The issue for the future: who is better between Alcaraz and Sinner?

The Indian Wells challenge brought the head-to-head teams into total balance: which of them is the strongest?

by Lorenzo Ciotti
The issue for the future: who is better between Alcaraz and Sinner?
© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

"I think Carlos Alcaraz, at his best, is better than anyone else, including Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic. His weapons are a little more important. But Sinner is a little more solid, with a little less risky game Maybe Sinner wins three times out of five at the moment, but at his best Alcaraz prevails over the Italian."

Martina Navratilova's prophetic words best reflect and summarize the challenge between Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, won by the young Spaniard in three sets; a success that allowed him to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Sinner was also stopped by an elbow problem, which perhaps affected his performance in the third set but, all things considered, the Spaniard seemed to have a wider range of solutions than his rival at Indian Wells.

Is this enough to say that Alcaraz is stronger than Sinner? No. At the moment, I believe that Navratilova is partly wrong. I believe that, at their best, they are on a more or less equivalent level.

Then it is true that Alcaraz has a range of solutions that offers greater completeness and variety compared to Italian. However, Sinner is perhaps more mentally solid.

All in all, balancing the various skills, it seems clear that the two tennis players will be destined for a total clash in the future, where they will compete in all the most important tournaments.

Carlos Alcaraz & Jannik Sinner, Indian Wells 2024
Carlos Alcaraz & Jannik Sinner, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Patrick Mouratoglou, on the eve of the Indian Wells semifinal between Jannik and Carlitos, then indulged in a comparison between his player Holger Rune and Sinner himself.

"Rune has fire inside and it is his best quality. Of course, he still has to learn to control it. Sinner is the strongest in the world at the moment with Djokovic, but I believe that each player must have their own style on the court, even in the way of being or in what he wears. Choose the brand that represents him.

To give an example, Holger cannot dress like Fucsovics and vice versa. Today's 20-year-olds will never be like the Big 3, but they will bring younger generations closer to such a beautiful sport. Because they are authentic, there is no hypocrisy in them and people feel it."

The match

The victory certainly had a special flavor for Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells. It had been exactly a year since the Spaniard had beaten Jannik Sinner and, this time, it was a different success from the others, for many reasons. In fact, 364 days later, many things have changed.

Despite the numbers and age being on his side, the impression is that the Italian was currently superior, with his incredible performances and unforgettable triumphs. It is difficult not to hypothesize that some missteps were made by Alcaraz precisely by virtue of the exploits of his direct rival.

The champion from Murcia needed to win this match and reach the seventeenth final of his career, the first since the defeat against Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati, overcoming Sinner with a score of 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Alcaraz thus defended the 2nd position in the ATP world ranking, becoming the first reigning champion able to reach the final at the BNP Paribas Open since Roger Federer in 2018.

Jannik Sinner & Carlos Alcaraz, Indian Wells 2024
Jannik Sinner & Carlos Alcaraz, Indian Wells 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The rain forced a long break in the match and the players returned to the court after almost three hours, at 2-1.

It is in this context that Sinner struck the first blow to his rival. Alcaraz hit a painful double fault on break point. The Spaniard had an immediate chance to equalize the score, but he missed his forehand.

Sinner didn't forgive him and doubled his lead with an effective passer. Alcaraz, once the storm passed, gained solidity on serve and started the second set with a different attitude. At 2-1 he gained the advantage by finishing well on goal.

Sinner, as usual, fought without letting himself be influenced by the score and obtained two opportunities to restore parity. In the seventh game he sent a comfortable backhand across the baseline. In the ninth game, however, he could do nothing on Alcaraz's magnificent backhand down the line.

In the decisive set, Alcaraz's level rose significantly unlike that of Sinner. The effort he made at the net on the break point granted to him by the Italian at 1-1 was impressive; a shot that allowed him to establish his rhythm in the rest of the match.

Sinner also lost serve at 1-3 by making a forehand error. It is the first defeat of the season for the young Italian, who had opened 2024 with an impressive 16-0 and had not lost in 19 matches.

Alcaraz Indian Wells