Novak Djokovic became the oldest winner of the Internazionali d'Italia men's singles title in the Open Era as he fended off Stefanos Tsitsipas on the clay in Rome.

The world number one said he played a "perfect set" to race through the opener, before coming from a break down in the second to earn a 6-0 7-6 (7-5) victory in Sunday's final.

Djokovic made it a record-extending 38th Masters 1000 title in what was his 55th final at this level, and it was his sixth triumph at this event in the Italian capital.

At 34 years, 11 months and 23 days old, Djokovic is 10 days older than the previous oldest Rome champion, Rafael Nadal, who took the title last year.

He boosted his head-to-head record to 7-2 against Greek star Tsitsipas, winning their last six matches and all five they have contested on clay, including last year's French Open final where Djokovic came from two sets behind to scoop the grand slam. This victory clearly augurs well for Djokovic's upcoming title defence in Paris.

Djokovic broke serve to love in the opening game, Tsitsipas swatting a volley into the net to hand over the early advantage and set the tone for a wildly one-sided set.

Tsitsipas broke to lead 3-1 in the second set and he served for it at 5-3 but was broken to 15, sending a forehand wide on game point. The tie-break that soon followed was hard fought, with Tsitsipas looping a backhand long on match point as Serbian Djokovic earned the trophy once again.

Reflecting on his fast start, and his first title of 2022, Djokovic said on Amazon Prime: "I pleasantly surprised myself, I can say, even though I had a clear game plan and strategy coming into the match. I knew what to expect from the other side so I knew what I had to do, but I did play a perfect set, no doubt about it.

"After that it was a little bit tight, the beginning of the second for me. He used it, and at this level one or two points can turn a match around and he was back in the game. At 4-1 up for him and 30-40, the match could have easily gone into a third set, but I somehow managed to find the right shots at the right time to come back in the game, and the tie-breaker, I guess I was just an inch better, maybe calmer, and it was a tight tie-break for both of us."

Ahead of the French Open, which gets under way next Sunday, Djokovic is feeling in great shape for his title defence. Having missed the Australian Open in January in a deportation drama, Djokovic will head to Paris as a major rival to teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz.

Should Djokovic triumph at Roland Garros, he would match Nadal's men's record of 21 grand slams.

"I've been building my form in the last couple of weeks and like the previous years I knew that my best shape on clay was usually coming around Rome time," Djokovic said.

"So it couldn't be a better time, coming into Roland Garros with a title at this wonderful tournament. I'm going to Paris with a lot of confidence."

Novak Djokovic will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Internazionali BNL d'Italia final after beating Casper Ruud.in straights sets to claim his 1,000th ATP Tour win.

Djokovic secured a return to the top of the rankings by defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime on Friday and the legendary Serb, who turns 35 next week, was celebrating again in Rome on Saturday after reaching an astonishing landmark.

The 20-time grand slam champion beat Ruud 6-4 6-3 at the Foro Italico to set up a repeat of last year's French Open final, which he won by storming back from two sets down to deny Tsitsipas a maiden major triumph.

Djokovic is only the fifth man in the Open Era to reach 1,000 wins and will take his record tally of ATP Masters 1000 finals to an incredible 55 on Sunday.

A five-time winner on the clay in the Italian capital, Djokovic made a blistering start, breezing into a 4-0 lead as Ruud was unable to hold twice under huge pressure from the Serb.

Ruud warmed to the task, breaking back to reduce the deficit to 5-3, but the first set was over when the 23-year-old sliced a backhand long after being forced wide by the top seed.

Norwegian Ruud started the second set with a commanding hold to love and there were no further break points until Djokovic moved into a 4-3 lead.

Ruud had saved three break points with excellent defence on the back foot, but Djokovic was not to be denied at the fourth time of asking.

Djokovic consolidated that break to stand on the brink of the final and then broke again to seal the victory with his 20th winner of the semi-final, dispatching a forehand beyond Ruud, who he beat at the same stage of this tournament two years ago.

The Belgrade native will be out to extend his record of ATP Masters 1000 titles to 36 when he faces Greek Tsitsipas for the first time since breaking his heart at Roland Garros last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas sank the title hopes of Alexander Zverev as the Greek star edged the Rome edition of their semi-final series on clay this season.

At the Internazionali d'Italia, Tsitsipas scored a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory over German Zverev to earn a place in Sunday's final.

These two players have now met 12 times in their careers, and Tsitsipas holds an 8-4 head-to-head winning record.

