Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button
NewsScoresRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastShopPro GearPickleballGear Sale

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, April 30, 2024


In a rematch of the 2023 final, Carlos Alcaraz won the final four points edging Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(4), improving to 14-0 in Madrid.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

Elite champions like to be challenged.

Two-time defending Madrid champion Carlos Alcaraz painted himself into a corner, then conjured the shot-making spectrum to create an escape route.

More: Medvedev Plays Illuminati Card in Madrid

In a wild rematch of the 2023 final, Alcaraz amped it up, winning the final four points to subdue dangerous Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(4) in a two hour, 52-minute Madrid thriller.

Rallying from 3-4 down in the tiebreaker, Alcaraz converted his fifth match point improving to a perfect 14-0 at the Mutua Madrid Open. That came after Alcaraz squandered four match points serving for the quarterfinals at 5-3.

"It was up-and-downs in the match. I think in the first set I played a great tennis," Alcaraz told the media in Madrid. "Beginning of the second set as well, breaking his serve. Then probably it came a little bit of doubts with my serve.

"He started to play well, as well. You know, in the third set, as well.

"Serving for the match, he broke my serve and then had a chance to break my serve again at the end of the third set. Yeah, it was a roller coaster, a lot of up-and-downs. It's something that I'm trying to be better at it, but, you know, I think I'm doing better that to not having a lot of up-and-downs, but I think it's a lot of work to do."

Alcaraz will face 2023 Monte-Carlo champion Andrey Rublev for a semifinal spot.

The seventh-seeded Rublev served 77 percent and won 32 of 33 first-serve points sweeping Tallon Griekspoor, 6-2, 6-4. Rublev played just 10 points on his second serve in the 64-minute victory. Alcaraz defeated Rublev 7-5, 6-2 in their lone meeting at the 2023 ATP Finals. Rublev has not lost a set in the tournament.

Alcaraz is like the Free Solo climber who revels in putting himself in perilous positions to see if he can craft a creative escape route.

Today, the second-seeded Spaniard blew four match points when he served for it at 5-3, including missing a sitter forehand long before double faulting away the fourth match point.

Compounding the self-sabotage, Alcaraz squandered a 3-1 lead in both tiebreakers, but looped a beautiful rainbow lob to help him earn the fifth match point and close a fierce fight.

The 20-year-old Alcaraz saved eight of 10 break points in a match that saw the pair combine for 93 trips to net. Struff, who was serving and volleying frequently in the latter stages, won 36 of 57 net points.

The two-time defending champion dodged a couple of break points holding for 2-1.

The forearm issue Alcaraz is battling has prevented him from striking forehands full force, he’s said in press.

Four games into today’s match, a flying Alcaraz vaporized a 107 mph forehand missile crosscourt.

When pushed wide, Struff was sometimes playing the lower-percentage backhand down the line to try to end the point with one strike. Struff scattered that shot wide as Alcaraz broke for 4-2 at the 31-minute mark.

Imagination and the daring to indulge his creativity can make Alcaraz a wonder to watch—and offensive from nearly any position on the court.

Luring Struff forward with the drop shot, Alcaraz was near the baseline when he volleyed a one-handed backhand winner down the line. Alcaraz spun a kick serve off the sideline for set points.

Though he committed a couple of forehands, the defending champion came right back rattling out successive Struff forehand errors to seal the 45-minute opener.

Expanding the court with angled drives, Alcaraz stretched the lead. Pushing Struff beyond the sidelines at times, Alcaraz was sharper hitting running strikes as he broke to start the second set.

Sixty-six minutes into the match, a lunging Struff stuck a full-stretch forehand return down the line breaking back for 2-all after 66 minutes.

The Munich champion was cracking his forehand with force and began applying his front-court skills as the set progressed.

The 23rd-seeded German rallied from love-30 down deploying the serve-and-volley play repeatedly to hold for 6-5.

The Wimbledon winner held firm to force the tiebreaker.

The pair exchanged mini breaks to open the breaker.

Amping up the pace of his forehand, Alcaraz pasted the baseline with a crackling forehand for another mini break and a 3-1 lead.

Blasting a return right back at Alcaraz, Struff caused the error to get the mini-break back for 3-all. The German backed it up with another mini break than caressed a backhand drop volley winner for 5-3.

Continuing to exploit the champion’s deep return position, Struff successfully serve-and-volleyed again for set points at 6-3.

On the full stretch, Alcaraz slid a running forehand that plopped over net to save the first set point. On the second set point, Struff sailed a forehand.

Serving at 6-5, Struff smacked an ace off the center stripe to seal the second set and force a final set after one hour, 44 minutes.

Early in the final set, Alcaraz was deploying the dropper to good effect, dragging the 6’4” German around the dirt.

Sliding into a stretch forehand to extend the point, Alcaraz bulleted a backhand pass Struff could not control to break for 3-1 with some furious fist pumping.

Applying his all-court skills, Alcaraz streamed forward blocking a high backhand volley backing up the break for 4-1.

Leading 4-2, Alcaraz erased a break point with the kick serve. The second seed withstood stress holding for 5-2.

Thumping a bounce smash and a backhand bolt brought Alcaraz triple match point.

Struff wasn’t done. The German jammed a return right back at Alcaraz clanking out a mis-hit to save the third match point.

On the next point, Struff ran down a drop volley, had a clear look at a forehand pass, but netted it down the line for a fourth match point. Alcaraz double faulted away match point No. 4.

Facing a break point, Alcaraz spun a serve into the right hip to handcuff Struff only to push a dropper into net to face a second break point.

As the game neared nine minutes long, Alcaraz missed successive forehands to give back the break in the ninth game.

Struff sped through a quick hold to level at 5-all.

A gutsy Struff smacked a forehand down the line for 15-30 in the 11th game. Digging out a low forehand volley, Alcaraz did well to keep the ball low. A sliding Struff angled off a backhand for break point. Alcaraz, who had been serving wide on the ad side, surprised Struff serving down the middle to save break point and eventually hold.

In the final tiebreaker, Alcaraz again built a 3-1 lead and again squandered it netting a drop shot, sailing a backhand and netting a routine forehand pass.

Suddenly, Struff surged ahead 4-3. A sliding Alcaraz blocked a backhand down the line to even it, 4-4.

Drawn forward, Alcaraz faked the forehand drop shot to freeze his foe, then slithered a forehand slice approach and drew a netted pass for 5-4.

Waiting for the serve-and-volley, Alcaraz answered with a rainbow lob for two more match points.

Repelling one final serve-and-volley attempt, Alcaraz survived all the stress with a bold burst at the finish.


Latest News