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Sinner, Alcaraz demolish Indian Wells opponents

Reigning Grand Slam champions Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz turned in dominating performances on Sunday to roll into the fourth round of the ATP-WTA Indian Wells Masters.

The two hottest young racquets in the sport showed no mercy in quick-fire victories, with Australian Open champion Sinner overwhelming Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-4.

“Almost perfect” Alcaraz, the reigning Wimbledon champion, stepped up his Indian Wells title defense with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The world number two Spaniard allowed his Canadian opponent no room to move, reaching the fourth round with his eighth match win in a row at the event. A pair of women’s veterans showed new life in maternity comebacks.

“It was almost the perfect match for me,” said Alcaraz, who broke Auger-Aliassime’s serve four times. “I moved well, played aggressive and had less mistakes.”

Sinner was equally ruthless as he attacked Struff, with the Italian winning his 17th match in succession dating to his country’s Davis Cup victory in November.

Sinner fired 27 winners past Struff, whose style gave the third seed a target on court.

“We prepared very well, I tried to learn his moves,” Sinner said. “I played well and served well under pressure.

“Overall I can be really happy about today, I felt really good on the court.”

Alcaraz won the last five games of the opening set and broke to start the second on his way to repeating his win over Auger-Aliassime from the 2023 quarter-finals.

The second seed finished off victory on his first match point as Auger-Aliassime hit the net with his 23rd unforced error.

It was a welcome show of strength from Alcaraz, who hasn’t won a title since winning his second Grand Slam with a stunning triumph over Novak Djokovic at the All England Club last year.

He exited the Australian Open in the quarter-finals then lost in the semi-finals at Buenos Aires last month before spraining his ankle and retiring from his opening match in Rio de Janeiro.

“I played at a really high level of tennis, so much higher than the first round,” the Spaniard said.

Alcaraz may still be feeling the effects of the ankle, which has left him short of 2024 match play.

“My confidence has gone down a little bit, I’ve been struggling during the practice every day,” he admitted. “I’m trying to keep my confidence as high as I can.”

In other matches, fifth seed Andrey Rublev was knocked out 6-4, 6-4 by rising Czech Jiri Lehecka 

Alex de Minaur, seeded 10th, dominated Dubai finalist Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-0.

The Australian now plays sixth seed Alexander Zverev, a 7-6 (9/7), 6-3 winner over Tallon Griekspoor.

Greek 11th-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas eliminated a home crowd favorite with his 6-3, 6-3 defeat of Frances Tiafoe, who reached the Californian quarters a year ago.

Swiatek revenge

In WTA play, Iga Swiatek claimed quick revenge for a January loss as she hammered Czech Linda Noskova 6-4, 6-0 to reach the fourth round.

The Polish top seed was defeated by the 29th-ranked challenger in an Australian Open third-round upset.

On Sunday, world number one Swiatek quickly recovered after going down an early break to the 19-year-old, levelling at 4-all and sweeping through the remainder of the third-round match.

Swiatek will next face Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, who beat Madison Keys 6-4, 6-1.

The Pole said she learned from her loss to Noskova in Melbourne.

“It was much smarter to think about how to just play against Linda rather than focusing on my mistakes,” she said.

“I was motivated to just play better and not make the same mistakes but to improve my game in some aspects.”

Germany’s three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber earned a win as her comeback from last year’s maternity continued to gather steam.

The 36-year-old defeated Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 7-5.

She next faces former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, another comeback candidate after becoming a mother who advanced past Katie Volynets 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.

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