Carlos Alcaraz handed on-fire Jannik Sinner a first defeat this season, with the Spaniard snapping the Italian’s 19-match win streak 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday at the Indian Wells Masters.

Sinner came to the semi-final with 16 match wins this season and three at the end of 2023 but was finally toppled by his hottest rival in a tight battle paused for some rare poor weather in the Californian desert.

The opening set was interrupted midway through by what turned into a three-hour rain delay, with Sinner eventually sealing the set as he won the last five games.

World No. 2 Alcaraz managed to hold off the charging italian who won the Australian Open and Rotterdam titles this season, saving break points in the second set and advancing on his third match point of the third.

The victory in two hours of playing time prevented the third-ranked Sinner from passing Alcaraz lhim in the rankings – for now.

The pause for weather was a second in a row for Alcaraz, whose semi-final was infamously interrupted by a swarm of bees, the humane removal of which turned a local bee wrangler into a one-day social media hero.

“We were laughing about it with Jannik when it was suspended, because I had bees, had the rain,’ Alcaraz said.

“Let’s see what’s gonna happen tomorrow (Sunday final against Daniil Medvedev, who defeated Tommy Paul 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2). Maybe a random guy, who knows? 

“Having to start the match and then have to stop, start again, it’s difficult for me.

“But I’m really happy I ended the match playing at a high level.”

Sinner took his disappointment in stride, with a possible chance for immediate revenge at the Miami Masters starting at mid-week.

“(This is) obviously a tough one to swallow, but hopefully we will see in the next days if physically I will be good for Miami.

“That for me is the most important,” he said. “I’m focused already on Miami. For sure it’s tough that it (win streak) has to end like this, but I feel grateful for what I’m doing.”

Alcaraz becomes the first man to reach the Indian Wells final as defending champion since Roger Federer in 2018.

The Spaniard has won his last 11 matches at the venue but has not lifted a trophy since Wimbledon eight months ago.

In the second semi-final, 2023 finalist Daniil Medvedev rallied after a slow start to dispatch American Tommy Paul with a fightback in the second and third sets.

Medvedev and Alcaraz will play the first repeat final at Indian Wells since Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in 2014-2015.

Medvedev levelled the sets at one apiece with a winning tiebreak and battled through a challenging final set to swamp his local opponent after Paul missed chances on his last four break points in the concluding games.

“I knew after the first set I would have to do better,’ Medvedev said. “Tommy was playing well, but I was able to hit more winners , some maces, more balls on the line.

“Against Carlos in the final, I know what happened last year and I want to try and turn that around.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to recover for the fight tomorrow.”