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Preview: Jannik Sinner vs. Carlos Alcaraz - prediction, head-to-head, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Indian Wells Masters semi-final between Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

In a repeat of last year's Indian Wells Masters semi-final, fledgling stars Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz lock racquets in Saturday's tantalising encounter on Court 1.

The Italian made light work of Czech competitor Jiri Lehecka in the quarter-finals, while defending champion Alcaraz eased past Alexander Zverev after a bizarre bee invasion.

Match preview

Jannik Sinner reacts at the Indian Wells Masters on March 14, 2024© Reuters

Extending his unrivalled winning streak for an Italian male player in the Open Era, Australian Open champion Sinner recorded a phenomenal 16th win from 16 games in 2024 - and a 19th consecutive success overall - with a straightforward beating of Lehecka in the last eight.

Clashing with his fellow 22-year-old for the very first time at the top level, Sinner needed just one hour and 24 minutes to prevail 6-3 6-3 in a match where he won 63% of points behind his second serve and only allowed Lehecka to fashion one break opportunity, which he swiftly beat away.

The 22-year-old also benefitted from a mistake-strewn display from his Czech foe, who racked up 35 unforced errors compared to just 13 for himself, and a sixth Masters semi-final awaits the Italian winning machine, who is yet to drop a set in California so far.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Jan-Lennard Struff and Ben Shelton have also fallen to Sinner's superiority in recent days, and one more triumph would see the world number three - and world number two in the ATP Tour live rankings - match Roger Federer's best winning start to a year; the Swiss icon won 17 in a row in 2018.

Sinner wowed the California crowd with tremendous accuracy and exceptional returning on Lehecka's second serve on Thursday - winning 70% of such points - but the sternest examination of his Indian Wells credentials now stands in his way.

Carlos Alcaraz in action at the Indian Wells Masters on March 15, 2024© Reuters

A repeat of Alcaraz and Zverev's Australian Open quarter-final was unmissable for tennis aficionados, the casual spectator, and flying insects, as after just two games in the California sunshine, thousands of bees stormed the court and surrounded a spidercam.

Alcaraz did not emerge from the swarm unscathed - taking a stinger to the head - as both players and the chair umpire vacated the court, and after one hour and 48 minutes without the sound of balls striking the court, a beekeeper managed to rehome the critters with the help of a specialist vacuum.

Following that comical animal encounter - which Alcaraz soon saw the funny side of - the defending champion eased to a 6-3 6-1 success over Zverev, thereby avenging his exit to the German Down Under in a match where he hit 27 winners and did not face a single break point.

Still searching for his first ATP Tour crown of the 2024 season, the 20-year-old arrives this weekend having only been beaten in two of his previous seven Masters semi-finals, although one of those was at the 2022 Indian Wells tournament before he surged to stardom in 2023.

Since losing his first set of the tournament to Matteo Arnaldi, Alcaraz has not dropped more than three games in a single set at Indian Wells - where he is on an eight-match winning streak - and the reward for ending Sinner's 100% start to 2024 will be a showpiece match with either Tommy Paul or Daniil Medvedev.

Tournament so far

Jannik Sinner:

Second round: vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 6-0
Third round: vs. Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-4
Round of 16: vs. Ben Shelton 7-6[4] 6-1
Quarter-final: vs. Jiri Lehecka 6-3 6-3

Carlos Alcaraz:

First round:
Second round: vs. Matteo Arnaldi 6-7[5] 6-0 6-1
Third round: vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2 6-3
Round of 16: vs. Fabian Marozsan 6-3 6-3
Quarter-final: vs. Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-1

Head To Head

China Open (2023) - Semi-final: Sinner wins 7-6[4] 6-1
Miami Open (2023) - Semi-final: Sinner wins 6-7[4] 6-4 6-2
Indian Wells Masters (2023) - Semi-final: Alcaraz wins 7-6[4] 6-3
US Open (2022) - Quarter-final: Alcaraz wins 6-3 6-7[7] 6-7[0] 7-5 6-3
Croatia Open (2022) - Final: Sinner wins 6-7[5] 6-1 6-1
Wimbledon (2022) - Last 16: Sinner wins 6-1 6-4 6-7[8] 6-3
Paris Masters (2021) - Second round: Alcaraz wins 7-6[1] 7-5

From seven previous matches at the top level, Sinner currently boasts the head-to-head bragging rights with four triumphs compared to three for Alcaraz, whose most recent win over the 22-year-old coincidentally came in this matchup last year.

Sinner has earned two slices of semi-final revenge since, though, overcoming the Wimbledon winner in the last four of the Miami Open and China Open - the latter of which he ended up winning - although all three of Alcaraz's triumphs against the Italian have come on hard courts.

Further successes for Sinner in this particular fixture came on the Croatia Open clay and Wimbledon grass in 2022, but the 22-year-old's tie-breaker record is also inferior to that of Alcaraz, who has come up trumps in five of eight such deciders.

SM words green background

We say: Alcaraz to win in three sets

It would take a brave soul to confidently predict the outcome of this mouthwatering semi-final showdown between two of the biggest hitters the ATP Tour has to offer, and the windy conditions in California will also add to the drama.

Sinner has swept aside every foe that has been placed before him so far in 2024, but he benefitted from Lehecka's multitude of mistakes and hampered physical condition, while Alcaraz showed exemplary focus to dispatch Zverev with ease after a ludicrous delay. As a result, the Spaniard just gets our vote to keep his dream of back-to-back triumphs alive while bringing Sinner's perfect 2024 record to an end.

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Carlos Alcaraz in action at the Indian Wells Masters on March 15, 2024
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