ATP

Titles in their sights as Alcaraz and Rune get set to leave teenage years behind

By Sports Desk April 22, 2023

Carlos Alcaraz raced through to the Barcelona Open final as the defending champion set up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

With his 20th birthday approaching on May 5, world number two Alcaraz will have the chance on Sunday to land his ninth ATP title as a teenager.

Alcaraz crushed the hopes of first-time Barcelona semi-finalist Dan Evans, racing to a 6-2 6-2 victory over a player who was seeking to become the first British finalist at this tournament.

Earlier, Tsitsipas, who had not dropped serve en route to the semi-finals, had to dig deep for a 6-4 5-7 6-3 victory against Lorenzo Musetti, the Italian who beat Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo last week.

Greek star Tsitsipas bizarrely has a 0-9 record in finals at ATP 500 level, the tier at which this tournament sits, despite having won two of his six title matches in elite ATP 1000 events.

Alcaraz will start as a firm favourite in the final. He holds a 3-0 career head-to-head lead over Tsitsipas from their past meetings, including a three-set win in the Barcelona quarter-finals last year.

That was a stormy encounter, with Alcaraz taking exception to almost being hit by a shot from Tsitsipas at the end of the opening set, so the rematch could be one to savour.

"It's so special to play a final here in Barcelona, a tournament I love playing," Alcaraz said on Prime Video. "I came to watch this tournament when I was very, very young, and I played for this club when I was 12, 11. I love this club, I love this tournament, and it's so special to have the chance to lift the trophy here again.

"Last year [against Tsitsipas] we had a spicy match, but I know he's a really nice guy off the court."

At the BMW Open in Munich, it was much the same story on Saturday.

Defending champion Holger Rune, another 19-year-old with a birthday approaching, in his case on April 29, earned another shot at the title.

Rune set up a Sunday showdown against Botic van de Zandschulp, in what will be a repeat of last year's final.

A resilient Rune lived up to his top seeding by ending Christopher O'Connell's fine run, which included a win against Alexander Zverev at the last-16 stage.

The 6-3 6-2 outcome masked the fact Rune saved eight break points as unseeded world number 82 O'Connell threatened to make it a tighter contest on the scoreboard than it turned out to be.

Van de Zandschulp then scored a fine win in the second semi-final as the Dutch fourth seed got the better of American second seed Taylor Fritz, winning 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 

Last year's trophy match ended in disappointment when Van de Zandschulp retired due to chest pains during the first set, with Rune saying it was "probably the worst way to win a final".

Rune has three ATP titles to his name, with 27-year-old Van de Zandschulp yet to lift a singles trophy.

Related items

  • Djokovic battles into second round of French Open after Herbert triumph Djokovic battles into second round of French Open after Herbert triumph

    Novak Djokovic fought off a stern challenge from Pierre-Hugues Hubert to make a successful start to his French Open title defence on Tuesday.

    The world number one held off the challenge of the home favourite to win 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, setting him on his way to a potential 25th Grand Slam title.

    Djokovic enjoyed a fairly comfortable first set but had to work hard to win the second as Hubert took a more aggressive approach. He steadied in time for a crucial tie-break though, holding his nerve to secure it.

    The Serbian regained control in the final set, sealing the win after a double fault from Hubert to set up a second-round tie against Roberto Carballes Baena.

    Data Debrief: Djokovic's title defence off to a good start

    Djokovic (367) trails only Roger Federer (369) for Men’s Singles match wins at Grand Slam events in the Open Era, and could overtake him with a strong showing at the French Open.

    He is now 72-2 in opening round matches at Grand Slam events, winning his past 69 such matches. Djokovic’s last opening round loss came via retirement at the 2011 US Open against Conor Niland.

  • Alcaraz and Sinner's ability same level as 'Big 4', believes Simon Alcaraz and Sinner's ability same level as 'Big 4', believes Simon

    Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner have the ability of the 'Big 4' if they can keep up their consistency, former world number six Gilles Simon believes.

    Alcaraz won his first grand slam title at the US Open in 2022, becoming the youngest world number one in the history of the ATP rankings at 19 years, four months, and six days, before winning his first Wimbledon title in 2023.

    Alcaraz beat Daniil Medvedev to win Indian Wells in March but has since struggled with an arm injury, with his last match before Roland Garros coming in the quarter-final of the Madrid Open on May 1.

    He beat J.J. Wolf in straight sets on Sunday to progress to the second round of the French Open, where he will face Jesper De Jong.

    Simon, speaking at the Roland-Garros eSeries by Renault tournament, believes in the Spaniard's ability, comparing him to some of the big names in the sport.

    He said: "I think that Alcaraz has the level of the big 3 or big 4 that we've had because he really has a level that's very high.

    "In other words, when his tennis is up and running, it's really hard to beat him. And I see him at the same level as [Rafael] Nadal, Novak [Djokovic], [Roger] Federer, even at their best, because he's got that level.

    "On the other hand, he can't keep it up at the moment, every week, with the consistency that those players have had. But he's young, he's still very young, and he's going to keep winning, keep progressing, keep raising his game.

    "Maybe he'll reach the level of those players. Last year, we saw him do very well at Roland Garros but ultimately lose due to cramp. But then he wins at Wimbledon, and you think that's it, he's reached that level [of the big 3].

    "Yes, he was there over that period, not over ten months for the moment. And I've no doubt he'll be there, but it's going to be complicated."

    Meanwhile, Sinner has enjoyed a strong start to 2024 saw him win his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open, following up with wins in Rotterdam and Miami.

    The Italian also cruised through his opening round at Roland Garros with a straight-sets win over Christopher Eubanks and is set to face Richard Gasquet next on Monday.

    "As far as I'm concerned, [Sinner's] at a slightly lower level than Alcaraz. But his average level is higher than that of Alcaraz. So that's where it's interesting," Simon added.

    "So far, Jannik has been able to show consistency for over six months, from the end of last season to his injuries at the start of the clay-court season.

    "He's been in the final of almost every tournament for six months, or a winner. His consistency is reminiscent of that of the Big 4.

    "But what's interesting is that he lost his big match at Indian Wells, against Alcaraz, who suddenly regained his level and overtook him. So that's how I see it."

  • Sabalenka extends first-round streak with fine start at French Open Sabalenka extends first-round streak with fine start at French Open

    Second seed Aryna Sabalenka emphatically progressed to the second round of the French Open with victory over Erika Andreeva on Tuesday.

    Australian Open champion Sabalenka won 6-1 6-2 in just 68 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the first career meeting between the two players.

    There were 27 winners from Sabalenka and just nine from Andreeva, who only showed the briefest resistance with a sole break early in the second set.

    But strong favourite Sabalenka, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros last year, made an instant response by breaking back, ultimately winning five of the final six games to ruthlessly close out the victory.

    She will play a qualifier – either Irene Burillo Escorihuela or Moyuka Uchijima – in the next round of the competition.

    Data Debrief: Sabalenka extends first-round streak

    Sabalenka has now won each of her last 15 first-round matches at grand slam tournaments, not suffering defeat at the first hurdle since a clash against Carla Suarez Navarro at the Australian Open in January 2020. 

    She has also won six R1 matches in a row at the French Open, not suffering an opening-round loss in Paris since the 2018 edition.

    Sabalenka will continue her bid to become the first female player to win both the Australian Open and Roland Garros in a calendar year since Serena Williams in 2015. Her record on clay this season is now improved to a healthy 12-3.

    Andreeva, meanwhile, was always likely to find the going tough and won just eight of her 23 points on first serve as she was broken five times across the contest. The 19-year-old is yet to reach a grand slam second round.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.