Jannik Sinner turned the tables in his burgeoning rivalry with Carlos Alcaraz to reach the final of the Miami Open and end the Spaniard’s brief spell back at world number one.
Alcaraz overtook Novak Djokovic to reclaim top spot after winning in Indian Wells a fortnight ago but needed to successfully defend his title in Florida to hang onto it and it will again be the Serbian at the head of the field heading into the clay-court season.
Alcaraz defeated Sinner in the semi-finals in Indian Wells but this time the Italian pulled off the upset, winning 6-7 (4) 6-4 6-2 in what was another demonstration that this is a duel tennis can be extremely excited about.
Alcaraz, 19, defeated his 21-year-old rival in arguably the match of the season at the US Open last year and they have shared their six meetings so far.
Alcaraz told reporters in Miami: “Of course, I feel something different about the crowd when I play against Jannik. I think around the world is probably all the people watching this match because I think it’s really beautiful to watch.”
One point in the seventh game of the opening set, when they pulled each other all around the court, with Alcaraz doing the splits at one point but recovering before Sinner finally won it with a passing shot, has already been hailed as one of the best of all time.
“When I lost that point, the first thing that came to my mind is like he’s unbeatable, this guy,” said Alcaraz. “We played a great game, I think both a great level. I broke his serve in that game, if I remember well. But of course against Jannik there is always great points like this one.
Sinner is guaranteed to return to the top 10 and can climb to a career-high ranking of sixth if he beats Daniil Medvedev in the final.
The Russian has won all their five meetings so far, including in the final of the ATP event in Rotterdam in February, and Sinner said: “I was able to win one set there. I need to make some changes, trying to mix up the game a little bit. But I feel ready to compete, happy to be in the final, and let’s see how it goes.”
Earlier, Medvedev reached a fifth straight ATP Tour final with a hard-fought victory over compatriot Karen Khachanov.
Medvedev, who won three titles in a row before losing to Alcaraz in Indian Wells, needed two hours and 17 minutes to battle past his good friend, winning 7-6 (5) 3-6 6-3.
The last player to reach five consecutive finals on the ATP Tour was Ivan Lendl in 1981.
In the women’s event, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova fought back from an early deficit to beat Sorana Cirstea in straight sets and reach the Miami final for the first time.
Cirstea led 5-2 in the opening set before Kvitova clicked into top gear and reeled off five games in a row, the 33-year-old then gaining an early break in the second set on her way to a 7-5 6-4 victory.
Kvitova, who will face current Wimbledon champion and Indian Wells winner Elena Rybakina in the final, said: “I feel great to be in a final, that’s the most important thing.
“Elena is playing amazing but I could surprise her maybe. Who knows?”