Three of those matches have come at clay-court ATP 1000 tournaments in the past four weeks, with Tsitsipas winning a semi-final on the way to the title in Monte Carlo, then losing to Zverev at the same stage in Madrid.

This latest instalment in Italy was a gripping contest, as the players battled to take on Novak Djokovic or Casper Ruud for the title.

An early break came in the seventh game when, serving at 30-40, Tsitsipas attacked the net but Zverev hit the net cord on his backhand return. The deflection disorientated Tsitsipas slightly and he volleyed wide. One break was enough for the set.

Tsitsipas broke in the second game of the second set, with Zverev serving a double fault at the critical moment, and then got decisively ahead in the fifth game of the decider when Zverev netted on the forehand.

This was a strong win for last year's French Open runner-up, who lost that championship match from two sets up against Djokovic at Roland Garros. It carries Tsitsipas through to his first Internazionali d'Italia final, and a 20th final of his ATP career. He has an 8-11 record in finals to date, and a tour-leading 31 match wins this season.

Felix Auger-Aliassime proved no match for Novak Djokovic, who looks well set to claim his first title of 2022.

It has been a frustrating season to date for the Serbian, who reached a final in Belgrade last month before being beaten by rising star Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid earlier in May.

Yet with Rafael Nadal out of the picture, Djokovic is the clear favourite heading into the Internazionali d'Italia semi-finals, after he beat Auger-Aliassime 7-5 7-6 (7-1) on Friday.

The win not only tees up a semi-final against Casper Ruud, who saw off Nadal's conqueror Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (9-7) 7-5, but also ensures Djokovic will spend a 370th week at the top of the ATP rankings, after he slipped below Daniil Medvedev in the live standings.

Djokovic will add 360 points to his total for reaching the last four, and he now has a milestone 1,000th Tour-level win in his sights when he takes on Ruud for a place in the final. The 34-year-old has won a record 37 Masters 1000 titles so far in his career, including five in Rome.

"I thought it was high-level tennis," Djokovic said. "[Auger-Aliassime] did ask me to raise the level and I had to play consistently well.

"I thought I could have finished the job earlier, but credit to him for fighting back. 

"I know Felix well. He's been around the top of the men's game for quite a few years. He's got a lethal serve, honestly. He's hitting his spots in the box incredibly well with the serve, and it was not easy for me at all to return.

"He's also returning well, he's moving well. He's a very complete player."

The other semi-final will see second seed Alexander Zverev, who beat Cristian Garin 7-5 6-2, take on Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Greek Tsitsipas overcame Jannik Sinner 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, becoming the first player to reach 30 wins on the ATP Tour in 2022.

"We have similar game styles but he is one of the most difficult players to play against on the Tour," Tsitsipas said, previewing his clash with Zverev.

"I have a lot of respect for him. He has achieved a lot so far and I try and look up to him with the things he has achieved."

Rafael Nadal conceded he is "living with an injury" after suffering his earliest Internazionali d'Italia exit since 2008 against Denis Shapovalov, but still hopes to compete at the French Open later this month.

Record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal fell to a 1-6 7-5 6-2 defeat to Shapovalov in the third round in Rome on Thursday after struggling with a foot injury throughout the match.

The 35-year-old could be seen regularly limping and battling through the pain, but his resistance ultimately wilted as the Canadian surged to victory after winning 12 straight points from 2-2 in the deciding set.

Nadal, speaking after the defeat, detailed the struggles he is having on a day-to-day basis as injury problems continue to hamper him.

"I am not injured. I am living with an injury. My day-by-day is difficult," he told reporters.

"I am trying hard but of course, it's difficult to accept the situation at times. A lot of days I can't practice the proper way.

"It started halfway through the second set and it was unplayable for me. [But] I don't want to take away credit from Denis that he deserves."

Asked about his chances of being fit for the French Open, which starts on Sunday, May 22 at Roland Garros, the Spaniard responded: "[It's] still the goal, in one week and a couple of days. I'll still keep dreaming.

"Maybe in two days, things are better, the things that I have on my foot. It's true that during Roland Garros I'm going to have my doctor with me – that sometimes helps."

Defeat to Shapovalov also meant Nadal will drop to number five in the world rankings, leaving him facing a potential meeting with the top seed in the quarter-finals of the French Open, which he has won a record 13 times.

 

Rafael Nadal suffered his earliest Internazionali d'Italia exit since 2008 at the hands of Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, but Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarter-finals. 

