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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, May 15, 2023


Qualifier Fabian Marozsan streaked through six straight points stunning Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 7-6(4) to snap the Spaniard's 12-match winning streak in Rome.

Photo credit: TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

​​Speeding toward net, a lunging Carlos Alcaraz waved his racquet in vain at the fluttering yellow ball that died in the dirt.

Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan displaced the Spaniard with deep drives and dispensed doses of Alcaraz's drop-shot medicine against him crafting the most shocking upset of this Rome fortnight.

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A calm and clever Marozsan streaked through six straight points stunning Alcaraz 6-3, 7-6(4) to snap the Spaniard's 12-match winning streak.

Alcaraz will regain world No. 1 next Monday, but today he came up second best to a magical Marozsan.

​Marozsan took the court with a modest goal: win a few games. Showing sharp all-court skills, Marozsan beat Alcaraz at his own game delivering the most profound performance of his career.

"It's not easy to say something," Marozsan said. "I'm very, very happy. I can't imagine this one. It was my dream last night. Now it's true.

"I'm very, very happy about this. I just tried to do something special: winning a few games or maybe a set or something like this.

"I just beat the world No. 1. He's our best in the sport, so I'm really happy about this."

The 20-year-old Alcaraz learned an age-old tennis adage: What you don't know can hurt you. Alcaraz struggled to read the Hungarian's serve and was victimized by several drop shots as he fell to 30-3 on the season, including a 20-2 mark on red clay.

The world No. 135 joins Cameron Norrie (Rio) and Jannik Sinner (Miami) as just the third man to defeat Alcaraz this season. Alcaraz had reached semifinals or better in all six prior tournament he's played this season, but that run ended in Rome.

"I didn't watch too much about him before the match," Alcaraz told the media in Rome. "I just follow a lot of results about him in the challengers and stuff. He did well. He was doing well before here.

"Of course, he surprise me a lot. I mean, his level was really, really high. Yeah, I'm sure he's going to break the top 100 very, very soon. It was surprising for me."

In a dazzling ATP main-draw debut, Marozsan more than doubled the US Open champion's winner output—31 to 15—and faced just two break points in a masterful one hour, 40-minute conquest.

When Alcaraz's final shot sailed, Marozsan did not engage in any elaborate celebration. Instead, he paused and pointed at his support box with the calmness of a man realizing a dream.

Residing in the red clay zone, Marozsan didn't wait for Alcaraz to slip up in the end, he stepped up and took the match.

"Everything was perfect today, the crowd, the weather, the court, so I 'm just so happy I'm doing my job," Marozsan said. "I think in the tiebreak it was 1-4 then I won six points in a row.

"It's amazing. I don't know what happened during the points. I just tried to hit back every ball and I just tried to do my best. ​I tried to find something how can I win points against him in this tough situation and it just happened."

The question at the outset was: How would Marozsan, contesting his first ATP main draw, stand up to the pressure posed by the US Open champion?

It didn't take long to learn as Marozsan saved a break point at 30-40 holding to open.

Tennis Express

Showing no nerves against the world No. 2's firepower, the Budapest-born baseliner bolted a crosscourt forehand into the corner to break at love for a 3-1 lead after 14 minutes.

Carving out a couple of clean drop shots, Marozsan backed up the break at 30 for 4-1 as Alcaraz cast a concerned glance toward coach Juan Carlos Ferrero and his support box.

The 6'4" Hungarian isn't a massive server, but he can sting the first serve and shrewdly spread the box in the opening set. Beating Alcaraz to the drop-shot punch, Marozsan slipped a fine dropper over the net, followed it forward and slid a volley winner down the line wrapping a love hold for 5-2.

Thirty-one minutes into the match, Marozsan stepped up to serve and showed his mettle.

Sliding successive aces for 30-0, Marozsan moved in and swatted a slick forehand drive volley serving out an impressive 33-minute opener stamping his third love hold of the set.

"I didn't play really, really well obviously. But, of course, he plays his match, he plays at a really high level," Alcaraz said. "I couldn't follow his level. I mean, he was at the same level the whole match. That is very, very difficult.

"Yeah, I try to fight until the last ball, but it wasn't enough. Of course, in the second set, it was close. I had my chances at 6-5, 15-30. I would say I could win that set, except little things happen.

"Of course, he deserves the win. If he plays at that level, he's going to surprise more than one."

Deadlocked after four games of the second set, Alcaraz fell into a triple break point hole.

Poised to snatch a one-set, one-break lead, the qualifier blinked. Marozsan played his sloppiest game of the set shanking a cluster of forehands, sailing a forehand then missing a backhand return.

​Energized by that strong stand, Alcaraz shouted "Vamos!" to his box, where his parents sat, edging ahead 3-2 with his toughest hold of the day.

Sixty-six minutes into the match, Marozsan streamed forward behind a backhand rushing the second seed into a netted error for another break point.

Pouncing on a mid-court ball, Alcaraz rapped a backhand down the line but Marozsan flicked a clever lob that sent the Spaniard deep into the corner where he slapped an over the shoulder forehand into net. Marozsan waved his hand exhorting fans to make more noise as he broke for 4-3.

Down 0-30 in the next game, the Hungarian showed his soft touch tormenting Alcaraz with a deft dropper then banging the body serve to level. Alcaraz came right back dipping an angled shot for his first break point of the set.

​Victimized by the dropper earlier, Alcaraz applied the short shot as an ally drawing the Hungarian in then zipping a forehand pass to break back for 4-4 with a double scream of "Vamos!"

The second seed scraped through a tense deuce hold for a 5-4 lead.

The qualifier was holding serve with more conviction and used the scoreboard pressure—and a brilliant strike—to his advantage. Marozsan rocketed a running backhand pass down the line for break point at 5-5.

If he broke, Marozsan would serve for the biggest win of his career.

Instead, Alcaraz slid a serve down the T, banged an ace off the back wall and induced an errant return dancing off the ledge of service loss to hold for 6-5.

Dispensing magic touch, Marozsan again gave Alcaraz a taste of his own drop shot medicine wielding the dropper to level and force the second-set tiebreaker.

It was the 70th tiebreaker of Alcaraz's career and just the third Tour-level tiebreaker for Marozsan, who botched one of his first droppers of the day wide ceding the mini break.

On a second serve, Alcaraz crunched a confounding kick serve out wide then brought the heat on serve stretching his lead to 4-1.

Still, a stubborn Marozsan came right back leveling at 4-4 when Alcaraz tightened up on a twitchy drop shot.

Falling backward, Marozsan let his forehand fly down the line for a clean winner and the mini break for 5-4.

When Alcaraz missed a running forehand down the line, Marozsan earned double match point.

On the sixth stroke of the ensuing rally, Alcaraz sailed a forehand. Marozsan paused and pointed relishing a dream day come true.

This brilliant breakthrough ride continues. Marozsan will face another reigning Masters 1000 champion in 15th-seeded Croatian Borna Coric with a quarterfinal spot at stake. 


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