Carlos Alcaraz Emulates Nadal By Winning Second Consecutive Madrid Title - UBITENNIS
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Carlos Alcaraz Emulates Nadal By Winning Second Consecutive Madrid Title

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Image via Madrid Open twitter

Carlos Alcaraz has become only the second man after Rafael Nadal to defend their title at the Madrid Open after ending the dream run of Germany’s Jan Lennard-Struff in a three-set epic.

Alcaraz, who dropped only two sets in the entire tournament, battled to a hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, win over the world No.65 to claim his fourth title of the season and his 10th overall. The 20-year-old is the youngest player to defend a Masters 1000 title since Nadal at the 2006 Italian Open and has now won 21 consecutive Tour matches played on the clay in his home country of Spain.

In what was a roller-coaster battle at the Caja Magica, Alcaraz produced a total of 19 winners compared to 31 unforced errors en route to victory. He now leads Struff 2-1 in their head-to-head.

“It is so special for me to lift the trophy here in Madrid. It is always special to play in my country and to be able to be the champion here (in Madrid) is special,” Alcaraz told TennisTV afterwards. 
“(Playing) in front of my home crowd, family and friends for me is a special thing that I will never forget.”

Alcaraz had to contend with some fierce play from a resurgent Struff who had a fairytale run to the final. The German originally lost in qualifying on his 33rd birthday before being given a lucky loser spot into the main draw. Capitalizing on his opportunity, he scored back-to-back wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Aslan Karatsev to become the first lucky loser to reach the final of a Masters 1000 event since the series began in 1990.

Struff’s ability to return the ball quickly and deep frustrated a fired-up Alcaraz throughout the opener. The world No.2 got off to the perfect start by breaking instantly after a backhand volley from his opponent landed out. However, he lost his advantage two games later due to some inspired play coming from across the court. As the set progressed, Struff’s first serve began to wobble which paved the way for Alcaraz to break once more as he rallied to a 5-4 lead. Serving for the set, the Spaniard had to recover from a 0-40 deficit before sealing the lead with a blistering forehand winner.

Despite falling behind and facing the animated Spanish crowd, Struff refused to back down as he started the second frame guns blazing by winning 12 out of the first 16 points played to work his way to a 3-0 lead. Later on in the set, he prevailed in a marathon 15-minute service game that saw him save five break points. No matter what Alcaraz threw at him, Struff had all the answers as he forced the match into a decider. Becoming the sixth player this season to take a set off the reigning US Open champion.

With €1,105,265 in prize money and 1000 ranking points at stake, Alcaraz restored his lead in the decider as Struff began to weaken on the court. Orchestrating the crowd to get behind him, a single break in his favour guided him to the trophy. Alcaraz worked his way to his first championship point with a forehand smash at the net before a Struff shot landing out secured him the triumph. Prompting him to drop to the ground after nearly two-and-a-half hours of play.

“Jan was playing great and really aggressive. Sometimes I couldn’t play my game and I was waiting for my chance,” Alcaraz reflected.
“In the second set, I had a lot of chances to break his serve but I couldn’t do it. That was tough for me to lose the second set but I told myself that I had to be positive all the time.”

Besides paying tribute to his peer, Alcaraz also praised the support he received from the crowd throughout his run in Madrid. It is the second tournament he has won in his home country this season after Barcelona which he also won for the second year in a row. 

“Since my first ball (hit at the Madrid Open this year) the crowd has been cheering my name. It was really helpful for me,” he said.
“To have a lot of people behind you, supporting you and pushing you on during the bad moments has been amazing.”

Alcaraz’s win will move him to just five points behind Novak Djokovic in the ATP Pepperstone rankings when they are updated on Monday.

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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