'King of Clay' Nadal fell to a 1-6 7-5 6-2 defeat to Shapovalov in the third round in Rome, with the Canadian surging to victory after winning 12 straight points from 2-2 in the deciding set. 

The legendary Spaniard stormed through the first set thanks to a series of brilliant returns, but his opponent dominated at the net in the second to take the match the distance. 

Shapovalov then flipped the narrative on its head by winning 14 of a possible 22 return points to set up a quarter-final meeting with Casper Ruud, who beat Jenson Brooksby 6-3 6-4. 

Djokovic is one win away from retaining his status as world number one after taking just 75 minutes to see off three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-2. 

After a lengthy spell out injured, Wawrinka ended a 15-month wait for an ATP Tour victory at Foro Italico before the Serbian brought his run to an end. 

"It is great to see Stan back and winning. He won two tough matches. You can see he is still not physically where he wants to be. But, nevertheless, he is Stan Wawrinka and he can hurt you if you give him time," Djokovic said. 

"I managed to do well from the beginning. I really moved him around the court and held my serve comfortably except for that loss of my serve in the second set." 

Felix Auger-Aliassime stands between Djokovic and the number one spot after overcoming lucky loser Marcos Giron 6-3 6-2. 

In the other half of the draw, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner will play out an entertaining quarter-final after they beat Karen Khachano and Filip Krajinovic respectively. 

Alexander Zverev, the defeated finalist in Madrid last week, beat Alex De Minaur 6-3 7-6 (7-5) and will battle Cristian Garin for a place in the final four.

Rafael Nadal wants the comparisons between himself and Carlos Alcaraz to stop as he hopes his compatriot will not come under too much pressure.

Alcaraz defeated Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev to win the Madrid Open last week.

The 19-year-old has a 28-3 record for the 2022 season and has risen to world number six in the ATP rankings, having won four tournaments this year.

His incredible form has drawn plenty of comparisons to Nadal, who was a teenager when he burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s.

Nadal bounced back from his defeat to Alcaraz by defeating John Isner at the Internazionali d'Italia on Wednesday.

The 21-time grand slam champion is going for an 11th title in Rome, but he could not avoid fielding questions about Alcaraz in his post-match news conference.

"I do not know. And I won't be able to talk every day about who will be or who is stronger that day, will I? I forgot what I was like," Nadal replied when asked who he thought was a better player at the age of 19 out of himself and Alcaraz.

 

"The only thing we can do is enjoy the career of an extraordinary player like Carlos. But stop comparing him to me. 

"If he manages to win 25 grand slams, it will be fantastic for him and for our country. But let him enjoy his personal career. I have enjoyed my personal career.

"Probably in 2005, I wouldn't have said about myself that I was great, but I thought I was good enough. That's all. Different moments. Different careers. A different way of approaching things because times are changing.

"But let's enjoy it. We don't [need to] put further pressure on him. Don't ask me every time, because I'll always tell you the same thing. 

"It's good for our sport. Honestly, in a selfish way, as a viewer, to have someone like Carlos who will enjoy their career for the next few years is fantastic.

"But now I'm still playing. I am focused on trying to do the things I have to do. That's all."

Rafael Nadal accepts he will have to perform better than he did against John Isner if he is to overcome "dangerous" opponent Denis Shapovalov at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The world number four's bid for an 11th title in Rome got off to a strong start on Wednesday as he saw off big-serving Isner 6-3 6-1 in a time of 76 minutes.

Isner twice missed the chance to break Nadal in the seventh game of the opening set and the Spaniard took control from that point on in the second-round match.

Nadal, who has won this tournament in three of the past four years, identified that hold of serve as a key point in the contest.

"The beginning of the match was not good for me," he said in his on-court interview. "He had some chances on the return and had two break points. 

"He had two not difficult balls so I was in his hands at that moment. I was lucky that he missed those shots and then I was able to break. 

"Then the match changed, of course. With the first set on the board, and having the break in the first game of the second set, everything changed."

Nadal will now face Shapovalov in a repeat of last year's last-16 encounter, which the record 21-time grand slam winner edged in three sets.

He recovered from a set down and saved two match points before beating the Canadian 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) en route to lifting the title in the Italian capital.

And Nadal, who was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz on clay in last week's Madrid Open quarter-final, is not expecting an easy task this time around.

"Last year was a joke, the match that I saved here against him," said Nadal of his next opponent. "I was super lucky. I know how dangerous he is, I need to play well. 

"I need to play better than today, but after a while without being on court it is another victory and I have the chance again to play against one of the best players in the world.

