Saturday, June 15, 2024

ATP Finals: Alcaraz beat Andy Rublev in two straight sets

Carlos Alcaraz kept alive his semifinal hopes at the Nitto ATP Finals when he moved past Andrey Rublev 7-5, 6-2 to earn his first win at the prestigious year-end event.

The 20-year-old bounced back from an opening Red Group defeat against Alexander Zverev with an aggressive display against Rublev. The Spaniard outlasted the fifth seed in a series of destructive baseline exchanges, redlining the ball to improve to 10-5 against Top 10 opponents in 2023.

With his 74-minute win, Alcaraz snapped a three-match losing streak. The World No. 2 fell against Grigor Dimitrov in Shanghai, Roman Safiullin in Paris and Zverev in Turin. He is now 64-11 on the season.

“It was a totally different match and level from me. This is the level I have to play if I want to give myself a chance in this amazing tournament,” Alcaraz said. “Yesterday was a good day for me in practise to find the level I needed to show today and I think I did pretty well. I am very happy with my level.”

Alcaraz, who is the youngest player in the eight-man singles field, is making his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals after missing last year’s edition due to injury. He is chasing his seventh trophy of the season and first since Wimbledon and will meet Daniil Medvedev in his final round-robin match on Friday.

“I need to relax. It is really, really fast the court,” Alcaraz said. “I need to hit first. You need to be more aggressive than your opponent. I think that is key if you want to have chances in this tournament.”

Alcaraz was not at his best in his opening match against Zverev but was dialled in from ball one on the quick courts inside the Pala Alpitour against Rublev. The Spaniard dropped just one point on his first serve in the opening set, while he committed just four unforced errors. He gained the crucial break in the 11th game of the first set before holding to lead.

In a good rhythm, the 20-year-old pushed on in the second set, exploiting Rublev’s defence with his powerful groundstrokes to force the 26-year-old into errors. Alcaraz also moved freely around the court, hitting a couple of stunning passing winners on the stretch. He sealed victory on his first match point.

Rublev, who won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo earlier this year, now holds a 0-2 record in Red Group play after losing to Daniil Medvedev in his first match. The 2022 semi-finalist meets Zverev in his final round-robin match.

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