Alcaraz Defends Madrid Title
Carlos Alcaraz captured his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title Sunday when he overcame German lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to successfully defend his crown at the Mutua Madrid Open.
The 20-year-old Spaniard joined Rafael Nadal as the only consecutive Madrid champions in tournament history and is the youngest player to successfully defend an ATP Masters 1000 title since Nadal at Monte-Carlo and Rome in 2005-06.
With his 29th win of the season and 10th tour-level title, Alcaraz will rise to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings after playing his opening match in Rome.
"For me it is so, so special," Alcaraz said. "To lift the trophy here in Madrid. In my country. It is always special to play and to be able to do a good result here and [being] a champion is so special. In front of my home crowd, my family, my friends. Everyone close to me. For me it is a special feeling that I will never forget."
Alcaraz struggled on serve at times throughout the two-hour, 25-minute final, winning just 60 per cent (27/45) of his first-serve points in the opening two sets. The top seed battled hard, though, and survived an attacking bombardment from the big-serving German. He blasted his explosive groundstrokes at the incoming Struff with authority and precision in the third set, striking nine winners in the third set to triumph.
"It was a really tough match," Alcaraz said. "Jan was playing great, really aggressive. In the second set I had a lot of chances to break his serve and I didn't take it and it was tough for me to lose it. I told myself that I had to be positive all the time and that I would have my chances and I think I did it in the third set."
Alcaraz has now earned 21 consecutive wins at Spanish clay-court events and improved to 2-1 in his ATP Head2Head series against Struff. The 33-year-old Struff was the first lucky loser to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final since the series started in 1990 and was aiming to become just the fourth player and first in more than 20 years to win his first tour-level trophy at an ATP Masters 1000.
Struff, who upset Stefanos Tsitsipas and avenged his qualifying loss against Aslan Karatsev en route to his second tour-level final, is up to No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
Alcaraz has won four tour-level titles this season. He triumphed on clay in Buenos Aires and Barcelona and clinched the crown on hard in Indian Wells. With his victory in the Spanish captital, he took the lead in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. It is the first time this season Alcaraz has led the Live Race.
"Once again it has been amazing. The crowd, my people, since the first day, were cheering my name," Alcaraz added. "It is really amazing to have a lot of people behind you and supporting you and pushing you on."
The defending champion survived heavy-hitting from the German throughout the 53-minute first set, hanging in rallies with his exceptional agility to force Struff into errors. Alcaraz gained what proved to be the decisive break of the first set at 3-3 when Struff double faulted, battled from 0/40 to hold when serving for the set.
Struff responded by striking his clean-hitting groundstrokes with authority against Alcaraz. He serve and volleyed throughout the second set and crucially saved five break points at 3-1 to hold before levelling the match.
Alcaraz won just 60 per cent (27/45) of his first-serve points in the first and second sets but improved to 81 per cent (17/21) in the decider. He began to win the lengthy exchanges and hit with more freedom as the match went. He also pulled Struff around the court with his drop shot to earn victory.
Did You Know?
At 20 years old and two days, Alcaraz is the sixth-youngest player to win 10 tour-level tournaments in the Open Era.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to correctly identify the Madrid title as being Alcaraz's fourth ATP Masters 1000 triumph.