Preview: Alcaraz Faces Felix, Whom He's Never Beaten; Fritz v. Sinner
The two remaining semi-final spots at the BNP Paribas Open are up for grabs on Thursday in Indian Wells, where top seed Carlos Alcaraz continues his bid for the title and the No. 1 spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
The Spaniard must defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime for the first time in four attempts if he is to keep alive his chances of that double prize, while defending champion Taylor Fritz and Jannik Sinner go head-to-head in a clash between two of the hardest hitters on Tour.
ATPTour.com previews the quarter-final matchups from the bottom half of the BNP Paribas Open draw.
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 Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) Vs.  Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
Alcaraz is just three wins away from leapfrogging Novak Djokovic back to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but to get there the 2022 semi-finalist must do something he has not yet managed in three previous attempts: defeat Auger-Aliassime.
The Canadian most recently downed Alcaraz in straight sets en route to the title in Basel last October, part of a late-season 16-match winning streak that earned him three consecutive ATP Tour titles. While Auger-Aliassime has not hit those heights in 2023 (he holds an 11-5 record for the season), his fourth-round victory against Tommy Paul could be the perfect catalyst for further success.
The eighth seed saved six match points before edging the American in one of the comeback victories of the year so far. Auger-Aliassime will hope his huge serve and forehand can respond similarly under pressure against Alcaraz's all-around quality on his maiden Indian Wells quarter-final appearance.
After injury delayed the start of his 2023 season to February, Alcaraz has wasted little time in re-establishing himself as one of the most accomplished all-court players on Tour. The 19-year-old has raced to an 11-1 record in the past month, lifting his seventh tour-level title in Buenos Aires and reaching the final in Rio de Janeiro, and clinched his 100th tour-level win with his third-round victory against Tallon Griekspoor in Indian Wells.
“As soon as I was playing matches, tournaments, I was recovering my confidence,” said Alcaraz on Tuesday after Jack Draper retired from the pair’s fourth-round match when trailing by a set and a break. “I was recovering my style, my level… Right now, I feel that I'm able to win tournaments, I'm there, [I’m] one of the favourites.”
Alcaraz has not dropped a set in moving past Thanasi Kokkinakis, Tallon Griekspoor and Draper so far this fortnight and is chasing back-to-back semi-finals in California, but Auger-Aliassime will be the first Top 10 rival that the Spaniard has faced this year. The Canadian's first-serve percentage will be key to the match. Auger-Aliassime will want to limit the number of opportunities the Spanaird gets to take big cuts at second serves to take early control of points.
 Taylor Fritz (USA) Vs.  Jannik Sinner (ITA)
Fritz and Sinner meet at the same venue as their only previous tour-level meeting. In 2021, the American prevailed in straight sets in the BNP Paribas Open fourth round en route to the semi-finals in California.
The home favourite backed up that run by defeating Rafael Nadal to lift his maiden Masters 1000 crown in Indian Wells a year ago. In contrast, Sinner again came unstuck in the fourth round in 2022, and the Italian will hope that downing Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday for his first taste of success at that stage can lay the foundations for an even deeper run this year.
Stopping an opponent who has now won nine matches in a row at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden will be no easy feat, however. Fritz, who regularly visited the tournament in southern California as a child, relishes the atmosphere at his home event and he will look to put Sinner’s world-class movement to the ultimate test by continuing to hit through his groundstrokes in Thursday’s clash.
“I feel like it's just that energy around this week, playing my home tournament. It is slower conditions, but it gives me a lot of time to be able to set up and usually just play attacking tennis,” Fritz said. “I really couldn’t tell you a specific reason why I do so well here, probably just the whole feeling around it.”
Either way, the duo’s respective gamestyles should make for a fascinating contest on Stadium 1. Whether Sinner can make a dent in Fritz’s powerful delivery with his sharp returning could be key, although the 21-year-old knows he needs to deliver a complete performance if he is to halt the home favourite’s charge.
"Every match is different," said Sinner after he defeated Wawrinka to improve to 15-3 for the year. "The match before I struggled a little bit with the backhand. Today was completely different. I had a little bit of a higher ball so I could go really through the ball, so I'm very happy about that.
"I feel I can improve a couple of things. Today I was not serving so well... Tomorrow I have a day off so I have a couple of practice sessions and hopefully I'm going to be ready for after tomorrow."
In Doubles Action…
Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski lifted three ATP Masters 1000 titles in their first year together on Tour in 2022, and the top seeds will hope to keep their bid for a fourth on track when they take on Jamie Murray and Michael Venus on Thursday in the Indian Wells.
In the other quarter-final in the top half of the draw, fifth seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara face Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Both teams are chasing their second trophy of 2023 this fortnight in California — Glasspool and Heliovaara won an ATP 250 in Adelaide in January, while Gonzalez and Roger-Vasselin clinched their first tour-level crown as a duo in Marseille last month.