Who can beat Carlos Alcaraz? - UBITENNIS
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Who can beat Carlos Alcaraz?



The No. 1 is about to step out on court in his new role as the favourite for the title. We take a look at some possible hurdles on his way

In the aftermath of Barcellona and Madrid, a 11 match winning streak on clay with 4 sets lost along his way, a halo of invincibility appeared to be floating around Carlos Alcaraz. He had just sailed back from his expedition across the Americas carrying a rich treasure on his galleon: two titles, Indian Wells and Buenos Aires, a final in Rio, lost to Norrie, but played in imperfect physical conditions, and a semifinal in Miami, where he lost to Sinner, the player who could really be his nemesis.

Even more impressive than the stats was the way he had soared through his matches with joyful exuberance, inebriating with a stinging variety of shots.  Delight for viewers, hell for his opponents.

Carlos appeared poised for a season like Roger Federer in 2004. The Swiss great, one year after securing his first Major at Wimbledon, had one of best seasons: a win loss record of 74-6, 3 majors and 3 Masters 1000. No loss to top 10 players.

Then came the Alcaraz’s defeat to Fabian Marozsan, ranked No.135, in the second round in Rome. A mediatic earthquake, one of the greatest upsets in recent years. But has Carlos really returned to human dimension, which notoriously wavers between wins and losses?

Of course not. He is still the player who in 2023 has won most matches on clay: 20. Above all his win-loss percentage is staggering: 90.91%. He’s followed by Medvedev (83.3%) Rune (81.3) and Rublev (80%).

Therefore the loss to Marozsan must simply be framed within an overall analysis of Carlos Alcaraz’s rare stumbles.     

Most players, however domineering, have had an Achilles heel, which they have mitigated throughout their career. Federer’s topspin backhand, Djokovic’s serve for instance were not initially as effective as they were to become.

Even the pickiest critics will find it hard to detect a flaw in Alcaraz’s technical endowment. And against a player who can execute any shot, from any inch of the court, who can alternate power and finesse, hammer and caress from the baseline with unaltered gesture, who can serve cannonballs and kicks, who can serve and volley and even serve and dropshot, who can retrieve the unretrievable, not only will any gameplan get unsettled, and sooner or later fall apart, but planning a strategy for the match can seem a pointless task. Shrewd planning envisages a plan B, should A not work. But against Alcaraz further spelling may be required: plan A, plan B, then a plan C, still a D, and on and on, striving to find an escapeway from defeat.

Who are the players who can seriously pose a threat? Which is the gameplay Alcaraz has shown to suffer so far, in his young career?

His nemesis is Sinner so far. After losing to the red-haired Italian in Umag, 31 July 2022 Alcaraz said: “Jannik, second time you beat me this year, I’m going to figure out how to beat you this year”. Which he did, in the epic  5 hour five setter in the US Open quarter final where he was just one point away from yet another defeat.

This year they are 1-1. Whereas most players are annihilated by the power and angles Alcaraz is able to generate, Sinner remains unfazed, and while hitting and counter hitting from the baseline, he succeeds in stretching the Spaniard to the end of the tether, on all surfaces.

As did Djokovic, in their only encounter, the famous and enthralling semifinal in Madrid last year. Alcaraz was at his top whereas Djokovic was nearing his best form. The score, 6-7 7-5 7-6, eloquently tells the story. Novak not only can erect an impenetrable wall, as Sinner, but can draw from an endless stock of tactical resources. He has also deftly employed dropshots in his past Roland Garros campaigns and can challenge Alcaraz in one of his favourite domains.

Zverev stunned Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last year by dominating him long through the match.  He constructed his victory with a high percentage of first serves, 73%, which allowed him to snatch control of the rallies. He was able to restrain unforced errors and land hefty, spinning and deep groundstrokes off both sides which forced Alcaraz to back away and muffled his penetration.

This year Zverev is still seeking such to recover such heights, but his achievement can be taken by others as a model to imitate.

The battle Jan Lennard Struff put up in the Madrid final a few weeks ago shows that players who are able to serve proficiently and return aggressively, finishing off rallies in few strokes, not letting Alcaraz make a first move, stand their chance.

That’s how Fabian Maroszan rose to fame. Alcaraz may have been in energy saving mode that day, but the Hungarian earned his glory by constantly aiming to dictate, scything forehands while standing right on the baseline and landing dropshots, giving Carlos a taste of his own medicine.    

It is also interesting to recall how Emil Ruusuvuori won the first set against Alcaraz in the round of 32 in Madrid by hitting through returns with crisp anticipation, landing them on the baseline and continuously catching Alcaraz off guard. Another tactic to be taken into account.

A fascinating coincidence is that Alcaraz’s side of the draw is crammed with players who have inflicted defeat on him in the past. In order of potential clashes he could face in the third round Lorenzo Musetti, who beat him in the 2022 Hamburg final playing with an intensity he has not so often been able to maintain over a whole match.  The quarter final could present him with Felix Auger-Aliassime or Sebastien Korda. The American surprisingly beat him at his debut on clay in Montecarlo last year, but Alcaraz shortly took revenge, brushing him aside in Paris at the third round.

Aliassime beat Alcaraz on two occasions in the 2022 fall season. First in the Davis Cup group phase in Valencia, one week after the Spaniard’s triumph at the US Open, then at the Swiss Indoor in Basel.

In his press conference on Sunday, Juan Carlos Ferrero said that Alcaraz is a better player this year, perhaps hinting that his protegee is not likely to incur such setbacks anymore.

And indeed history does not generally bother the young, it’s them, who are making it.


Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils



Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis



Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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Andrey Rublev Reflects On Recent Struggles Ahead Of Monte Carlo Title Defence



Andrey Rublev admits he continues to struggle to maintain his emotions on the court after his disqualification from a tournament earlier this year.

The Russian world No.6 hopes to get back on track after a disappointing American swing where he won just one out of three matches played. In Indian Wells, Rublev beat ex-No.1 Andy Murray before falling in straight sets to Jiri Lehecka. Then in Miami, he lost his opening match against Tomas Machac. 

“At Indian Wells, I was so focused on trying to control my movements that I was completely stuck,” the 26-year-old recently commented
“I had no energy left, I had no strength. And in Miami, I exploded. I could no longer control myself, my actions, my nerves. I felt paralyzed, I couldn’t move.”

As to why Rublev felt so paralyzed, he acknowledges it could be linked to an incident that happened earlier in the season. At the Dubai Tennis Championships he was defaulted from his semi-final clash against Alexander Bublik for unsportsmanlike conduct after he was accused of saying an obscenity in his native language at an official. He then successfully appealed against the penalty and retained the ranking points and prize money he earned, barring a fine of $36,400 for a code violation.

“Maybe what happened in Dubai remains in my mind,” said Rublev. 

Rublev’s focus now switches to his title defence at the Monte Carlo Masters. It is the only Masters 1000 event he has won so far in his career. 

“I feel better. These last two weeks I have been training a lot. But it’s one thing to train well, it’s another to play well in a match.” He evaluated of his current form. 

Rublev has yet to defend a Tour-level title so far in his career. Should he do so, he will become only the fifth player in the Open Era to win multiple Monte Carlo trophies. 

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