"I need to build things again after a tough stoppage and that's what I am trying now. I just need to stay with the right attitude, and let's see if I am able to make that happen."

Alexander Zverev also booked his place in the last 16 on Wednesday thanks to a 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory over Sebastian Baez.

Last week's Madrid Open runner-up was given a tough time of things by in-form Baez, but ultimately came through unscathed to stay on course for more silverware.

Novak Djokovic had few issues seeing off Aslan Karatsev to reach the last 16 of the Internazionali d'Italia on Tuesday as he bids to remain world number one.

Djokovic needs to reach the semi-finals in Rome to ensure Daniil Medvedev cannot usurp him atop the ATP rankings next week, and he made a solid start with a 6-3 6-2 victory over another Russian in the second round.

Karatsev did initially pose a threat, with both players breaking at the first opportunity, but Djokovic's superiority gave him the edge in the first set and then saw him cruise in the second.

Djokovic – who will face either Stan Wawrinka or Laslo Djere next – acknowledged he undoubtedly benefited from Karatsev's wastefulness, however.

"You never know with him," Djokovic said. "If he's feeling the ball, he can be very dangerous because he stays so close to the line, puts pressure on his opponents.

"He was missing a lot of balls today, though. He gave me a couple of breaks there in the first and second sets, but I'll take this win for sure.

"It's a straight-sets win against a quality opponent, and I'm looking forward to the next challenge."

Fifth seed Casper Ruud also progressed to the last 16 but was tested by Botic van de Zandschulp, with the Norwegian eventually coming through 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4.

But Andrey Rublev, who had won six of his previous seven matches, was a surprise second-round casualty as he fell to Filip Krajinovic in straight sets, with the Serbian claiming a 6-2 6-4 win.

Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov were the other seeds to reach the last 16 on Tuesday. The former was pushed hard by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 success, while the latter could face Rafael Nadal next up.

Meanwhile, across seven first-round matches, Cameron Norrie, Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman were the biggest names to advance, though 11th seed Hubert Hurkacz was dumped out by the unseeded David Goffin.

Carlos Alcaraz is the best player on the ATP Tour at the moment, according to world number one Novak Djokovic. 

Spanish 19-year-old Alcaraz claimed his fourth title of the season at the Madrid Open on Sunday, defeating world number three Alexander Zverev in the final after overcoming Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in his two previous matches. 

The teenager has surged up to a career-high sixth in the world rankings as a result, though he opted against competing at this week's Internazionali d'Italia with the French Open rapidly approaching. 

"He definitely is special," said Djokovic, who will begin his campaign in Rome against Aslan Karatsev on Tuesday. 

"Already he's breaking a lot of records as a teenager, winning two Masters events this year, a couple of 500s. So far, he's the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he's been doing. 

"The way he was dealing with the pressure... In our match few days ago, how calm he was all the way until the [end] was impressive. 

"He deserved to win the trophy. Everything about his game is really impressive. He's a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He's the talk of the sport."

Djokovic is yet to win any silverware this season and possesses a 7-4 record, but feels as though he has turned a corner ahead of Roland Garros, where he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to win his second French Open title last year.

"I think it's closer to [my] desired level every week," he explained. "Madrid, even though I lost in the semi-finals, I still think I played really good tennis, felt physically 100 per cent, even after an almost three-and-a-half-hour battle against Alcaraz. 

"I recovered well the next day, was ready to go. That's a positive and encouraging factor prior to Rome and also, of course, the big goal, which is Paris.

"I think I'm [going] in the right direction. I know I can always play better, and I know that I'm very self-critical on the court. At the same time, realistically looking, I think the tennis, quality of tennis, level of tennis, is really high now. 

"Hopefully I can maintain that level throughout this week and build, go deep in this tournament hopefully — that's the goal — and come to Paris well-prepared."

Stan Wawrinka said he was "feeling great" after securing his first win in 15 months by downing 14th seed Reilly Opelka at the Internazionali d'Italia.

The three-time grand slam winner made his tour return last month after requiring two surgeries on a left foot injury, but rallied after losing his first set against Opelka to secure a memorable 3-6 7-5 6-2 first-round victory.

Speaking after booking a second-round meeting with Laslo Djere, who beat Borna Coric 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-2, Wawrinka said his desire to play at the top level never left him, despite his injury woes.

"I think in general I was feeling good on the court, physically I was feeling great," he said. "For sure, when you don't win a match in more than a year, you start to think about it more than you should and not focus on the right things. 

