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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, May 26, 2024


Showing no forearm issues, Carlos Alcaraz broke serve nine times thrashing lucky loser JJ Wolf 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in in his Roland Garros opener.

Photo credit: Mateo Villalba/Getty

Ball marks slashing the clay canvas reinforced the Roland Garros lesson Carlos Alcaraz artfully dispensed.

Wimbledon winner Alcaraz outclassed and overwhelmed American lucky loser JJ Wolf 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 racing into Roland Garros round two in one hour, 51 minutes.

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Wearing a white sleeve that wrapped his right arm right down to his Nike sweatband, Alcaraz looked fit, played fist and most importantly rocked several forehand strikes with most of his 27 winners coming from that wing. Given the fact his forearm injury had inhibited that stroke during this clay campaign, Alcaraz has to be happy with the versatility and vigor he brought to his Roland Garros return.

"I'm really happy to be back in Paris, to compete again," Alcaraz told Hall of Famer Mats Wilander in his on-court interview afterward. "It has been a really difficult month for me. I love competing. I love playing tennis and staying away from that was hurting for me.

"But I tried everything that I could do to be at my 100 percent here in Paris, in Roland Garros, to show my best tennis. and I think I did it today. And I'm really, really happy to show good tennis again."

A year ago, cramps crippled Alcaraz in a punishing Roland Garros semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic, who tore through 12 of the final 14 games in that semifinal and went on to win the title.

Today, a commanding Alcaraz surrendered serve to open then reeled off 18 of the next 21 games. Alcaraz converted nine of 14 break points and torched Wolf’s second serve, claiming 21 of 29 points on the American’s slice second delivery, which averaged 90 mph.

The third-seeded Spaniard improved to 19-5 on the season, including 6-3 on dirt. Alcaraz will face either left-handed Briton Jack Draper or 176th-ranked Dutch qualifier Jesper de Jong in round two.

Forced out of Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Rome while battling a right forearm injury, Alcaraz played his first match since bowing to Andrey Rublev in the Mutua Madrid Open quarterfinals earlier this month.

The big question: How would the two-time Grand Slam champion’s cranky forearm hold up and would the arm mute his flamethrower forehand as it seemed to do in Madrid?

Afterward, Alcaraz said the forearm feels good, but conceded he's still apprehensive about unloading on every forehand opportunity.

"I think the arm is 100%," Alcaraz told the media in Paris after improving to 13-0 in major first-round matches. "Obviously I still feeling weird, let's say, or afraid to hit every forehand, I mean, 100%.

"It's still in my mind, but I didn't feel anything after the match, I didn't feel anything, which is really, really good for me. So I can say it's full recovered."

The good news for Team Alcaraz came midway through the opening set as he blistered a running rocket forehand crosscourt that drew gasps from some fans.

The better news for Alcaraz fans: He did not try to strong-arm his way through points, instead Alcaraz colored the red clay with a variety of damaging spins, heights and hues painting Wolf into a corner from the early stages.

After dropping that opening game, Alcaraz asserted his authority.

The Wimbledon winner streaked through six straight games, serving out the 33-minute opener with a love hold.

Alcaraz almost always exudes excitement and energy on court. Today, he competed with gratitude as well—-after pointing out in his pre-tournament presser he narrowly avoided a first-round showdown against king of clay Rafael Nadal and instead drew lucky loser Wolf.

“No, honestly,” a smiling Alcaraz said when asked if he wished he had drawn 14-time champion Nadal instead of Wolf, seeking his first career French Open main-draw match win. “When I saw that it was 50% chances that I could play against Rafa... Thanks.”

Attacking the American’s forehand wing at the outset, Alcaraz deployed many of his weapons smacking seven winners to one for Wolf in the first set.

One problem for Wolf, was he was barely winning second-serve points.

A bigger problem: 50 minutes into the match the American had yet to hold serve.

Alcaraz broke to start the second set with his seventh straight game.

Beaten up in forehand exchanges to that point, Wolf absolutely annihilated a 112 mph forehand rocket down the line for a break point in the second game. Alcaraz singed the sideline with an ace then aced out the game confirming the break for 2-0.

Playing for his first career Top 10 win, Wolf held for the first time 51 minutes into the match flashing a clenched fist to coach and former US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri in his support box.

Dynamic diversity is an Alcaraz asset—he not only owns every shot in the sport, he can deliver most with explosiveness and angle.

Backing Wolf up with a high loopy backhand, Alcaraz stepped in and blasted a crosscourt backhand that was at least 20 miles-an-hour faster to set up a crackling forehand. That superb series helped Alcaraz break for a one-set, 4-1 lead.

The third-seeded Spaniard smacked his fifth ace down the middle snatching a two-set lead after only 73 minutes of play.

Rain prompted a brief delay to close the retractable roof over Court Philippe Chatrier. When play resumed Wolf sprayed a drive as Alcaraz scored his sixth break of the match to start the third set.

Alcaraz raced through eight of the first nine points in staking a 2-0 third-set lead.

After dropping the opening game of the match, the 21-year-old Spaniard reeled off 18 of the final 21 games. Alcaraz converted his second match point when Wolf sailed a backhand long.

A match that started with a break ended with a a closed roof—and a reminder of how high Alcaraz’s competitive ceiling is when he’s fully fit.

"Honestly, I'm with low expectations coming into this tournament, but after the practice week, after this first round, well, the confidence is higher," Alcaraz said. "My expectations probably got higher after today's match, but let's see.

"You know, all I can say is I'm feeling great on the court. I feel amazing in this match, so hopefully keep going."


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