With Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both absent, the ATP BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells has boiled down to a clash between two of the most in-form players in the men's game with Carlos Alcaraz facing Daniil Medvedev in the California final.
Medvedev is on a golden run of form, claiming three straight titles in Rotterdam, Qatar and Dubai and sitting on the verge of his fourth trophy of the year, but top seed Alcaraz is back to full fitness and will likely present the 27-year-old with his toughest test for some time.
|What||Carlos Alcaraz v Daniil Medvedev|
|Where||Indian Wells Tennis Garden, California|
|When||20:00, Sunday 19th March 2023|
|How to watch||bet365's Sports Live Streaming / Amazon Prime Video|
|Odds||Carlos Alcaraz 4/5, Danill Medvedev 1/1|
Alcaraz announced himself as a genuine top-tier performer when winning the Miami Open in April 2022 and the prodigious Spanish teenager is 4/5 to claim the second leg of the Sunshine Double in Sunday's Indian Wells final.
Alcaraz has long been on the path to superstardom but the 19-year-old has since confirmed what many expected him to do in becoming a member of the ATP elite, winning four more titles since his Miami triumph including the US Open in September.
Injury forced the Murcia man to miss the Australian Open but he's since returned to action in excellent form, beating Cameron Norrie in last month's Argentina Open final before losing out to the Briton in a match for the Rio Open title the following week.
A hamstring problem saw Alcaraz skip Acapulco as a precaution, a decision which appears to have paid handsome dividends in Indian Wells as he has performed superbly in a host of potentially difficult matches.
Alcaraz opened with a win over Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis, then saw off Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor and another Brit, Jack Draper, before defeating two other top-class prospects - Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner - in the quarters and semi-finals.
The 19-year-old has not dropped a set in his five matches and will aim to head to Miami next week as not only a defending champion, but also as an Indian Wells champion and a world number one.
However, he is under no illusions as to the task at hand, describing Medvedev as "the best tennis player in the world," after his semi-final victory over Sinner.
On current form, it's hard to argue with Alcaraz's assessment of Medvedev after the Moscow man chalked up his 19th consecutive victory in his 7-5 7-6 semi-final victory over Frances Tiafoe.
Medvedev is 1/1 to win a fourth title of the campaign and, on recent evidence, appears to be playing better than ever.
The 27-year-old began the season in indifferent form, losing out to long-time rival Djokovic in the Adelaide 1 semi-finals and crashing out of the Australian Open in the third round - admittedly against a capable opponent in Sebastian Korda.
Five previous trips to Indian Wells had yielded nothing better than a fourth round appearance in 2021 and his 6-5 win-loss record in this event was nothing to write home about, but the former US Open champion has finally delivered in the Golden State.
His path to the final has arguably been just as impressive as that of Alcaraz, with victories coming against Brandon Nakashima, Ilya Ivashka, Alexander Zverev, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and finally Tiafoe.
At his best, Zverev is perhaps the only genuinely top-class performer of that quintet, but all are dangerous opponents who Medvedev was able to negotiate with relative ease, although Ivashka and Zverev did both manage to prise a set off of the Russian.
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The stage looks set for an intriguing Indian Wells men's final and it's difficult to know what to expect because while both players have been competing at the sharp end over the last few seasons, their paths have seldom crossed.
In fact, the duo have only faced off once before, at Wimbledon in 2021 when Medvedev ran out a 6-4 6-1 6-2 winner in the second round of the grass-court Slam.
A lot has changed in the 20 months following their last meeting. Alcaraz has developed into a superb, Grand Slam-winning competitor and is far more complete than the raw version of himself who turned up at SW19 for the first time.
But while there's no doubt that the Spaniard will be more competitive this time, that scoreline must still be of some concern as Medvedev, who has generally struggled on grass, was so dominant on that occasion.
The Russian has been competing at the peak of his powers and Alcaraz might be required to up his level. He served wonderfully well against Sinner and will need to do so again if he's to dismiss Medvedev, who punished Tiafoe's second serve in Saturday's semi-final.
While he's a narrow underdog in this heavyweight clash, Medvedev arguably has a greater chance than the odds suggest.