"In general, I think it was a great match, a great battle. I stayed positive. I started to feel much better with my tennis by the end of the second set, and in the third set. I'm really happy with this victory.

"After two surgeries, at my age I could easily have stopped playing because my career is way better than what I expected when I was young.

"But I still have this fire in me. I still believe that I can play great tennis. I still believe that I make some big results, maybe not now, but in a few months."

Fellow former grand slam champion Dominic Thiem, who also returned from a long injury-enforced absence last month, fared less well, going down in straight sets to Fabio Fognini.

Having lost to Andy Murray at the Madrid Open last time out, 2020 US Open winner Thiem is still chasing his first victory of the year after losing 6-4 7-6 (7-5) to the 34-year-old Italian.

Elsewhere, 13th seed Denis Shapovalov edged an epic three-hour contest against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3, responding after being handed a game penalty for shouting expletives at a partisan crowd in Rome during the second set.

The frustrated Canadian was heard to tell spectators: "Shut the f*** up" when being booed after complaining about a second serve being called out by the umpire, but eventually regained his composure to claim a three-set win.

Shapovalov will face Georgia's world number 25 Nikoloz Basilashvili in the second round after he overcame Daniel Evans 7-6 (7-2) 6-2, while the only other seed to play on Monday, Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, cruised to a 6-3 6-2 victory over Federico Delbonis.

Rafael Nadal conceded Spanish tennis fans have a new star to support after Carlos Alcaraz continued his remarkable season with success at the Madrid Open.

Alcaraz breezed past Alexander Zverev in just 62 minutes in the Madrid final on Sunday as he became the second-youngest player to win two ATP Masters 1000 titles, after also triumphing in Miami in March.

The 19-year-old is also the youngest five-time ATP Tour winner since Nadal won seven titles by the same age in 2004-05.

Alcaraz had already made more history en route to the final in the Spanish capital as he achieved a new feat, becoming the first player to defeat Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches.

Record 21-time grand slam winner Nadal acknowledged that Alcaraz's meteoric rise to success has caused somewhat of a changing of the guard within Spanish tennis.

"First, I think he is young, he is new and all the new things are much more interesting than older things. Without a doubt, when you see a new car, it always looks better," Nadal told reporters.

"When you see a new phone, they always look better than the old ones. It's something that is normal in this life. I can't complain at all about that.

"At the same time, I am happy to have somebody like him from my country achieving all the things that he is achieving."

Alcaraz opted to sit out of the Internazionali d'Italia this week to recover from an ankle injury, with the upcoming French Open at Roland Garros his next target for more success.

Nadal has had his injury problems as well, only recently returning from a rib injury that kept him sidelined for six weeks, while he continues to struggle with foot issues.

"Of course, at my age, when you start having more problems than what you can manage, of course it is tough," 35-year-old Nadal added. 

"Body issues, pains, you can manage that. The problem is when you start to feel that with all the things that are going through your body, you can't be competitive enough to fight for the things that really keep exciting you."

For now, though, Nadal remains content with how he is competing as he seeks improvements in Rome, where he faces either John Isner or Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match.

"I like what I do, honestly. I am not playing anymore for things outside of my happiness and for things outside of my personal motivation," he continued.

"For the moment I am happy. It is true that I went through, again, a tough period of time. But I am here to enjoy and to give myself a chance to play well here in Rome.

"I need to keep improving. In terms of movement, in terms of being more fitter, in terms of reading again the game. In general terms, [it was] not a negative week in Madrid, even if the tournament is probably the most difficult for me."

The fit-again Stan Wawrinka secured a first win in 15 months by defeating Reilly Opelka at the Internazionali d'Italia on Monday.

Three-time grand slam champion Wawrinka, whose most recent major success came at the 2016 US Open, was competing in just his second ATP Tour match in 14 months after recovering from a foot injury but battled past American Opelka 3-6 7-5 6-2 in Rome.

Opelka seemed to hold the initiative after dominating the first set and boasting a 4-2 advantage in the second, but the 37-year-old Swiss recovered well to fight back against the world number 17.

Wawrinka managed to release his heavy-hitting forehand and close the court by nearer to the net, with Opelka providing no response as the former world number three triumphed in two hours and five minutes.

Laslo Djere or Borna Coric will be the second-round opponent for Wawrinka, who registered his first tour-level win since February 2021.

Before defeating Opelka, Wawrinka had not won a match since he defeated Pedro Sousa at the Australian Open last season.

