On the strength of his victory in Madrid on Sunday May 7, as in Barcelona two weeks earlier, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz is on the ideal launching pad towards Roland-Garros (May 28-June 11), which he should approach in the world number one skin.
The young Spanish phenomenon suffered for a long time on Sunday evening, for almost two and a half hours, against the German Jan-Lennard Struff (65e), the first “lucky loser” to make it to the final of a Masters 1000, but he ended up winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. “Today, at times I had fun, but at others I suffered more than enjoyed…recognizes Alcaraz. But you have to go through it. And I think I had more fun than I suffered. »
The sound of the “Caja magica” Madrid couldn’t have been more timely, when she started spitting “Don’t Stop Me Now”one of Queen’s hits, when “Carlitos” displayed his new trophy. At just 20 years old, it’s a certainty, Alcaraz has no desire to slow down his infernal pace, he who became the youngest world number one in history in the wake of his coronation at the US Open in last September, his first Grand Slam, and who finds himself very close to becoming one again before Roland-Garros.
“I am an ambitious boy”
Back on the heels of Novak Djokovic on Monday, he will only need to play a match at the Masters 1000 in Rome next week to be sure of reinstalling himself on the throne of world tennis at the end of the Italian tournament. He had not played in Rome a year ago, when Djokovic won there. “I am an ambitious boy, and I will go to Rome”confirmed Sunday evening Alcaraz, now ten trophies to his name.
In the meantime, the protege of Juan Carlos Ferrero has already offered his fourth title, and the second in Masters 1000, of a season which he launched late in mid-February after a muscle injury deprived him of Australian Open. In less than three months, he signed five finals in six tournaments, won, before Madrid, in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona, and collected 29 victories for only two defeats.
Above all, his record on ocher is eloquent: the Murcian has accumulated nineteen victories there in twenty games in 2023. On European clay, he is even undefeated: from Barcelona to Madrid, he has just scored eleven successes. His only loss on the surface dates back to the end of February, in the final in Rio, against Briton Cameron Norrie. Impossible, under these conditions, not to make him a favorite for Roland-Garros.
Nevertheless Struff has shaken up Alcaraz like no one since the start of the European season on ocher, with an ultra-offensive tactic: serve and volley galore behind his first overpowering ball − regularly above 215 km / h, and even 220 km /h − and maximum aggressiveness on return. When the German hit two double faults in his first game of service and was broken from the start, we thought the match would not go on forever. It has not happened.
Put under pressure as rarely, Alcaraz was destabilized; we saw him, hands on his hips, wondering how he could deal with the audacity and success of Struff after failing to convert five break points that would have allowed him to relaunch in the second set, 3 games to 1. But his strength was not to lose control and not to give in to frustration, further proof of his extraordinary maturity.
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“There was a moment when the negative got to me a bit… The only thing I changed was being positive at the start of the third set”, he explains. Will Struff’s strategy inspire others? In Rome, Alcaraz and Djokovic must, unless there is a twist, find themselves playing the same tournament for the first time in 2023. At 33, Struff leaves the Spanish capital, certain to climb to the best ranking of his career on Monday, at 28e rank.