INDIAN WELLS, United States (AFP) – Top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz can replace Novak Djokovic with a victory at the Indian Wells ATP Masters, and the 19-year-old Spaniard said he’ll give it all he’s got.
“I’m gonna go for it,” Alcaraz said on Wednesday as first-round matches got under way in the California desert.
Alcaraz is chasing a third prestigious Masters 1000 title, and if he’s successful he’d be just the second player, after compatriot Rafael Nadal, to bag three as a teenager.
The young star will face stiff opposition in former number one Daniil Medvedev, who rolls into Indian Wells having won three straight tournaments at Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.
Some gloss is gone with Djokovic, who won a 22nd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open this year, absent because of United States (US) restrictions on non-citizens who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Injury forced Nadal out, but eight of the top 10 men in the world are here, including third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas – runner-up to Djokovic in Melbourne – and fourth-ranked Casper Ruud.
Defending champion Taylor Fritz of the US is seeded fourth ahead of Medvedev.
Fritz beat Nadal in a dramatic final last year to become the first American to win the men’s title in Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001. His current number five in the world rankings makes him the highest-ranked American man since Andy Roddick reached number five in September of 2009.
“Of course there’s a lot of great players in this draw who have a chance to win the tournament, but I say that I have my chances to win the tournament,” Alcaraz said.
“For me winning the tournament and being number one again is a really good goal.”
Alcaraz downplayed any lingering injury fears after pulling out of the ATP 500 in Acapulco last week with a right hamstring strain.
Alcaraz had been clearly hindered in falling to Cameron Norrie in the Rio Open on February 26, although he’d beaten Norrie seven days earlier in the final at Buenos Aires.
Alcaraz’s South American run followed a four-month injury layoff, during which he missed the Paris Masters with an abdominal tear and the Australian Open with a hamstring injury.
However, Alcaraz said he wasn’t overly concerned about the spate of injuries.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” Alcaraz said, adding that he thought it was largely a matter of “bad luck”.
“I’m doing the right things off the court,” he said. “I’m doing great work and I just had bad luck sometimes.”