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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, May 31, 2023


World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz fired 47 winners topping Taro Daniel 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 to set up a Roland Garros third-round duel vs. Denis Shapovalov.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

Sound and vision are amplified when tennis special effects artist Carlos Alcaraz plays.

Booming strikes off the face of Alcaraz's Babolat racquet made Court Philippe Chatrier sound like an echo chamber.

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Today, the world No. 1 muted a second-set uprising and nearly blew the lid off the place with his energized response.

An amped Alcaraz fired 47 winners topping Taro Daniel 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in an entertaining Roland Garros second-rounder that featured drop-shot duels and a terrific tweener exchange at one point.

By the time the red dust settled on a windy afternoon, Alcaraz raised his 2023 clay-court record to 22-2.

"I'm really happy with the level that I played today," Alcaraz said. "I mean, overcome the problems that was in the match because the windy and, yeah, it has been a really complete match from my side, and I'm really happy with that."

In his first Grand Slam as world No. 1, Alcaraz has played his customary brand of dynamic and sometimes daring tennis exploring all areas of the court with confidence.

The 2022 Roland Garros quarterfinalist quadrupled Daniel's winner output, won 20 of 29 trips to net and converted 7 of 11 break points to score his ninth straight Grand Slam win.

It wasn't an immaculate win as Daniel converted two of three break points and successfully rushed the Spaniard's forehand a few times before Alcaraz restored order with convincing close.

Tennis Express

Alcaraz set up an appetizing third-round showdown with Canadian left-hander Denis Shapovalov.

Though clay is Shapovalov's least favorite surface, he looked completely comfortable today. Shapovalov faced just one break point in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Italian Matteo Arnaldi.

"He's a very dangerous player. He has great shots," Alcaraz said of Shapovalov. "It's going to be really difficult, really difficult match. I have to be ready on that, really focused on his shots.

"But as I said a lot of times, I always try not to, you know, think about the opponent. I always try to think about me, about myself, you know, about my game, and try to put it into the match."

US Open champion Alcaraz will face the 24-year-old Shapovalov for the first time in a match that promises to pop with riveting rallies between explosive shot-makers who can rip the ball on the run.

The 20-year-old Spaniard is 32-3 on the season with one of those three losses coming to a left-hander, British No. 1 Cameron Norrie, on the red clay of Rio.

Shapovalov hits bigger than Norrie, but also requires more time to unleash his expansive strokes and is streakier than the Briton as well.

Though he's four years older, Shapovalov said he's an Alcaraz fan.

"You can see how much he enjoys being on the court and the situations that are coming forward to him. You know, he's not in an easy spot being No. 1 and so young and so much noise around him," Shapovalov said of Alcaraz. "I really look up to him. I think he is also just a nice guy.

"I mean, in the locker rooms he's always saying hi. He's always been polite since he came onto the scene. I think he has a great team around him. Everyone around him knows the tour really well.

"It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be a tough battle. Obviously he's a great player, especially on clay courts, obviously everywhere, but especially on clay courts. Three out of five is not going to be easy against him, but I'm looking forward to it."

The beauty of Alcaraz's game is he exudes genuine joy as well as a sense of adventure on the court.

Combining sculptor's feel with explorer's curiosity and demolition expert return game, Alcaraz has blasted through return games breaking serve in 14 of 28 return games through two rounds. Alcaraz stabbed a forehand volley to break in Daniel's opening service game.

Alcaraz pumped his first ace out wide for set points. Deploying the serve-and-volley, the top seed closed an oppressive opening set in 31 minutes.

Setting the tone with his twisting serve, Alcaraz missed only three first serves and won 15 of 20 first-serve points in the set.

The veteran Daniel dug in and drew a netted forehand breaking the No. 1 for the first time for a 2-0 second-set lead.

When Alcaraz missed the mark today, often it was the forehand, one of his biggest weapons, that went awry for a bit.

Serving for the second set at 5-3, Daniel ballooned a smash long, but beat the top seed at his own drop shot game to go up 30-15. Stepping into his two-hander Daniel drew another netted forehand for set point. When Alcaraz netted a third forehand, a leaping Daniel hopped to his court-side seat level after two sets.

Those good vibes came crashing down as Alcaraz broke twice in a row bursting out to a 5-0 third-set lead before closing that third set.

The physical toll of three sets at Alcaraz's energized level seemed to sap some life from Daniel's legs. Daniel dumped his fourth double fault to hand Alcaraz his fifth break and a 1-0 fourth-set lead.

Still, the man in the black baseball cap showed his appetite for the fight, flicking a full-stretch running forehand crosscourt to break right back in the second game.

A primary problem for the Japanese was combating Alcaraz's crackling power in baseline exchanges. A bigger problem was holding his own serve against the top seed.

The 6'3" Daniel does not serve as big as his size suggests and when he spun his fifth double fault into net, Alcaraz had his sixth break of the day and a 3-2 fourth-set lead.

Dancing around his backhand, Alcaraz blistered one final forehand winner to wrap up a two hour, 25-minute win.


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