Sunday’s final will be more contrasting than any before it, not only of the history of the Mutua Madrid Open, but of the entire Masters 1000 series. On one side of the net will be the defending champion and hot favourite for the title. He will square off against a lucky loser who has taken the utmost advantage of the second chance granted to him in the Caja Mágica.
The Manolo Santana Stadium will be the stage on which Carlos Alcaraz and Jan-Lennard Struff will lock horns as the Spaniard bids to claim his second title in Madrid while the German will be vying to open his ATP account by bringing his dream fortnight to a perfect conclusion.
“This is my second year on tour and it will be my fourth Masters 1000 final. But I don’t stop to think that I’m 20 and I’ve only just started out. I’ve fought to be in this position, that means I’m not dizzied by the heights of everything that I’ve been through or what is to come”, said the Murcia native before the final.
“It’s just crazy. I never would have expected to be in the finals as a lucky loser. If I have a second chance, I try to go for it. It’s just an incredible journey and story, here in Madrid, and I’m very, very happy. You shouldn’t give up, you should always try again”, explained the German, who will now break into the Top 30, the highest ranking of his career.
The MMOPEN final will be the third meeting of the two players. With one win each, Struff was the first to strike, in round three at Roland Garros (2021). Alcaraz got his own back last year in his Wimbledon opener.
“The last one at Wimbledon was very intense. It was a great match which I lost. It was very close, but a really, really good match. Carlos is now 20 years old. We played at Roland Garros when he was 18. For a young player like him, he changed so much in this time. When we see what he has achieved in these last two years, it’s just amazing. He has a lot of weapons. His serve and volleying, playing strong from the baseline, serving well, he has a dropshot. He’s very fast. He’s a great athlete”, remembered the man from Warstein.
Alcaraz was full of praise for his opponent’s run from qualies to the final, capitalising on his second chance. “Struff deserves to be there because he’s playing at a very high level and I’ll have to fight for the title. Just because I’ve had good results, it doesn’t mean I’m going to win. You have to focus and not take anything for granted”, he warned.
Struff’s propensity for perseverance is nothing new. The current world No. 65 started the year at number 160 in the rankings having been out for several months with a foot injury. “Last year was a rough year for me. I fractured my toe, my right big toe, and was about to start practising again and had some other problems in the foot which kept me from playing on clay. We had a very good preseason in Tenerife this year. I think this was a big key to having a good season like this, because we had a bit more time with the Davis Cup this year. But it went fast, I couldn’t have imagined it, but I worked a lot for this”.
Alcaraz has also enjoyed a meteoric rise; on his first appearance in Madrid in 2021 he bowed out to Rafa Nadal in the second round and, just two years later, he is now one step from a successful title defence in the Spanish capital. “I was practically a scared boy when I went out on court. But I’ve grown and I’ve learned from those experiences. I don’t miss those moments at all, because I’ve grown, I’m more mature and there are new things now that I’m able to deal with better”, he concluded.