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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Carlos Alcaraz sped through five straight games fending off feisty qualifier Jesper de Jong 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in an entertaining second-round win.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Adversity swarmed Carlos Alcaraz as clearly as the red dirt staining his shoes.

Staring down a serious stress test, Alcaraz answered with fierce finishing skills.

Sabalenka: Pleasure Principle

Rallying from a break down twice in the fourth set, Alcaraz sped through five straight games fending off feisty qualifier Jesper de Jong 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in an entertaining Roland Garros second-round win.

It was a three hour, nine-minute adventure of a match for Alcaraz, who showed some spectacular shotmaking on the run, rocketed some ballistic forehands at crunch time and turned it up when necessary.

Yet, the man who missed Rome nursing his sore forearm, suffered lapses too, losing the range on that wing for a bit, dropping five straight games in the fourth set and struggled to convert break points. Alcaraz was 8 of 18 on break-point conversions, including one of nine in the second set. Credit qualifier de Jong for showing no fear of the Wimbledon winner.

Still, after demolishing American lucky loser JJ Wolf 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in round one, Alcaraz was focusing on the positives from this second-round fight. He was forced to battle, lifted his level and his forearm and forehand both held firm under stress as he reached the Roland Garros third round for the fourth time in as many appearances.

“We have to be prepared for this kind of matches. When you have problems you have to try your best to overcome those problems and you have to prepare about that,” Alcaraz told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “We are tennis players. I mean every match is different you have to realize it’s gonna be up and down or it's gonna be difficult moments in the match and you have to be prepared.

“I did really good work today when things didn’t go in a good way.”

The third-seeded Spaniard will play either 27th-seeded American Sebastian Korda or 26-year-old South Korean Soonwoo Kwon for a fourth-round spot.

Two days after the 176th-ranked Dutch qualifier fought off No. 39 Jack Draper in a five-set fight for his first career clay-court main-draw win and second career major match win, de Jong battled Alcaraz with determination, hustle and humor. Sometimes smiling after frenetic rallies, de Jong did not shrink from the largest red-clay stage in the sport.

Instead, he embraced the moment with enthusiasm, made history as the lowest-ranked man to ever take a set off Alcaraz in a major and made a slew of new fans with his grit, hustle and shot-making.

At times the pair produced some pulsating all-court points.

They combined for 89 trips to net—de Jong was 31 of 48 at net, while Alcaraz won 27 of 41 points in the front court—with the qualifier sometimes throwing his body around the dirt like a rugby player diving on a loose ball.

Afterward, Alcaraz said as he sees the benefits from the battle.

“I have to think about the positive things, about the good tennis I played in the first two sets and try to be better [than] what happened in the beginning of the third set to the fourth set,” Alcaraz said. “But obviously I try to think about the positive things. I come to Roland Garros without many matches so as much time as I spend on court dealing with the nerves dealing with moments of the match is great.”

De Jong broke for a 2-0 lead, but Alcaraz was rocking forehands from the center of the court to push his opponent into the corners.

Spinning a backhand return down the line, Alcaraz streamed forward angling off a backhand volley winner to close the opening set in style.

An assertive Alcaraz won nine of 12 net points and converted three of four break points in the opening set.

Swinging freely with a one-set lead, Alcaraz conjured creativity in the second set.

Holding a 4-3 second-set lead, Alcaraz bumped a rainbow lob over de Jong’s head into the corner. Turning with his back to net, de John turned, raced all the way back to the corner and tumbled over in the dirt like a stunt man putting the ball back. Though he lost that point, that spirited effort and willingness to hurl his body around the court paid off.

Scrambling back to the baseline, de Jong drilled a forehand winner down the line earning a hard-fought hold for 4-all. By then, de Jong denied all eight break points he faced in the second set.

The man wearing the backward blue baseball cap kept battling, but Alcaraz was undeterred.

On his ninth break point—and first set point—Alcaraz spun a heavy forehand into the corner that drew the running forehand error to snatch a two-set lead after one hour, 47 minutes.

Credit the Dutch qualifier for knowing he needed to push play and take big chances. De Jong did that with a flying forehand volley breaking for a 2-1 third-set lead. De Jong fired a forehand winner down the line confirming the break for 3-1.

As de Jong lifted his level, Alcaraz’s focus and play dipped. De Jong drew an errant forehand, scoring his second straight break for 4-1. De Jong reeled off five games in a row taking total command of the set.

Completing a high-quality set, the qualifier cranked a big serve out wide to seize the third set and force a fourth.

The 176th-ranked de Jong made history as the lowest-ranked man to win a set off Alcaraz in a major.

Former French Open champion and long-time Alcaraz coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, tugged on his black baseball cap and leaned forward intently in his chair. Alcaraz needed to make a stand, but instead flew a forehand slightly long to gift the break to start the fourth set.

"Well, it was mental, let's say, yeah, I had a lot of breakpoints," Alcaraz said. "I didn't make too much of them. But I think that the points that we played in the breakpoint he played great tennis and he deserved to get those points.

"But anyway, I think it was kind of less energy from my side, that I had to play with more energy those points, I guess. But, yeah, I had to forget it and try to be good at those points in the fourth set."

The Wimbledon winner broke back only to bungle a backhand volley into net as de Jong scored his second straight break for 2-1. On the changeover, de Jong took treatment from the trainer who massaged his left leg.

The Dutchman didn’t quite get full leg-lift as he double-faulted into net to give back the break in the fourth game.

Holding a 3-2 lead, Alcaraz torched three sizzling forehand strikes sending his opponent in a side-to-side sprint before banging a final forehand down the line. That explosive sequence blasted the key break for 4-2 and really took the remaining life out of the feisty qualifier’s legs.

When a weary de Jong put a forehand into net, Alcaraz was through in four sets to reach the third round for the 10th consecutive major.


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