Carlos Alcaraz, executioner on the court, but dubbed by his victims

On paper, the round of 16 between the explosive Carlos Alcaraz and the esthete Lorenzo Musetti promised a show full of panache. Because the one-handed backhand Italian is capable on a good day of beating the best in the world by reciting his flamboyant tennis. In fact, the duel, Sunday June 4 on the windy Central of Roland-Garros, was closer to the wet firecracker than the fireworks.

Looks like “Bella Ciao” sung from the first game by the brass band was premonitory, revisited by Alcaraz in “Bello Ciao”. The Spaniard extinguished the Italian in three small sets (6-3, 6-2, 6-2) after two hours of play. Admittedly, the two players delighted the 15,000 spectators on a few points – with amortized sequences , counter-damping, lob and smash – but the 21-year-old Italian (18e world) will have jostled the world number one only the first fifteen minutes of the match (2-0). The time that Alcaraz starts the machine, launched at full speed from the third game.

Relive the encounter: Carlos Alcaraz easily clears the obstacle Lorenzo Musetti

For their only confrontation so far, the young 21-year-old Italian had tamed him on the clay courts of Hamburg in July 2022 to offer himself his first title on the big circuit. In the meantime, the Spaniard won his first Grand Slam title (at the US Open in August) and then settled on the throne of world tennis.

“He has improved a lot since Hamburg. Physically, mentally and tactically, he is a complete player, today with the wind it was complicated for me, but he managed to play well, summed up his victim of the day. He’s the best player in the world and right now he’s very hard to beat, especially on clay. »

A cheeky motto

The only way not to be the prisoner of Alcaraz is to deprive him of time and play hard on his backhand. The Italian had it in mind: “I had a strategy when I entered the court: play deep with my forehand on his backhand, did he develop, but he didn’t give me that possibility, intelligently, he made me play a lot of backhands, he executed the perfect tactical plan against me. »

In the stands, three Iberian supporters wore red and yellow t-shirts showing off an equation less enigmatic than cheeky: “cabeza + corazon + cojones = Carlitos”. The prodigy of El Palmar (Murcia) is often repeated in crucial moments the motto “3 Cs” (“the head, the heart and the testicles”) instilled by his grandfather from the age of 10, the subtleties of which he only grasped much later. He even had the initials of the family triptych tattooed on his left forearm.

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