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Steve Flink’s Monte Carlo Musings



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At the end of a fascinating week on the fabled red clay in Monte Carlo, it all came down to a suspenseful battle for supremacy at the first Masters 1000 clay court tournament of the 2023 season between the ever professional Andrey Rublev and the contentious 19-year-old warrior Holger Rune. Both players deserved to be on that idyllic stage. They had to work hard, play well and fight persistently to earn the right to be around for the final, and that is exactly what they did. 


In the end, Rublev came through handsomely to capture the first Masters 1000 title of his distinguished career. He had lost his two other finals at that elite level to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo two years ago, and later that summer against Sascha Zverev in Cincinnati. 

In this hard-fought clash that went right down to the wire on the sunniest day of the week in Monte Carlo, Rublev was a worthy victor, coming mightily from behind to overcome a physically compromised and mentally vulnerable Rune 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, rescuing himself from 1-4 and break point down in the third set to secure six of the last seven games. To be sure, Rune was troubled down the stretch by apparent but not severe cramps, or perhaps some other ailment. Even with the 4-1 lead in the final set, he called for the trainer at the changeover.

And yet, it was surely at least partially mental. Rune had won his first Masters 1000 crown last November in Paris over Novak Djokovic in an exhilarating indoor encounter that also concluded with a 7-5 final set scoreline. He will turn 20 in less than two weeks, but his mentality in some ways is that of a wily veteran. He expects too much from himself and goes about his business with unmistakable fury and relentless intensity. He can be immature and inexplicably confrontational, but the fact remains that he has the mindset of a champion who simply despises the taste of defeat. In time, Rune will need to find a better balance between competitive ferocity and tranquility. But that won’t happen overnight.

The fact remains that, regardless of Rune’s shortcomings, Rublev is an exceedingly tough customer who has made a habit out of battling until the bitter end to win matches that seem to be slipping from his grasp. Consider the last time he collided with Rune at the Australian Open in the round of 16 back in January. Rune was ahead 5-2 in the fifth set before Rublev made it back to 5-5. Not long after, however, the Russian was down double match point at 15-40 when he served in the twelfth game. He escaped from that corner and then rallied magnificently from 0-5 in the final set tie-break, surviving a harrowing ordeal 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (11-9).

This time around, Rublev and Rune settled into the contest from the outset and pushed each other to the hilt from the baseline with big hitting, clever variations and first rate defense. Rune opened up a 4-2 lead with a scorching forehand down the line return winner. Rublev retaliated in the seventh game to get back on serve and held at love to make it 4-4. The Russian competitor even had a break point in the ninth game, but Rune erased it by eliciting a backhand return mistake with a well placed first serve. They went to 5-5 before Rune took two games in a row—and eight of eleven points— to close out the set.

Now Rublev’s mental toughness was strikingly evident. He seemed impenetrable in commencing the second set by building a 2-0 lead on the strength of immaculate ball striking and outstanding shot selection. Although an unwavering Rune saved two break points in the third game and soon stood on level ground at 2-2, Rublev was unswayed. Giving nothing away, swinging freely, getting great depth on his shots and largely setting the tempo, the 25-year-old not only took the next four games to seal the set, but he also won 16 of 20 points in that sparkling span. He was first rate and bearing down unswervingly, while Rune was rushing needlessly between points. Rune’s refusal to slow down and absorb what was happening to him was self defeating. His careless and anxious errors mounted.

Fittingly, the match moved on to a third set. Serving in the second game, Rublev was ahead 40-0. He had six game points altogether, but a more composed Rune was finding his range on the backhand return. He broke through to lead 2-0, held for 3-0, and soon found himself on the verge of victory. With that 4-1 lead, he put considerable effort and energy into gaining an insurance break in the sixth game. When he reached break point, Rune missed a forehand blocked return wide. Rublev got just enough mustard on his first serve down the T to provoke that mistake.

He held on gamely in this sixth game, and thereafter Rune, struggling inordinately with his physical and emotional instability, was his own worst enemy. In the seventh game, the Dane double faulted twice on his way to a 0-40 deficit, and was broken at 15. Rublev realized that Rune was now dispirited, and the Russian got back to 4-4. Nevertheless, Rune managed to hold one last time, and Rublev was serving to stay in the match at 4-5. 

