For a man tipped to become the next big thing in tennis, Carlos Alcaraz endured a lot since winning the US Open last year.
An abdominal tear kept the teenager out of the game for six weeks before he made a bright return to action this season.
Now Alcaraz, who became the youngest world number one last year following his US Open triumph, is getting back to his absolute top form again.
By winning the Indian Wells Masters, where he ended Daniil Medvedev's 19-match win streak with a 6-3 6-2 hammering in the final on Sunday, Alcaraz dethroned Novak Djokovic to reclaim the number spot in the ATP world rankings.
Djokovic is not competing in the US hardcourt swing as he cannot enter the country due to not being vaccinated against Covid.
The Serbian icon had taken top spot in the rankings by winning the Australian Open, with Alcaraz missing the year's first Grand Slam due to abdominal and hamstring injuries.
“For me, it’s a dream come true again,” Alcaraz said after winning the Indian Wells Masters.
“Obviously being in front of such great players like Novak, it’s an amazing feeling.”
"I would say this has been the perfect tournament,” he said.
Alcaraz said his unwavering self-belief helped him come through an injury-plagued start to the season and drove his return to the top of the world rankings following his triumph at Indian Wells.
The Spaniard returned to the ATP Tour in February at Buenos Aires where won his first title since last year's US Open and made the Rio final before withdrawing from Acapulco with a strained hamstring.
"I began the season well but struggled a lot with injuries," Alcaraz, who defends his Miami Open title this week, told Tennis Channel. "Two injuries in the legs in about four months, it was tough to stay strong mentally.
"I missed some tournaments I wanted to play, but I worked really hard with my team. I believe in myself and the work I'm doing right now and I'd say that's the most important thing.
"It means a lot to recover the number one ranking. I'm not going to say it was easy, but it was easier because Djokovic was not playing."
Victory over Medvedev meant Alcaraz became the youngest man to win the Indian Wells and Miami Open titles, a feat dubbed the 'Sunshine Double'.
"The thing that's improved most is the mental game," said Alcaraz, who lost to Medvedev in their first meeting in 2021.
"I got a lot of experience since that match. I was new on Tour at that time but now I've played a lot of great matches and won great titles. That's made me more confident," Alcaraz said.
"Now I know how to handle tough moments."
Tennis fans will now be waiting with bated breath to see if Alcaraz can go on to challenge Djokovic and Nadal, who is going to make a comeback from injury at the Monte Carlo Masters next month, for the Grand Slam titles at the French Open and the Wimbledon.
The Spaniard may not have Djokovic to deal with at the US Open where the Serb is unlikely to be allowed to compete due to his vaccination status.
ATP Rankings (top 10)
March 20, 2023
1 Carlos Alcaraz (Spain) 7,420 points
2 Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 7,160 points
3 Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece) 5,770 points
4 Casper Ruud (Norway) 5,560 points
5 Daniil Medvedev (Russia) 4,330 points
6 Felix Auger-Aliassime (Spain) 3,415 points
7 Andrey Rublev (Russia) 3,390 points
8 Holger Rune (Denmark) 3,325 points
9 Hubert Hurkacz (Poland) 3,065 points
10 Taylor Fritz (USA) 2,975 points
The youngster is now looking forward to her next FIG competition in Spain next month
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