Alcaraz Comes Of Age In Madrid, Wins Second Masters 1000 Title

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: ATP Tour video)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 8, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Carlos Alcaraz has shown the world that the future of men’s tennis is in a good place.

Alcaraz’s record-setting week at the Mutua Madrid Open reached its culmination early Sunday evening inside Manolo Santana Stadium. Bursting with energy and enthusiasm, Alacaraz walked onto the court shortly after 6:30 p.m. to a hero’s welcome. Barely an hour later, he truly came of age and won his second ATP Masters 1000 title of the season and of his career.

The No. 7 seed Alcaraz confidently defeated World No. 3 and second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, 6-3, 6-1, in 62 minutes, to win his fourth ATP Tour title this season. It was his 28th victory of 2022 and also his seventh straight win versus Top-10 competition. He did it with excellent shot selection and athleticism.

In what has become a record-setting season for the likable and personable 19-year-old Spaniard from El Palmar, Murcia, the only thing left for Alcaraz on Sunday was to win an ATP Masters 1000 title on the red clay at La Caja Mágica. A winner in each of his four previous tour-level finals appearances over the past two years, Alcaraz faced Zverev, a two-time Madrid champion and this year’s second seed, who was appearing in the Madrid title match for the third time in the past four years.

After celebrating his birthday on Friday, he became the youngest player to defeat both 21-time major champion Rafael Nadal and 20-time Grand Slam champ Novak Djokovic. He also became the first player to achieve the feat at the same clay-court event. What was left to decide was whether Alcaraz could achieve another milestone and beat another Top-4 player. The answer turned out to be a resounding and emphatic yes. That it happened so quickly and was such a one-sided title match was quite a surprise.

”It feels great to be able to beat these players,” Alcaraz said in an on-court interview after his title victory. “To beat two of the best players in history and then Zverev, the World No. 3. He is a great player. I would say this is the best week of my life. I am 19 years old, which I think is the key to be able to play long and tough matches in a row. I am feeling great physically.”

In the first set, Alcaraz made the first move and broke Zverev at love to go ahead 4-2. He immediately consolidated the break for a 5-2 lead. A game later, the Spanish teen closed out the 31-minute opener at love after Zverev netted a second-shot return. Alcaraz faced no break points and dropped just one point on his first serve, outpointing Zverev 30-17. He attacked with power and the finesse of his well-timed and disguised drop shots was a thing of beauty. He was six-for-six in the opening set in winning points on his drop shots.

Next, on serve through the first two games of the second set, Alcaraz broke to go ahead 2-1 after crafting another drop-shot winner that ended a brief, four-shot rally. With too much power and too many options, could Alcaraz be stopped? No. Certainly, Zverev didn’t have the answers.

Alcaraz consolidated the break for a 3-1 advantage, then watched as Zverev self-destructed with his fourth double fault followed by an overhead smash hit right into the net. Alcaraz went ahead by a double-break lead at 4-1 after Zverev was unable to get his racquet on a successful lob return by the Spaniard. Poised and confident, Alcaraz soon held for an insurmountable 5-1 lead.

Quickly, Alcaraz earned championship point at 40-0, then went for it all and hit a forehand return long, one of the few unforced errors he would make. Zverev would save two more match points to gain deuce. However, on Alcaraz’s fourth opportunity to close out the biggest victory of his career, he won when Zverev double-faulted the last two points of the match. After 62 minutes, it was all over and the celebration Alcaraz enjoyed and shared with his Spanish fans was on.

Looking back, Alcaraz finished with 12 winners to 11 unforced errors, while Zverev managed to hit just seven winners and committed a very costly 25 unforced errors. Alcaraz won 32 of 38 points (89 percent) on his serve and outpointed Zverev 56-29. He converted four of eight break-point chances and did not face a single break point on his serve.

In the past 12 months, Alcaraz has risen from No. 120 to the Top 10. On Monday, he will be the new World No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. With 10 straight wins, Alcaraz has yet to lose an ATP Tour final in his brief career.

In accepting his runner-up trophy, Zverev gave props to the new Madrid champion. He said of Alcaraz: “Right now, you are the best player in the world. It is great for tennis that we have such a new superstar that is going to win so many Grand Slams, that is going to be World No. 1, and I think is going to win this tournament many more times.”

Koolhof and Skupski win first ATP Masters 1000 title together

Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain won their first ATP Masters 1000 title together and fourth title of 2022 with their 6-7 (4), 6-4, 10-5 victory over No. 5 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, Sunday afternoon.

The two-hour and three-minute victory was the seventh-seeded Dutch/British duo’s 30th of the season and Madrid was their seventh final. With their 30-7 win-loss record this season, Koolhof and Skupski are No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Team Rankings Race to Turin.

Besides winning the Mutua Madrid Open, Koolhof and Skupski have also won titles this year at the Melbourne Summer Set as well as the Adelaide International 2 and the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. Their four titles won leads the ATP Tour. Individually, Koolhof has now won 11 tour-level titles and Skupski 10.

By the numbers

Carlos Alcaraz faced an ATP Masters 1000 finalist for the fifth time in as many matches, as well as a Top-4 player for the third time in as many days. In beating Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final, he became the first player to beat three Top-4 players at an ATP Masters 1000 event since David Nalbandian swept Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in Madrid back in 2007.

“Quotable …”

“Watching Rafa lift this trophy gave me a lot of power to work hard for this moment. It is a great moment for me. It is the first tournament I watched, so lifting the trophy today is so emotional.”

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, following his ATP Masters 1000 title victory at the Mutua Madrid Open Sunday evening.