He met that moment commendably, holding at love. In the following game, Rune twice missed overheads to fall behind 0-30 and was given a ball abuse warning at that juncture. Making matters worse, he conceded that game with a double fault at 30-40. Rublev closed it out confidently from there, serving an ace out wide at 40-15 to secure the 13th career singles crown of his career. It was by far the most prestigious prize he has ever collected. Over the years, Rublev has now appeared in 40 Masters 1000 tournaments, but never before had he been the last man standing.

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Let’s examine how the two finalists got to the title round. The sixth seeded Rune had a first round bye before ousting 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-4. He then advanced  to the quarterfinals when an injured Matteo Berrettini defaulted. Rune proceeded to take apart No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev comprehensively 6-3, 6-4, losing his serve only once over the course of two sets, toppling a player who had been victorious in 26 of his last 27 matches. 

In fact, Medvedev, despite a career long inefficiency on clay with a record which pales in comparison to his hard court prowess, had somehow overcome Zverev in a riveting, round of 16 evening skirmish. Zverev, of course, has been a stellar clay court player. Both Medvedev and Zverev have amassed 19 career singles titles, but while the Russian has never taken a title on clay, Zverev has won six tournaments and three Masters 1000 crowns on that surface.

Coming off an agonizing 67 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5 hard court defeat against Medvedev last month at Indian Wells, Zverev understandably wanted to exact some revenge in Monte Carlo. The German’s 2022 season ended abruptly and excruciatingly when he took a terrible fall during his semifinal loss to Rafael Nadal last June at Roland Garros, leaving the court in a wheelchair after tearing ligaments in his ankle. He missed the rest of 2022 and thus far this year has not been the same player.

Zverev came into Monte Carlo with a disappointing 8-9 match record for 2023, with a semifinal appearance in Dubai his best showing. A win over Medvedev would have taken him into the quarterfinals and, perhaps, restored his self conviction again. But this time he suffered an even more bruising setback. Zverev served for the match at 5-4 in both the second and third sets but won only one point in those two crucial game combined. Nonetheless, he made a gallant comeback in the final set tie-break, rallying from 2-5 down and winning four consecutive points to reach match point. But an errant second serve return cost him that chance. He later made it to match point for the second time, but was outmaneuvered by Medvedev from the backcourt and forced into a mistake off the forehand. Ultimately, Medvedev prevailed 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7).

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An acrimonious Zverev later accused his opponent of being singularly unsporting, and Medvedev fired back by saying that Zverev needed to look at himself in the mirror. It was not a shining moment for either player as they engaged in this dark war of words, although the media found the tension between these two competitors highly entertaining.

Be that as it may, Medvedev may have exhausted himself physically, mentally and emotionally during that three hour and five minute clash. His movement and state of mind seemed considerably impaired when he was beaten by Rune. Yet Rune more than validated that remarkable victory by waging a stirring comeback of his own against another of this year’s standout performers. Jannik Sinner has been ascendant all year long. After an arduous five set loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, the Italian had been riding high on the ATP Tour.

Sinner had won 21 of 26 matches across the season heading into Monte Carlo, taking one ATP 250 title, reaching the finals of Rotterdam and Miami, advancing to the semifinals at Indian Wells. He seemed primed to reach a second straight Masters 1000 final when he took the first set 6-1 with sweeping self assurance from Rune. But then Rune opened up a 3-0 second set lead before a rain delay. When they returned, Sinner exploited some bad patches from an overanxious and error prone Rune to stay in that second set. Down 2-5, 0-30, Sinner collected eight points in a row to get back on serve.

The drama was not over. Sinner tightened up and fell behind double set point at 15-40 in the tenth game, but drew an error from the Danish player and then prevailed in a scintillating 19 stroke exchange, sending a forehand inside out into the corner for an outright winner. He soon held on for 5-5, having swept three games in a row to move within two games of victory. But Rune held easily for 6-5 and then broke a surprisingly apprehensive Sinner in the twelfth game to seal the set. At 5-6, 30-40, Sinner tamely netted a backhand, thus wasting the concerted effort he made to get back into— and nearly salvage— the set.

