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Carlos Alcaraz of Spain addresses the media in Indian Wells, California. Image Credit: AFP

Indian Wells, California: Carlos Alcaraz said the ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from last month’s Rio Open was feeling better and that the only thing on his mind was defending his Indian Wells title.

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The Spaniard, who trounced Daniil Medvedev in last year’s final in the California desert, had to retire after two games of his match in Rio de Janeiro after twisting his right ankle.

It was the latest setback for the world No 2, who has not won a title since beating Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final last July.

Question mark over injury

The 20-year-old lost in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January and was beaten in straight sets by Nicolas Jarry in the semis of the Argentina Open last month.

He rallied to defeat Rafa Nadal in an exhibition match in Las Vegas on Sunday and while he said he has been feeling good during his practices he knew there would be a question mark about his injury.

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Carlos Alcaraz serves during a practice session. Image Credit: Reuters

“Probably some of the people are thinking about my ankle, let’s see if I’m going to say 100 per cent or not, but I’m feeling better,” he told reporters.

“So let’s see how the tournament is going to go but I’m here to defend, I’m not thinking of anything else.”

After a ceremony where a mural commemorating his title last year was unveiled on the grounds, the two-time Grand Slam champion said he was still adjusting to fame.

Natural player

“A lot of days you wake up not in a good mood and you want to hide or not be recognised by people,” he said.

“But I’m a natural guy and I try to take it as natural as I can. The people know me, recognise me, and I think that’s good.”

The tournament’s second seed will kick off his title defence on Friday against Matteo Arnaldi.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber beat Petra Martic 6-3, 6-4 in the first round on Wednesday while 2021 winner Paula Badosa withdrew ahead of her first round match with injury.

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Angelique Kerber managed to win her match before the rain interruption. Image Credit: AFP

German Kerber, who returned to the tour in January after 18 months on maternity leave, beat Martic behind some solid serving on a sunny centre court before rain delayed play in the evening.

“Follow your heart, enjoy what you love and dream big,” Kerber said when asked what message she had for her daughter Liana.

Favourite tournament

Kerber will have her hands full when she faces in-form Latvian Jelena Ostapenko in the second round on Friday.

Badosa was forced to withdraw due to a lower back injury and will be replaced by Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.

“So sorry I have to withdraw from my favourite tournament,” she wrote on social media.

“I tried everything to be able to play but wasn’t enough. I’m having a very difficult time with my injury but I’m fighting every day to come back as soon as possible.”

Italy’s Camila Giorgi and Americans Katie Volynets and Bernarda Pera were among the players to advance to the second round.