June 20, 2024
Carlos ALCARAZ

Carlos Alcaraz, Madrid 2024

Carlos Alcaraz says he is feeling “spectacular” after taking another significant stride in his recovery from injury by reaching the fourth round of the Madrid Open with an efficient 6-3, 6-3 win over Thiago Seyboth Wild.

“Today I was also a little nervous to see how it was going to be, he hits the ball very hard,” said the Spaniard. “Today has been a litmus test and I have not had any discomfort, I’m feeling spectacular. From today we are going to keep getting better.”

Carlos Alcaraz’s clay-court season has so far been dictated by a worrisome right forearm injury, which forced him to withdraw from his first two tournaments, the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open. The second seed arrived in Madrid still uncertain of what condition he would be in when he stepped on to the court to begin his title defence.

Despite easing past Alexander Shevchenko 6-2, 6-1 in the opening round, the 20-year-old noted after the match that he is striking his forehand more softly than usual to ensure that he did not damage it further. Still, he remained relaxed and felt no pain during the match, despite wearing a protective sleeve.

Wild has established a reputation for possessing some of the most destructive groundstrokes in the world, and the challenge of neutralising the Brazilian’s weapons presented another test for Alcaraz’s arm, which he passed with ease. After trailing 2-3 in the opening set, Alcaraz won nine of the next 10 games to lead 6-3, 5-1 before closing out the win with little fuss.

“I think I’m in a good shape right now. I’m not feeling anything in the forearm, and I played good tennis,” said the defending Wimbledon champion. “Obviously I’m not hitting my forehand 100%, or in the way that I’m used to, before feeling something in the forearm, but I’m just focused on hitting the forehand as relaxed as I can. I’m really happy with the things that I’m doing in the forearm. I’m really happy to be competitive without pain, but I’m still focused every day in that.”

Further tests await both Alcaraz and his forearm as he faces Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany in a fourth-round rematch of last year’s final.

“I hope it goes like last year’s final, we know the player he is and the level he has,” said Alcaraz. “We are going to have to get our act together and give 100%, it will be a slightly uncomfortable match to play, but I think the people are going to enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, Holger Rune’s difficult start to the clay season continued as he was toppled by Tallon Griekspoor, the Dutch 24th seed, who earned his first top-20 win at a Masters 1000 event with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. While Jannik Sinner and Alcaraz, the top two seeds in Madrid, continue to establish themselves as two of the best players in the world, the Dane has struggled to keep up. He has fallen out of the top 10 to his current ranking of 12 after failing to defend his great performances during last year’s clay-court season. His ranking could fall further if he does not defend the points he won last year in reaching the Italian Open final. That tournament begins on 6 May.

Meanwhile, Mirra Andreeva marked her return to the Madrid Open, where she broke out on to the WTA tour last year, with one of the biggest wins of her young career as she upset Marketa Vondrousova, the defending Wimbledon champion, 7-5, 6-1 to reach the fourth round for a second consecutive year. Andreeva, on her last day as a 16-year-old, became just the second player under 17 to defeat a top-10 player on clay in the 21st century, after Nicole Vaidisova in 2005.

There were few issues for Elena Rybakina, the fourth seed and recent champion in Stuttgart, who continued her imperious form by easily defeating Mayar Sherif of Egypt 6-1, 6-4.

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