, to dictate every term on the court. He's got sheer brilliance and exuberance and youth and athleticism and shot-making, but that's still coming together.”

After his straight-sets triumph over Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final – a repeat result of last year’s title match at Indian Wells – Alcaraz was asked what lessons he took away from his campaign in the Californian desert.

“That you can overcome all the problems that you have,” he replied.

“It doesn't matter what problems you have. If you believe in yourself, you have a really good team around, you work hard, everything can turn around.

“Let's say the last two months it was difficult for me to find myself. I didn't enjoy, let's say, stepping on the court.

“It means a lot to me, lifting this trophy, winning this tournament, because I overcome a lot of problems in my head, a lot of problems physically. It was so special for that.

“It's about the feelings… For me, if I win tournaments or not, I don't care. It's about enjoying playing tennis, once I step on the court, putting my game. It's what only matters.

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“That's why I'm really, really happy to lift this trophy, because I found myself at this tournament, and I felt really, really good.”

It was indeed a restorative fortnight for Alcaraz, who enjoyed something akin to a revenge tour.

After turning up the heat to belt Matteo Arnaldi and Felix Auger-Aliassime off the court, Alcaraz lined up in the last 16 against Fabian Marozsan – who famously stunned Alcaraz in Rome last year – and allowed the Hungarian just six games.

His quarterfinal opponent was Alexander Zverev, who upset Alcaraz in the Australian Open quarterfinals. Yet Alcaraz played a far more tactically astute match to completely outplay the German, 6-3 6-1.

Next up was Jannik Sinner, the reigning Australian Open champion who entered their semifinals on a 19-match winning streak. But Alcaraz ended the Italian’s flawless 16-0 start to the season, beating Sinner for the first time in three matches.

PODCAST: The Sit-Down with Jannik Sinner 

Finally, it was Medvedev, who halted Alcaraz’ title defence in last year’s US Open semifinals. This time, Alcaraz accelerated to a 7-6(5) 6-1 triumph, cementing his 13th career title from 17 finals.

“It was really difficult period after Wimbledon. I couldn't find my style, my game,” Alcaraz admitted.

“I was struggling to enjoy on the court. My family, my team, people close to me was telling me that, that what happened to me, that I was not smiling as much as I was doing before.

“I always say that I'm playing better with a smile on my face.”