His only other ATP Tour match since then ended in defeat to Alexander Bublik in Monte Carlo last month.

Carlos Alcaraz declared he would be going to the French Open with the title in his sights after the teenage sensation stormed to Madrid Open glory.

The 19-year-old swatted aside a weary Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-1 in an hour and two minutes in Sunday's final.

That followed hard-fought three-set wins for Alcaraz over Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two of the pillars of men's tennis this century, and it points to a glorious future.

If the present moment seems good, then thoughts are already turning to what remarkable feats Alcaraz might achieve across his career.

He is widely considered a multiple slam winner in waiting, but must first knock off that first major.

The Spanish teenager has won a tour-leading four titles already in 2022, and he said on Tennis TV: "Yes, I think I'm ready to win a grand slam. I think I'm ready to go for it.

"This is a goal for me this year, try to get my first grand slam. I'm going to work for it and let's see what is going to happen at Roland Garros."

The French Open begins on May 22, and Alcaraz will skip the Internazionali d'Italia to ensure he is rested and focused on the tournament in Paris.

He reached the third round last year, but the Alcaraz of 12 months ago was not the winning machine he has become, a powerful striker of the ball who should fear nobody on the French clay.

Alcaraz has become the second-youngest player to win two Masters 1000 titles, after the 18-year-old Nadal in 2005, having added Madrid to his Miami triumph, and is the youngest, also since Nadal, to scoop five ATP Tour titles.

Alcaraz has a perfect record in title matches, becoming the sixth man in the Open Era to win his first five finals at tour level, and he has strung together seven consecutive wins against opponents ranked inside the top 10.

On Monday, he will jump three places to sixth in the ATP rankings, a new career high. Yet the teenager says there is plenty of scope for growing his game, as the likes of the 'Big Three' have shown.

"I think that I have to improve everything still," he said. "I have always said that you can improve everything. You never reach a limit.

"Look at Rafa, Djokovic, [Roger] Federer, all of them improve and they have things to improve. They keep on working and improving.

“That's what I want to do. I want to keep on progressing."

He added, quoted on the ATP official website: "I have really good shots. I don't say that I don't have them, but I know that I can improve them and they can be even better.”

In Madrid, Alcaraz became the youngest player to beat three top-five stars at the same tournament since the ATP Tour launched in 1990, by taking out top-ranked Djokovic, world number three Zverev and Nadal, who sits fourth in the rankings.

He leads the way for wins in the 2022 season as his 10th straight triumph takes him to 28 match victories for the campaign, one more than Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Alexander Zverev slated ATP chiefs after a punishing defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in the Madrid Open final, but described his Spanish conqueror as "the best player in the world" and predicted he would win a stack of grand slam titles.

German star Zverev was fuming over his court scheduling this week, claiming late-night contests meant he came into the title match in no fit state to compete as he described tournament bosses as "an absolute disgrace".

He claimed he had only been able to get to bed at 5.20am after a late-night semi-final victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday.

While Zverev had warm words for 19-year-old sensation Alcaraz, he felt he had cause to feel aggrieved at his handling by tennis organisers after his 6-3 6-1 final reverse. 

"I want to congratulate Carlitos," he said in an on-court interview. "Right now, you are the best player in the world. It is great for tennis that we have such a new superstar that is going to win so many grand slams, that is going to be world number one, and I think is going to win this tournament many more times."

Later, in a news conference, Zverev said Alcaraz had been "playing amazing".

"But one thing I have to say is that the ATP's job was an absolute disgrace this week," Zverev said, according to tennismajors.com. "Two days ago I went to bed at 4:00, 4:30am. Yesterday I went to bed at 5:20am. If any normal person goes to bed one night at 4:00am, the next night at 5:00am, it will be a tough time just to be awake for them.

"And for me to play a final against Carlos Alcaraz, who for me is the best player in the world right now, in a Masters 1000 event, the next day, it is difficult."

There is little doubt Alcaraz, who will now skip the Internazionali d'Italia to rest before the French Open, is only going to keep progressing.

After beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic this week before overcoming Zverev in the title match, he will leap three places to sixth in the ATP rankings on Monday, having followed up last month's triumph in Miami with his second Masters 1000 title.

"It feels great to be able to beat these players," Alcaraz said. "To beat two of the best players in history and then Zverev, the world number three. 

"I would say this is the best week of my life. I am 19 years old, which I think is the key to be able to play long and tough matches in a row. I am feeling great physically.

"It is a great moment for me. It is the first tournament I watched, so lifting the trophy today is so emotional."

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