Madrid | Alcaraz to face Zverev for title

‘Carlitos’ (as some are calling him meaning Little Carlos) Alcaraz has grown immensely in stature following the last two days in which he downed not only the ‘King of Clay’ but the World No.1 to reach the final of the Mutua Madrid Open Masters.

I don’t know what the difference was. It was so close. He had the chances to break my serve at the end of the second set. In the first set as well. It was so close in the tie-break. Honestly, I don’t know what made the difference Carlos Alcaraz

The 19-year-old (he celebrated his birthday on Thursday) enhanced his fast-growing reputation as a player, by becoming the first to have beaten Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic in consecutive matches on clay. He is also the youngest player to defeat a world No.1 in 17 years.

His latest 6-7(5) 7-5 7-6(5) victory in his first meeting with the Serbian, saw him pull through a three-hour 36-minutes of intensive play and means he was on court for six-hours and 46-minutes for his last two matches, played within 24-hours!

And he showed no signs of fatigue as he stormed into the final in the Spanish capital to the delight of the sell-out crowd which packed in to watch Nadal’s heir apparent strut his stuff. And they will be there again on Sunday, urging him on with their chant of ‘Si se puede’ (‘Yes you can’) as he attempts to win his second Masters title having won in Miami five weeks ago.


Alexander Zverev shakes hands at the net after his three set semi-final victory iover Stefanos Tsitsipas

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Facing him will be the defending champion Alexander Zverev going for his third Madrid title having also been successful in 2018. The German world No.3 and second seed secured his place in this year’s final when he beat the 2019 runner-up, the fourth seed from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 3-6 6-2. Zverev also holds a psychological advantage over Alcaraz having beaten the young Spaniard in their previous two meetings last year but will on this occasion, find himself confronting a more mature and confident opponent in their third!

That was obvious from the start of his match with Djokovic, as he calmly broke the Serbian in the first game and was quickly up 3-1 on the world No.1 who got the match back on serve in the eighth game and held on for the tie-break.

There Djokovic took control by sweeping into a 5-1 lead to sit on four set points, the first of which was saved by an aggressive Alcaraz return which he then followed with a blistering ace and, for the third, a brilliantly executed drop shot to pull back to 5-6 but Djokovic halted the run by converting the fourth to take the set after 62-minutes.

There was no give or take in the second with Alcaraz clearly determined to outmanoeuvre Djokovic as he threw in several drop shots to keep the Serbian on his toes finally levelling the match with an incredible get by running down a Djokovic drop shot and hitting a winner from outside the doubles lines.

With momentum now swinging to the young Spaniard in the final third set, Djokovic had to dig deep to hold off three break points in the fourth game to stay level at 2-all.

Unfortunately, the world number one lost his footing during the next game and needed some treatment to a small wound in his right hand. Two more break points followed as Alcaraz applied pressure on the Djokovic serve but he held for 3-3. Alcaraz in turn fended off a break point in the seventh game.

Nearing the final finishing line, the partisan crowd went wild when Alcaraz reached his first match point only to see an ace blasted past him by Djokovic as he held for 5-5 and then a tie-break.

By now the cries of ‘Si se puede’ were constantly ringing down on the Manolo Santana Court and this time Alcaraz took command opening up a 4-2 lead.

Djokovic saved the second match point for 5-6 but was unable to respond to Alcaraz’s forehand winner on the third which was his 35th of the match.


Carlos Alcaraz raises his arms in a victory salute

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Later, asked if he sees a limit to what he can achieve, Alcaraz responded: “I don’t think so. Tomorrow I will go for the final as I did in Miami. I’m really happy to be able to play a second Masters 1000 final.

“I would say that I feel ready to compete against them (the top players) in every single tournament, and on every single surface.”

As regards the match itself, did he feel there was difference between them?

“I don’t know what the difference was,” Alcaraz replied. “It was so close. He had the chances to break my serve at the end of the second set. In the first set as well. It was so close in the tie-break. Honestly, I don’t know what made the difference.

“This gives me a lot of confidence to play the final tomorrow,” he added. “I know that I played a really good game, and for the rest of the season I think I am able to play against the best players in the world and beat them as well, so it gives me a lot of confidence.”

For Djokovic there was disappointment, but he left satisfied with his overall performance bearing in mind the lack of matches he has played this season thanks to the well documented problems he has had.

Nonetheless he was impressed by Alcaraz.

“Congrats to him. He held his nerve very well,” Djokovic said. “For somebody of his age to play so maturely and courageously is impressive. He deserved to win.

“His kick (serve) in altitude here is huge, and it was just difficult to deal with his ball, and I wasn’t feeling my return from that side. He was serving a lot of kick just to put himself in a good position.

“I had a lot of chances, and it was a fantastic match. Great battle. But I am definitely disappointed with not being able to use my chances.

“[But] I definitely played very good tennis, I mean, the best that I have played this year,” Djokovic added. “Probably when the disappointment of losing this match passes, I will have a lot of positives to take away from this week.”

Meanwhile late in the evening, Zverev claimed his final spot in his semi-final which didn’t finish until 1.06 am local time.

“I thought from yesterday onwards I started to play really well,” Zverev said. “I’m just extremely happy to be in the final here. I know it’s going to be an extremely tough match tomorrow but I hope I can manage to play my best and give myself a chance.”

“Yes, I have been playing well, so I’m just renting it,” said Zverev in deference to the Spaniard. “It’s going to be his court for the next 15 years probably. It has been Rafa’s court for the past 15 years and it’s going to be his court for the next 15 years!

“I just hope I can give him some trouble and I hope I can manage to win tomorrow.”


Alexander Zverev expects a tough final

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


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