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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, March 28, 2023


Carlos Alcaraz swept Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4 to score his eighth straight win and charge into his second straight Miami quarterfinal vs. Taylor Fritz.

Photo credit: Matthew Calvis

MIAMI—Moments before stepping out on Hard Rock Stadium, Carlos Alcaraz was making a splash.

Completing his pre-match warm-up on the turf field behind the court, Alcaraz repeatedly splattered cold water all over his face.

Face Time: Miami Open Top Photos

On the hottest day of the tournament, Alcaraz needed no liquid courage to stoke competitive fire and settle a score with a friendly foe. 

Unleashing a torrent of winners, Alcaraz swept Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4 in a wildly entertaining shotmaker's duel to score his eighth straight win and charge into his second straight Miami Open quarterfinal.

The 19-year-old Spanish phenom improved to 17-1 on the season. Alcaraz arrived in Miami knowing he needed to defend his title here to hold off Novak Djokovic and retain the world No. 1 ranking.

Regardless of who holds the top spot, Alcaraz said he wants to face Djokovic at his best to answer the best player in the world question.

"I have to play against Novak, you know, he 100%, I would say in Madrid he played really, really well. So it was close," said Alcaraz, who defeated both Rafa Nadal and Djokovic winning the Mutua Madrid Open last year. "But, I mean, I'm agree with him.

"When he's 100%, probably he's one of or the best player in the world. So I don't know how to say about that question, but what Novak has achieved, the level of Novak for example in Australia was unbelievable, really high. So as I said before, I really want to play against Novak when he's 100% and I'm sure I'm going to enjoy. So that's all I can say right now."

So far, Alcaraz has been a world beater in South Florida surrendering just 16 games in tournament wins over Facundo Bagnis, Dusan Lajovic and Paul.

Reigning Indian Wells and Miami champion Alcaraz is already the youngest man to complete the career Sunshine Double.

Playing dynamic tennis from the outset today, the top-seeded Spaniard looks intent on capturing the single season Sunshine Double.

A swarming Alcaraz hit 24 winners in 20 games—15 more than 16th-seeded Paul—and was often phenomenal in the front court winning 12 of 13 trips to net. Those forward forays, including a few successful serve-and-volley plays and some slick drop volleys slathered with sidespin.

It all added up to a 96-minute victory and a quarterfinal clash against another talented American, Taylor Fritz, whom Alcaraz succeeded as Indian Wells champion.

In today's Hard Rock Stadium opener, Fritz served with command at crunch time stopping seventh-seeded Holger Rune 6-3, 6-4 to reach his maiden Miami Open quarterfinal.

Last week, Fritz spent spent several sweaty hours on the practice court training with both Rune and Karen Khachanov, who toppled second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4 on Grandstand today. 

It was a massive win for world No. 16 Khachanov and snapped his streak of futility against Top 10 players. Khachanov not only avenged his Australian Open semifinal loss to Tsitispas, he stopped his 23-match losing streak vs. Top 10 players. 

At one point during a torrid practice hit with Khachanov, Fritz bent over at the knees and was gulping deep breaths of air amid the sticky humidity.

All that good work—and his searing serve—proved productive today. Fritz fought off five of six break points and dropped just eight points on serve stopping the Rolex Paris Masters champion and raising his record to 20-5.

Delray Beach champion Fritz said he's pumped for his first shot at the top-seeded Alcaraz.

"I'm really excited for it," Fritz said of facing Alcaraz. "I think that a lot of people, a lot of people are really excited for that too. We have never played each other. I think it's an interesting matchup, and, I don't know, I think it would be a lot of fun to play him.

"Obviously he's playing great lately, and, you know, he had some injuries but obviously hasn't missed a beat. He's been just on fire.... It's going to be physical, so I have to be ready for that."

Neither Fritz, who owns an apartment in Miami, nor Alcaraz, who has said he considers the city like a second home because fans embraced him so vocally last year, have ever even practiced together. Alcaraz said he plans to watch Fritz's matches on YouTube.

"I have never played against him, so it's going to be really tough, you know, new opponent for me, new, let's say, style of game for me," Alcaraz said. "But I'm gonna be focused on me, just on me, to play my game, you know, to, as I said, have a lot of time to enjoy, to playing relax, to smile on court. That's the key of everything for me.

"So I'm gonna watch some videos, some matches from him, but obviously I'm gonna be focused on myself."

Last August, Paul stood tall saving match point to stun the second-seeded Alcaraz, 6-7(4), 7-6(7), 6-3 in a riveting Toronto match.

Prior to today's rematch, Alcaraz praised Paul as one of his favorite players to watch.

"I watch a lot of matches from him. I enjoy watching him, as I said before," Alcaraz said. "He is really talented player. He makes everything easy. And, yeah, I like to watch these kind of players.

"I mean, he is doing everything well. He move well. He is fast. He hits great shots. Big forehand, big backhand. He's going to be really, really tough. "As I said before, I like to play these kind of matches. I like to play battles, tough battles. So it's going to be a really tough one, and, of course, I'm going to enjoy."

Both men are speed demons who can create audacious angles while at full speed. The Alcaraz running forehand may well be the best in the sport, at least on hard court, and he showed it. Lasering a forehand winner down the line, Alcaraz broke for a 4-2 first-set lead.

Australian Open semifinalist Paul earned a break point when Alcaraz served for the set, but could not put his forehand return in play.

The ability to back opponents up with his flamethrower forehand then pull out the feather duster forehand is a major Alcaraz asset. It's not just the ability to shift seamlessly between force and finesse, it is the deception of his dropper that makes it so dangerous to opponents.

Winding up as if about to vaporize a forehand winner, Alcaraz shifted to stealth drop shot mode ending the opening set with a clean dropper.

Credit Paul for putting Alcaraz in some obscure positions on court, but Alcaraz almost seems to relish being pushed beyond the perimeter of the sidelines at times because it gives him the space to make some special magic.

Successive Paul errors gave Alcaraz the break and a 2-1 second-set lead.

Dancing around his backhand, Alcaraz annihilated a forehand winner down the line to back up the break for 3-1 and never looked back.


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