The color of the contest had been distinctly altered. All through the third set, Sinner, serving from behind, was under siege. At 1-2, the determined Italian fended off three break points. With the crowd largely and vociferously behind him, Sinner at last responded animatedly to their vocal support. He held on gamely for 2-2. Once again at 3-4, Sinner drifted into danger before escaping with poise under pressure, saving two break points, fist pumping a few times as the crowd cheered him on unabashedly.

Rune, however, was undismayed. He swiftly held at love for 5-4 and twice was within two points of winning in the tenth game. Once more, Sinner was not found wanting in the clutch, holding on with temerity for 5-5. And yet, he could not get any traction on Rune’s serve. The 19-year-old held at 30 for 6-5 to keep the pressure on his highly regarded adversary.

Sinner was magnificent in the following game, pirouetting after digging out a backhand half volley before making an extraordinary backhand reflex volley for 15-0. When Sinner surged to 30-0, a final set tie-break seemed inevitable. But Rune clipped the edge of the sideline with a backhand crosscourt and then came forward for a spectacular sidespin backhand drop volley winner to make it 30-30. Sinner was shaken. He missed a routine backhand down the line and netted an easy forehand on the next two points. Rune deservedly made it across the finish line 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a stupendous contest. 

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The win was another reminder that Rune is now in the forefront of the game, but was also evidence that Sinner has not yet married his shotmaking excellence to his match playing propensity. He has made immense strides over the last year, but still loses too many matches of consequence that he could and should win.

In any event, while Rublev’s path to the final was not as eye- catching as Rune’s, it remained extraordinary. Following his first round bye, the No. 5 seed came from behind to beat the Spaniard Jaume Munar in three sets. In the round of 16, he accounted for No. 9 seed Karen Khachanov 7-6 (4), 6-2. Next on the agenda for Rublev was a revitalized Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, who was ranked No. 100 in the world after once residing in the top 30. Rublev halted the 32-year-old 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Now in the semifinals, Rublev faced the American Taylor Fritz on a burdensomely windy and rainy day. The Russian served for the first set at 5-4 but dropped three games in a row to lose the set. Undismayed, he turned that match around tremendously, winning the second set with far superior play from the backcourt, moving out in front 3-2 in the third before a rain delay. He returned to finish off a fine victory 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 over a rival who had beaten him the last three times they had played. 

Rublev broke the big serving American eight times. Fritz had enjoyed his first win in four career confrontations with Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals. The Greek stylist, seeded second, was seeking a third title in a row at the Monte-Carlo Masters. His ailing shoulder had healed. He seemed to be playing reasonably well. But Fritz was firing away freely from the outset of this duel, while Tsitsipas could not find his bearings.

Fritz won 16 of 22 points on his way to a 4-0 lead, and took that set easily 6-2. After an exchange of service breaks in the second set and the game score locked at 4-4, Fritz won eight of the last nine points to complete a command performance. The 6-2, 6-4 win lifted the American into the penultimate round.

In any case, one of the week’s largest surprises was the round of 16 departure of the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Unable to play at Indian Wells and Miami because he is unvaccinated, Djokovic had plenty of time to prepare on the red clay. He was eager to display his finest tennis and jumpstart his clay court campaign. But Djokovic never fully found his range against Lorenzo Musetti on another windy afternoon. Wearing a black sleeve on his right arm which extended above his elbow, he served poorly and his play from the baseline was not up to normal standards.

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And yet, Djokovic put himself in a position to win on one of his worst days. He took the first set and led 4-2 in the second, but the match slipped away 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. The Serbian was broken eight times over the three sets; in the second set alone, Djokovic lost his serve five times. He was clearly not himself off the ground as well. It was not the way he wanted to launch his 2023 clay court season, but he is back this week playing an ATP 250 tournament in Banja Luka and eager to make amends. Rublev is seeded second at that  tournament behind Djokovic, and it would be enjoyable if they meet in the final. But perhaps Rublev will not want to play that event after all the hard work he put in this past week at Monte Carlo.

The weeks ahead are going to be highly intriguing. Can Rublev turn this latest triumph into something of lasting value? Will Djokovic be ready to reassert himself immediately? Is Carlos Alcaraz fully healed physically and can he defend his Barcelona title? What are Rune’s chances of casting aside his loss to Rublev in Monte Carlo and prevailing as the top seed in Munich?

