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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, November 4, 2022


In a clash of 19-year-old phenoms, Holger Rune held a 6-3, 6-6 lead when world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz retired with a strained left abdominal injury in Paris.

Photo credit: Getty

A Paris quarterfinal clash of teen titans lived up to the hype—and popped with electric rallies.

World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz suffered a strained left abdominal injury that forced him to pull the plug on the drama.

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Holger Rune held a 6-3, 6-6 lead when Alcaraz walked to net and retired after dropping the fourth point of tiebreaker at the Rolex Paris Masters.

"[It is something wrong on the abdominal," Alcaraz told the media in Paris afterward. "Yeah, at the end of the set, it was wrong. It was getting wrong, and yeah, I preferred to retire and see it, and take care about it."

It wasn't the way Rune wanted to score his first win over a world No. 1, but it sends the Danish star into his first Masters 1000 semifinal with his third straight Top 10 victory. It was Rune's 19th indoor victory.

"I would say an unfortunate end for the match, and for him, of course," Rune said. "But I think it was a great match, especially from my side. From the beginning till the end I really was sticking to the game plan, playing super aggressive, trying to take every chance I got. I'm super happy how I managed everything."

This was the first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal, semifinal or final between teens since a 19-year-old Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray, 19, in the 2007 Miami Open semifinals. And if this match is any indication, the future rivalry between these two stars will be bright and buzzing.

An aggressive Rune outplayed Alcaraz in the first set and the top seeded Spaniard had the edge in the second set before grimacing in pain striking a forehand in the 11th game. Though Alcaraz held that game and played one more game, but called it quits after falling behind 1-3 in the tiebreaker.

The ATP Finals start on November 13th and Alcaraz hopes he will be fully fit for his debut in Turin.

"Right now I have some test on how it's gonna be before Turin," Alcaraz said. "But right now I'm focused to try to get better in the abdominal and trying to be at the 100% in Turin. "

A red-hot Rune scored his third Top 10 win in as many days following victories over 10th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz and world No. 9 Andrey Rublev.

Tennis Express

Stockholm champion Rune is 17-2 in his last 19 matches charging into his fourth consecutive semifinal where he will take on the world's best indoor player this season, Felix Auger-Aliassime, in a rematch of the Basel final the Canadian won 6-3, 7-5 last Sunday.

"Yeah, it's going to be exciting. Obviously I played him last week in the final of Basel," Rune said. "For my side, there is a lot I can take from that match and learn and try to do better tomorrow.

"[Felix] is serving very good at the moment, so it's really tough to break him. But I'm going to try to do small changes that I didn't do last time to see if I can stress him a bit more. Mainly just go out there and have fun."

No. 8-seeded Auger-Aliassime rolled through nine of the first 11 games sweeping US Open semifinalist Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-4 to extend his career-best winning streak to 16 matches.

Pursuing his fourth consecutive title, Auger-Aliassime improved his 2022 record to 56-24, including an ATP-best 27-4 mark indoors this season.

It's the 22-year-old Canadian's second Masters semifinal and first since Miami 2019 where he lost to defending champion John Isner in the semifinals.

Alcaraz was born six days after Rune in May of 2003 and followed the Dane onto court clad in the identical Nike apparel holding the same Babolat racquet.

The top seed saved a pair of break points in his opening service games, denying the second with a flying forehand volley. Alcaraz lashed a diagonal forehand to hold.

The weight of Rune's shots and his superior serving were the difference in the first set. Rune nearly doubled Alcaraz's winner output, 30 to 16, won 18 of 22 trips to net and delivered declarative serving for much of this one hour, 40-minute match. Rune's first serve speed average 125 mph and his second-serve average speed of 111 mph nearly equaled Alcaraz's average first-serve speed of 115 mph.

Imposing his forehand and trying to step into the court, Rune rushed Alcaraz into errors stamping the first break for 4-2. The Dane wearing the backward baseball cap backed up the break at 15.

Serving for the set, Rune soared for a smash and slammed an ace but coughed up a double fault to drop to 30-all. Alcaraz put a rally backhand into net to hand the Dane set point. Rune ripped his third ace, including his second of the game, to close a sharp 36-minute opening set.

Attacking his forehand with more vigor, Alcaraz looked intent on turning the tables.

Eight games into the second set, Alcaraz earned his first break point of the match. Rune responded with a serve into the right hip drawing a forehand return error. A double fault left Rune banging his palm off his Babolat racquet face and facing a second break point. Rune boldly hammered a forehand drive volley to save it.

Unloading a heavy serve winner down the T, Rune held firm through a tricky test to level at 4-4 as coach Patrick Mouratoglou leaped from his seat to flash a clenched fist to his charge.

Knowing he needed to elevate his level, Alcaraz did precisely that firing an ace to seal his second straight love hold for 5-4.

Hitting a forehand, Alcaraz winced in pain a bit behind the baseline during the 11th game.

The world No. 1 capped a third consecutive love hold then took treatment from the physio for an apparent strain to his left abdominal. Alcaraz said the strained core restricted his movement.

"I cannot stretch. I mean, I couldn't serve well," Alcaraz said. "I couldn't hit the forehand well. When I turn the body, I feel it.

"So I feel the abdominal in so many movements. Yeah, I was thinking about it. And, yeah, playing like that with some problems and some things in my mind, it's better to retire."

When play resumed, Rune pumped his fourth ace and plopped a backhand drop shot to force the second-set tiebreaker.

Rune slid an ace out wide for a 2-1 lead then passed Alcaraz on a serve-and-volley play. The Spaniard walked to net after that point to shake hands and pull the plug on a  pulsating match.

Hopefully, this quarterfinal is a prelude of a crackling rivalry to come. It's a match to remember for Rune.

"It feels great. It's the first time that I beat World No. 1," Rune said. "You know, to beat Carlos is obviously special. You know, he's the same age as me, and what he's been doing, especially this year, is incredible. It feels very good. But at the same time, I'm super excited for tomorrow already."


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