The two semifinal matches at the BNP Paribas Open are set for Saturday, March 18. We’ll see Daniil Medvedev face Frances Tiafoe and Carlos Alcaraz face Jannik Sinner.
Storylines that matter
Current world No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spaniard, has a shot at reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking by winning the tournament. He'd be snatching it from Novak Djokovic, who was forced to sit out due to his vaccination status. If Alcaraz were to fall short of a title, Djokovic will remain No. 1.
Meanwhile, Medvedev is on an absolute tear, winning 18 straight matches since Valentine’s Day, resulting in three straight titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai. Medvedev is 19-2 on the year and looking to extend his run to win his fifth ATP 1000 tournament and first at Indian Wells.
Then there's Jannik Sinner, the 21-year-old Italian, who is looking to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title and second title of the year after winning the ATP 250 Montpellier. This is the second Masters 1000 semifinal of Sinner's career after losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the Masters 1000 Miami Finals in 2021. Earlier this month, I wrote how Indian Wells could be one of three good spots for Sinner to win, so this upcoming match holds much intrigue.
Frances Tiafoe is the only American remaining in the bunch. He's also looking to claim his first Masters 1000 title, holding a 33-33 win/loss record in such events. This will be Tiafoe’s first Masters 1000 semifinal, with his previous bests being two quarterfinal losses to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the 2022 Paris event and to Denis Shapovalov in Miami in 2019.
Carlos Alcaraz -3 (-180 ML) vs. Jannik Sinner (+150 ML), OV/UN 22.5
These two young guns are split 2-2 in head-to-head matchups with Carlitos winning the most recent match. He defeated Sinner in five sets at the 2022 US Open, the only outdoor hard event they’ve played against each other. Sinner’s baseline power is miles ahead of everyone and causing problems for all of his opponents, as we witnessed in his quarterfinal match against Taylor Fritz.
The problem with that power is that it fades as the match progresses. Sinner’s average forehand speed in the first set was 81 mph and dipped to 73 mph in the third set as the conditions grew cooler and the fatigue kicked in. In this match against Alcaraz, we know Sinner’s power is too overwhelming on a faster surface like grass but it’s because of that power that Sinner is more likely to win the opening set. Once that power subsides, Alcaraz can take over. He’s fit enough and is the better slow-court player of the two. He also has the best defense Sinner has faced while having the ability to generate pace of his own. Once Sinner’s power wears off, Alcaraz will extend the rallies, craft points and utilize his full-court game (volley, drop shot, etc.) to claim the win. Grab your popcorn, it’s going to be a good one.
Best bet: OVER 22.5 games
Alternative bet: OVER 2.5 total sets (+135)
Daniil Medvedev -4 (-375 ML) vs. Frances Tiafoe (+290 ML), OV/UN 22
Medvedev holds a 4-0 record over Tiafoe. Not only is Meddy in top form winning three straight titles, but he’s been playing more aggressively since his ankle mishap against Alexander Zverev in the Round of 16. In that match, Medvedev eventually figured out that he needed to end the points more quickly instead of extending the rally. The most important factor in this matchup is the type of gameplan Tiafoe will present. Like most players, if they don’t lean hard into the net game, it’s over before it even starts.
Medvedev is the second-best baseline player behind only Djokovic. At this point, it’s pretty close as to who is the best between the two. If you try to beat the best baseline player from the baseline, it won’t work out for you. Tiafoe will have the crowd, but Medvedev is playing too pure.
Best bet: Medvedev -4cu games
Alternative bet: A Medvedev ML + Alcaraz ML parlay (-105) is intriguing