Those questions will soon be answered. In the meantime, we must savor what we saw in Monte Carlo.


Iga Swiatek’s Ultimate Reflection: From Rome Heartbreak To Breakthrough Triumph

Iga Swiatek ultimate reflection has taught us the physiological demands of being an athlete.



Iga Swiatek’s life has changed over the last few years and now the world number one reflects on the defeat that defined the success that followed over the last few years.


Picture the scene. It was the 15th of September, 2020. The world was continuing to go through a traumatic time with the COVID-19 Pandemic six months in and tennis had just restarted a few months earlier in America.

A young 19 year-old called Iga Swiatek had just burst onto the scene having dominated the ITF tour and also conquered Grand Slam juniors. The Pole had won Roland Garros doubles with Caty McNally and followed that up by winning Wimbledon in singles.

Swiatek’s transition to the main tour was taken to like a duck to water as she reached her first final in Lugano in 2019 in April. That was followed by a decent showing at Roland Garros, reaching the last 16 before being demolished by former champion Simona Halep.

However at a young age, Swiatek had showed she can compete with the very best and more success was predicted for the Pole in the future.

Although nobody would predict was about to follow over the next few years with Swiatek eventually winning two Roland Garros titles and becoming one of the most dominant world number one’s in recent history.

Before we get to tennis domination, Swiatek had to go through what every athlete has to go to and that’s defeat.

It was in the Italian capital right before Swiatek’s first Grand Slam title in 2020 that the Pole suffered a massive setback as she would lose the most significant match in her career.

On the 15th of September 2020, Iga Swiatek went out in the first round to Arantxa Rus 7-6(5) 6-3.

A shocking defeat for Swiatek, who had high expectations for Rome and was looking to build some last minute momentum before her favourite Grand Slam of the year.

It was a career defining defeat for Swiatek though as she would win Roland Garros a few weeks later, claiming her first of three Grand Slam singles titles so far.

Three years later, Swiatek returned to Rome as the world number one and as defending champion ahead of her second Roland Garros title defence coming up in Paris.

In the Italian capital, Swiatek gave the ultimate reflection of that defeat to Rus that changed her career:

“Well, it wasn’t easy honestly. It was pretty tricky part of my career. I mean, I just started, but career,” Swiatek reflected on after her 6-0 6-0 demolition of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“Well, this match, I remember it like a pretty traumatic one. She played, like, high balls. It really worked here on this slow surface. I couldn’t manage that properly. I was making a lot of mistakes. I didn’t feel really well.

“Then I remember we had some serious talks with the team on what to change and how to, like, reset, what I should do to feel a little bit better. I came home to practice, and that period of time wasn’t, like, easy at all. I also probably had some expectations because it was clay and I knew that I can do better. Yeah, it was really, really hard.

“Even when I came on Roland Garros, I remember just being on the Jean Bouin before the tournament, practicing there. I literally had the talk with Daria if it makes sense to continue everything because I felt so bad. I felt like, I don’t know, my expectations were just pretty high. I felt really bad on court. Always tense and stressed, even when I was practicing.

“I was able to kind of just really, really reset and let it go. I remember I was practicing I think with Kiki Mladenovic. We made a bet, me and Daria, if I’m finally going to have one practice that is going to be without any drama. I don’t remember what’s bet was for, but I remember it was about not having drama on practice, just playing one practice that is going to be calmer than most of my practices, but this is the goal.

“Since then, I managed on this tournament to kind of let everything go. Honestly, when I played my first rounds in Roland Garros 2020, I thought I played so bad that I can’t go lower, so I’m just going to play and see how it goes. Then I won couple of matches. I was like, Okay, what’s going on? Why am I suddenly winning?

“I managed to keep that till the end of the tournament. That’s why my win last year on Roland Garros felt much more special, because I felt like I’m in the right place. In 2020 it all felt like it’s like a big coincidence that I’m even here in the final of Roland Garros, for example. It was a tough time for me.

“Looking overall, I wouldn’t say that my 2020 season was good. I would say I only played well on Roland Garros. I don’t even know why, so… I’m pretty happy that I, like, worked through that experience and actually understood that lowering expectations, just letting everything go, was honestly the key. I tried to repeat that throughout all these years.”

