Djokovic sent fresh warning as Alcaraz benefits from Indian Wells ban

Carlos Alcaraz has staked his claim on Novak Djokovic’s world No 1 ranking once again as he looks to capitalise on the Serb missing Indian Wells. Alcaraz is the top seed in Djokovic’s absence and can leapfrog him in the rankings by winning the title. And the 19-year-old has warned the current No 1 that he is aiming to dethrone him.

Djokovic was left unable to play Indian Wells for a second year running when his vaccine waiver request was denied. It left his world No 1 ranking vulnerable as Alcaraz can overtake him after the BNP Paribas Open while world No 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas also has a chance of reaching the top after the Miami Open.

The Serb and the 19-year-old have been in a close rankings race in recent weeks, as Alcaraz had the chance to tie Djokovic by winning the Rio Open and could have surpassed him for world No 1 the following week in Acapulco. But he got injured in the Rio final and pulled out of Acapulco, leaving the 22-time Grand Slam champion safe at the top.

And he already has another chance to reclaim the top spot after becoming the youngest world No 1 in ATP history last year, as he will leapfrog Djokovic on March 20 if he wins the Indian Wells Masters. Alcaraz has now fired a warning to the current top man in tennis, claiming it was his goal to win and return to No 1.

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“I’m [feeling] really good right now,” the current world No 2 said ahead of his Indian Wells campaign – his first event since getting injured in Rio. “Today was the first practice that I practised with some players, [played] some points. I feel great. I took some days off and it was really good for me. Right now I’m ready.”

Alcaraz was quick to discuss the possibility of lifting the title and returning to the top of the rankings, adding: “It’s a really good goal for me. Of course playing a Masters 1000 is always tough and I really want to have a good result here. I love this tournament as well.

“For me, winning the tournament and being No. 1 again is a really good goal and I really want to go for it.” Indian Wells marks Alcaraz’s first tournament on a hard court since the Paris Masters in November, where he tore an abdomen muscle and shut down his 2022 season.

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He returned to action last month on the clay in Argentina, winning the title before following it up with an appearance in the Rio Open final. It was there where Alcaraz tweaked his leg while a set-and-break up on Cameron Norrie, going on to lose the match in three sets and pulling out of Acapulco.

Back on the hard courts, Alcaraz said: “On hard court I think I’m a really good tennis player, so I’m going to go for it.” But the 19-year-old attempted to downplay his chances given his recent injury woes, despite sharing his hopes of winning the title.

“I don’t consider myself a favourite to win the tournament because [it has been] a long time since I played on hard court,” he said. “Of course there are a lot of great players in this draw that have chances to win the tournament I would say that I have my chances to win the tournament and I’m going to [try to] take it.”

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