Carlos Alcaraz overcomes self-doubts to end long wait for title at Indian Wells

World No 2 retains the Masters trophy in California to end a seven-month drought

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain holds the Indian Wells Masters trophy after defeating Daniil Medvedev in the final. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Success is never linear, although Carlos Alcaraz did a pretty good job attempting to be the exception to the rule.

When the Spaniard burst onto the tennis scene in 2022 as a precocious 18-year-old, it seemed everything he touched turned to gold – or more accurately, gold and silver trophies. He started that season ranked No 32 on the ATP Tour, and ended it as a record-breaking world No 1, a Grand Slam champion, and the next big star of the men's game.

Alcaraz, whose victory at the 2022 US Open saw him become the youngest top-ranked male player in the Open era, began 2023 in a similar vein; after missing the Australian Open with injury, he returned in style by winning six of his first 10 tournaments, including two Masters titles – at Indian Wells and a successful defence of his Madrid Open trophy – and of course that famous win over Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.

However, in the seven-plus months between ending Djokovic's four-year Wimbledon reign and the start of Indian Wells last week? Nothing.

While Alcaraz was still contending during that time, there was a noticeable drop-off in results compared to the outrageous volume of titles he collected in the 18 months prior – 11 titles to be exact. After winning Wimbledon, the Spaniard reached one final and four semi-finals in 11 events; not a bad return but hardly the standards he had set for himself.

So, there was plenty of pressure on Alcaraz's shoulders when he arrived in the Californian desert last week for his Indian Wells title defence, which had been made more challenging by a recent ankle injury and the emergence of rival Jannik Sinner as the world's best player in 2024.

One week and six matches later, Alcaraz was back in the winners' circle and fully back in form. His route to the trophy included inflicting a first defeat of the year for Australian Open champion Sinner in the semi-finals and a masterclass against world No 4 Daniil Medvedev in the final.

"It's difficult to put it into words, because I had really difficult months," Alcaraz said. "Let's say the last two months it was difficult for me to find myself. I didn't enjoy stepping on the court. I wasn't myself on the court.

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

"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."

Alcaraz's ability to overcome the first significant setback and self-doubts of his career make him as much of a champion as the many trophies he's collected.

The Spaniard has had a lot of adjusting to do in the past two years, from the increased attention from fans and media to additional commitments with sponsors and organisers, all while expecting to operate at the absolute pinnacle. It's a lot for any 20-year-old athlete to contend with, even one as generationally talented as Alcaraz, so it was only natural it would take its toll in some way at some point.

"It doesn't matter what problems you have. If you believe in yourself, you have a really good team around you, you work hard, everything can turn around," Alcaraz said. "I think that's the biggest lesson that I take from this tournament."

With the broad smile back on his face and enjoying his tennis again, Alcaraz will hope to harness his positive energy into more success in the coming months. Next up is the Miami Open, which Alcaraz won in 2022, before the European claycourt swing where he has titles in Madrid and Barcelona to defend.

Updated: March 18, 2024, 9:03 AM