Swiatek’s answer to a question about a defeat that defined her career shows her maturity and world-class talent on and off the court.

A teenager to identify her vulnerabilities and weaknesses is not easy let alone bringing people in to work on solutions.

Swiatek’s Roland Garros victory in 2020 was the start of a few years of success but almost ended in dramatic fashion having gone through stress throughout the tournament.

However it was a blessing in disguise as the Pole was able to identify long-term solutions for problems that relate to stress for the future as well as creating an environment that proves that she can still win the big tournaments.

Now Swiatek is stronger mentally than she ever has been, who knows if she’ll win a fourth Grand Slam title in Paris this year but the formula has been set for future success.

Swiatek’s ultimate reflection has taught us that the Pole is well on course to dominate the sport and create a legacy for many other young athletes on how to diagnose psychological problems.

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The sorrows of the young Sinner



How strong is Jannik Sinner really? How the renaissance of Italian tennis deflated in Rome…


By Ubaldo Scanagatta

What could have been a memorable fortnight in Rome, despite some questionable scheduling and court quality, was hampered not only by the dire weather but also by the Italian players, who didn’t live up to the expectations. For the first time since 2019 no Italian, man or woman, featured in the quarterfinals. 

Jannik Sinner had reached the quarter finals one year ago, where he was defeated by Tsitsipas (76 62). In 2021 Lorenzo Sonego had an outstanding run to the semifinals, putting away Thiem and Rublev, and was only halted by Djokovic. Matteo Berrettini made it to the quarterfinals in 2020, where he lost to Ruud. 

Have we been overly trumpeting a Renaissance of Italian tennis in these years?

If we delve into the matter, we cannot really blame Matteo Berrettini for missing Internazionali BNL d’Italia two times in a row because of an endless string of injuries, neither can we criticize Lorenzo Sonego and Lorenzo Musetti for losing in straight sets against Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 in the world and one of the best clay specialists, a two-time winner in Montecarlo, finalist in Roland Garros 2021 and Rome 2022. And Marco Cecchinato, while brushing away Bautista Agut, flashed glimmers of his heyday, namely 2018-19 when he reached the semifinals in Paris and a peak ranking at No.16.

Sonego even had two setpoints in the second set, which he didn’t play so brilliantly. Musetti had snatched a break in the second set but let the Greek back in before fatally dropping serve in the 12th game, just like in the first set. When the points get tight, the gap between the top players and the others suddenly widens.

There is no doubt that the great disappointment came when Jannik Sinner unexpectedly lost to Francisco Cerundolo. Throughout his young career the Argentinian had already beaten three top ten players (Ruud, Rublev and Auger-Aliassime) and is a tough hurdle to clear on clay, but the way he disposed of Sinner in the last two sets with a double 62 was discomforting.    

A great disappointment because expectations were immense, considering that in the three Masters 1000 he played this year he had reached one final (Miami) and two semifinals (Indian Wells and Montecarlo).

 Djokovic and Alcaraz, were the first two favourites for the title. But Sinner was rated as a third pick. And once Alcaraz and Djokovic were most unexpectedly ousted from the tournament he appeared as a likely winner. Also because Tsitispas hadn’t got off to brilliant start of clay season; Ruud had been struggling even more and Medvedev had never won a match in this previous four participations in Rome. 

So is Sinner really as strong as here in Italy we say he is? Only Einstein could answer: it’s all relative.

Of course he’s a strong player. And it’s likely he’s going to stay in the top 10 for a long time. Much longer than Panatta, Barazzutti and Fognini did. Probably also than Berrettini, who has already been in the top ten longer than the three I mentioned, though helped by  favourable circumstances, like the frozen rankings due to Covid.

How strong is he? Well, it depends on who we compare him with. If we look at his birth certificate, we cannot but think of Carlitos Alcaraz and Holger Rune.

Well, perhaps we have a little exaggerated, spurred by patriotism and craving for a true Italian champion, who has been missing since Panatta. Because the results achieved by Alcaraz, a Major and 4 Masters 1000, as well as No. 1 of the ATP ranking are quite different. It’s true that Jannik has beaten him on 3 occasions out of 6, at Wimbledon, Umag and Miami, not to mention the epic match at the US Open when he lost in 5 sets after having a match point. But this simply means that Alcaraz suffers his game, his powerful hitting from the baseline. In this sense there’s not such a huge gap, but many other aspects have to be taken into account.

