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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Thursday, March 14, 2024


Carlos Alcaraz withstood a swarm of bees and Alexander Zverev flying into an Indian Wells semifinal rematch vs. undefeated Jannik Sinner.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Carlos Alcaraz brings buzz every time he steps on court.

Today, Alcaraz felt the force of nature buzzing his head minutes into his BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal vs. Alexander Zverev.

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A bizarre invasion of bees swarmed Stadium 1 minutes into the match prompting a nearly one hour, 50-minute delay for a heroic beekeeper to clear the court of the invaders.

The second-ranked Spaniard spent much of the match stinging fizzing forehands flying past Zverev 6-3, 6-1, into the Indian Wells semifinals.

"For sure the most unusual match I have ever played in my career," Alcaraz said. "I've never experienced something like that. I've never seen something like that.

"So I think I will remember that match because of that. I think everybody will remember this situation, and we found it as a funny thing. That's for sure."

Alcaraz scored his 10th straight BNP Paribas Open win—he’s the first man to reach the semifinals in his Indian Wells title defense since Roger Federer in 2017—setting up a blockbuster Saturday semifinal showdown vs. Jannik Sinner.

Playing with command, Sinner swept Jiri Lehecka 6-3, 6-3 to cruise into the semifinals, which shapes up as a clash of streaks.

Australian Open champion Sinner rides a 19-match winning streak into the semifinals, while Alcaraz owns the 10-match Tennis Paradise streak.

“Carlos, it's always fun to play with him,” Sinner said. “We are good friends off the court. On the court, we just try to give 100%, no?

“I think we have a good attitude on court. Usually the matches are good. Last year against him, especially here on this court, I struggled a lot. He played much better than me, which then two weeks after I played Miami against him where I won, so, you know, let's see.”

While the bees stole the spotlight, The Mosquito played a key role in arguably Alcaraz's most dynamic win of the season.

Affectionately nicknamed “The Mosquito” during his playing days, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz's coach, was on hand for this rematch with Zverev. Former world No. 1 Ferrero formerly coached Zverev, but was recovering from knee surgery and not present in Melbourne when the German pounded Alcaraz.

Riding a wrecking ball serve and calm competitive spirit, Zverev razed Alcaraz 6-1, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4 in a stirring Australian Open upset to reach his seventh Grand Slam semifinal last January.
In today’s bee-invaded rematch, Alcaraz served with more authority, competed with more energy, relentlessly ripped forehands at Zverev’s weaker forehand wing and used the drop shot and net play to good effect.

It all started on serve. Alcaraz served 79 percent, won 27 of 31 first-serve points and did not face a break point defeating Zverev for the fourth time in nine meetings.

Serving at 1-all, 15-0, Alcaraz paused as some bees began dive-bombing all around.

As a swarm of bees buzzed Alcaraz’s head, chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, stung in the temple, jumped down from the chair, motioned for Alcaraz to take cover and both made a bee-line for the exit.

"I saw some bees around, but I thought it was just a few of them, just not too many," Alcaraz said. "But I saw the sky and there was thousands, thousands flying, stuck in my hair, going to me. It was crazy. One of them was hitting on me.

"But yeah, I tried to stay away from them, but it was impossible. As I said, stuck in my hair, so I was running out. I'm a little bit afraid of them (smiling). I had to stay safe, and yeah, I was running everywhere."

The bees convened on the Spydercam camera above the court as if it were a home hive.

“Play is suspended due to a bee invasion,” chair umpire Lahyani announced at about 3:20 p.m. local time.

Embed from Getty Images

About 58 minutes after that announcement, bee keeper Lance Davis, wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with “Killer Bee” emblazoned across the back, sunglasses and no other visible protection against the swarm—no gloves, no helmet and no fear—used a vacuum, technical term “Bee Blower”, to slurp up the bees.

Foo Fighters “My Hero” blared over the sound system as the courageous bee keeper scaled the stadium steps like spirited Rocky Balboa running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—receiving high-fives from fans along the way—to face the infestation face to face.

Later, the dedicated beekeeper took time out to talk to a concerned Alcaraz at net about the state of the swarm, apparently reassuring the 20-year-old Spaniard he was safe.

"Well, I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little bit afraid of the bees," Alcaraz said. "Seeing a few bees warming up so I didn't feel 100 percent with the bees there."

“I mean I’m fine on this side,” Zverev said after chair umpire Lahyani pointed out there were still bees on one side of the court. After about a one hour, 48-minute delay, play resumed with Alcaraz holding for 2-1.

Zverev put a forehand into net then double faulted long to gift-wrap the break and a 3-1 lead to the 2022 US Open champion.

An energized Alcaraz electrified fans, including actor Will Farrell, sprinting into superb sliding forehand pass down the line. Alcaraz blocked a backhand volley holding at love for 4-1. He won seven straight points on serve after play resumed.

Once Alcaraz got up, he snuffed out any safe space for Zverev.

The laser show came in the eighth game when Alcaraz rocketed a 100 mph forehand strike down the line.

The reigning champion stamped his third love hold of the set to snatch the 53-minute opening set.

Unlike his Australian Open quarterfinal loss to Zverev where the Spaniard struggled at times to land first serves on pivotal points, Alcaraz was firing first serves with command in the opening set. Alcaraz served 76 percent and won 17 of 19 first-serve points in the set.

Operating with more assertive court positioning, Alcaraz was working Zverev’s inferior forehand wing over and dabbing some drop shots to test the German’s deep court positioning. Zverev caught up to a dropper but scattered a forehand long for break point.

Sixty-three minutes into the match, Alcaraz jerked Zverev side to side with a flurry of forehands drawing a netted backhand as he broke to start the second set.

Shifting his returning positioning to give Zverev different looks, Alcaraz continued punishing the sixth seed’s forehand. Alcaraz torched a forehand winner down the line and drew an error, breaking for his fourth straight game and a 3-0 second-set lead.

Tormenting Zverev with one final drop shot winner that helped him reach match point, Alcaraz brought a funky close to a freaky match and fantastic performance with a net-cord winner.

The Wimbledon winner continues his quest for his first championship since he dethroned Novak Djokovic at SW19. Alcaraz calls his showdown with Sinner "the most difficult match I'm gonna play this year." 

"He's the best tennis player in the world right now, without a doubt," Alcaraz said of Sinner. "I mean, I hear some declarations from Tommy Paul that was funny for me, that he's absolutely naked right now (smiling).

"He's playing unbelievable, no losses this year. I really enjoy watching him play. So it's going to be a really difficult match. It's going to be a big challenge for me and see what is my level, you know, facing him.

"The last, I think the last two matches that I have played against him I lost, so I have to adjust a little bit my game and let's see how it's gonna be."

"But for sure it's gonna be the most difficult match that I'm gonna play this year."


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