TAYLOR Fritz of the US returns a shot against Italy’s Jannick Sinner during their quarter-final of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.—AFP
TAYLOR Fritz of the US returns a shot against Italy’s Jannick Sinner during their quarter-final of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.—AFP

INDIAN WELLS: Top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz beat Felix Auger-Aliassime for the first time in his career to book a semi-final clash with Jannik Sinner at Indian Wells.

Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek lined up a last-four grudge match against Elena Rybakina, who stunned the Polish world number one in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January.

Alcaraz posted his first victory over Auger-Aliassime in four meetings with a 6-4, 6-4 win to keep his bid to regain the world number one ranking on track.

“It’s wonderful to beat Felix finally, and the way I did it, playing at a great level,” said Spain’s Alcaraz, 19, who called it perhaps his best match of the season.

Italy’s Sinner reached the final four with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over defending champion Taylor Fritz and now has a chance to avenge his loss to Alcaraz in an electrifying quarter-final at the US Open last year.

That five-set battle lasted five hours and 15 minutes, its 2:50am finish the latest in US Open history. Alcaraz would go on to lift the trophy and become the youngest world number one in the history of the ATP rankings.

Swiatek, the defending Indian Wells champion and winner of the French and US Opens last year, swept past 83rd-ranked Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina, who fell to Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final, out-lasted 76th-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4.

“She’s playing really well and in semi-finals you always are going to play against the top players, so I’ll be ready,” Swiatek said of taking on Rybakina.

The winner of that match will face either seventh-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece or big-serving Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2023

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