Which are Jannik’s limits, compared with the current No. 1 in the world? Alcaraz is a much more complete player in terms of touch and finesse, natural gameplay fluidity, explosiveness of shots, physical strength, athleticism and variety of recovery skills and, therefore, unpredictability, tactical ductility, from serve and volley which he sometimes executes persistently, as he did against Medvedev, never looking like a fish out of water at the net) to marathon runner resilience. He can mix up powerful serves and kick serves, continuously varying angles and spin. His dropshots are completely natural. Jannik’s tennis, instead, often gives the impression of being robotic, even though he has made great progress in the last year.         

I have often said that Jannik Sinner resembles Ivan Lendl, because Ivan’s philosophy was centred on work, work, and work, but he definitely wasn’t endowed with the same natural talent as John McEnroe. Yet he won more than McEnroe and this must be the hope, the goal of Sinner and his team.

Rune is a much more natural talent than Jannik. And it’s not only his mentor who says this.  He’s more complete, he serves better, he lands drop shots with greater ease, he can alternate powerful groundstrokes and changes of pace…like Big Cat Mecir. He plays a clever tennis, instinctive at times, but also well-reasoned.

He has already won a Masters 1000, and he’s ahead of Jannik. He’s got a big personality, though sometimes he comes up with unpleasant behaviour on court. He quite reminds me of McEnroe. People just would wait for Mac to meltdown. It will be the same with Rune. The way he put away Djokovic, in spite of the match interruption due to rain which probably cost him the second set, proves his mental qualities. He had displayed the same qualities when he beat Sinner in Montecarlo.

He has achieved goals which Jannik has just got close to. Jannik seems to be often hampered by injuries. He’s not a natural tennis player, he’s not a natural athlete. But his desire to succeed is so impressive that he will overcome these shortcomings.

Alcaraz lost to Marozsan, but before losing he tried everything. He snatched a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak of the second set, which he ended up losing 7-4, because he too is young and can suddenly have lapses. But he battled away and tried to change tactics, whereas Jannik seemed flat and just gave in, without finding the strength to react and fight back.

Sinner is young too, and sooner or later he’s going to get through these situations. But he has to find his way. Many are the features of his game he has to work on: his serve, his volleys. His ultimate breakthrough is still to come.      

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye  

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The Madrid Open Men’s Final Was Three Sets Of Sheer Excitement



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Winning is the ultimate key for Carlos Alcaraz or any tennis player.


Three sets in a non-major match just make winning more exciting for everyone other than the loser, even though Jan-Lennard Struff can take solace this time. After all, he was just a lowly “Lucky Loser.”

Struff actually took Alcaraz out of his game all the way until the Spanish 20-year-old finally came up with back-to-back love service games to secure a long 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory on Sunday in Madrid.


It was only then that Alcaraz could breathe easily against Struff’s amazing power and ability to win key points at the net.

Struff actually out-Alcarazed his foe until the end appeared to be in sight. The big German seemed to have an answer for everything Alcaraz could come up with until those last two service holds by the newest adult member of tennis greatness.

Alcaraz simply showed the packed house his true greatness and will to win. The young man was the true gem in the Madrid ATP Masters 1000 event.


Alcaraz appeared to do it all with a broad smile on his young face. Three sets just made it more exciting for everyone other than the loser.

Alcaraz seems to enjoy the extra practice time when he needs it. And he needed it to turn back a 33-year-old opponent who played his heart out until the end.

He was outhit and outplayed, but when it came time to end things, Alcaraz was ready for the challenge.


Struff didn’t do anything really wrong. Alcaraz just did what he does best. Win.

The usual one-sided wins by Alcaraz, of course, are supreme fun for his growing number of fans. But at times like Sunday, Alcaraz appears to need to keep the pressure on until the clutch time comes. Otherwise, the fans might start celebrating too early.

After all, they already are in Rafa Heaven. What are the fans supposed to do if their two greats, Alcaraz and Rafa Nadal, have a showdown in Paris?

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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