Alcaraz fends off Struff for Madrid mantle

SPANISH young gun Carlos Alcaraz clay dominance continued with a second straight title in his home nation, taking out the ATP Masters 1000 Madrid Open on the weekend. The 20-year-old defeated German Jan-Lennard Struff in a hard-fought three set match to successfully defend his title in the Spanish capital.

After winning the Barcelona Open the fortnight before, Alcaraz reached the final in Madrid by only dropping one set, bulldozing through former Top 10 players such as Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov. Funnily enough, the only set he lost prior to the final was his first of the tournament, where he had to come back to defeat Finnish young gun Emil Ruusuvuori 2-6 6-4 6-2 to reach the third round.

His second Madrid title came just a few days after his 20th birthday, with the rising ATP Tour star winning his 10th Tour title, and fourth ATP 1000 trophy of his career. He stands in rare air with his idol, Rafael Nadal as the only consecutive Madrid Open champions and is the youngest player since Nadal to defend an ATP Masters 1000 trophy. He will rise to world number one again following the conclusion of his second round match in Rome.

Against Struff, Alcaraz only served the two aces, but won 67 and 63 per cent of his first and second serve points, and did enough on return to generate 11 break point opportunities. Though he was only able to pull through on three of them, he negated Struff’s biggest weapon – his serve – to only have four aces against him, and broke even on the German’s second serve points. There was only three points between them, but Alcaraz got the job done with his third break of the day.

“For me it is so, so special,” Alcaraz said post-match. “To lift the trophy here in Madrid. In my country. It is always special to play and to be able to do a good result here and [being] a champion is so special. In front of my home crowd, my family, my friends. Everyone close to me. For me it is a special feeling that I will never forget.”

Though many expected Alcaraz to win easily against Struff, the German – who lost in qualifying but earned a lucky loser spot and made the most of his second chance – put up a massive fight and left nothing out on the court.

“It was a really tough match,” Alcaraz said. “Jan was playing great, really aggressive. In the second set I had a lot of chances to break his serve and I didn’t take it and it was tough for me to lose it. I told myself that I had to be positive all the time and that I would have my chances and I think I did it in the third set.”

Seeded second for the ATP 1000 event in Rome behind the returning Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz has a bye in the first round before a likely second round encounter with compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

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