Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev played a rematch of last year’s final at the Mutua Madrid Open, and it was a similar encounter. The Spaniard has fired a clear warning shot on the Madrid clay, outclassing the German to a 6-1, 6-2 win in just 80 minutes to book himself a place in the quarter-finals.
“My level was better than in the match against Dimitrov”, acknowledged the Spaniard, comforted by the quality of his tennis on court. “It’s difficult to better today’s level, but you can always improve. The small mistakes I made, which were few, I have to try not to make them in the next match. Today’s level is more than good enough to leave the court feeling happy”.
Alcaraz played fearless tennis against a player whose record in the Spanish capital can be matched only by a select few. The German came into the tie with a 21-3 record in the Caja Mágica, two titles under his belt (2018 and 2021), and a frightening serve that few players have been able to cope with in the altitude of Madrid.
Zverev defeated Alcaraz in an epic French Open quarter-final in 2022, when the German took the spoils in four sets before withdrawing from his semi-final at Roland Garros with a serious ankle injury. It was a different story, however, this year at the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid.
“When Zverev is on top of his game, he doesn’t give you much room for mistakes”, explained the Spaniard, who has taken his Head2Head with the German to 2-3 with today’s win. “He has some great shots, his serve and backhand are spectacular. He’s a solid player and when he makes more errors than you should, you can tell he’s not playing his best. When you pressure him all the time, if he’s playing his best it’s not easy to handle it”.
“I barely gave him time for anything. I returned very well. When a player lives off his serve and you return everything, it levels the match out. When he’s playing well and doesn’t gift you anything he’s one of the best in the world”.
The Murcia native seemed unfazed by the imposing stature of his opponent, and took control of the match from the first point. Juan Carlos Ferrero’s understudy broke the serve of the man from Hamburg at the first time of asking, and he did not take his foot off the pedal until he had turned the match into a procession. The number one seed sealed a first set in which he dropped just two points on his own serve, much to the delight of a packed Manolo Santana Stadium.
The world No. 2’s coverage of the baseline against one of the biggest hitters in the locker room was nothing short of astonishing and he built himself an insurmountable lead in a match that was over almost as soon as it had started. The Murcia native will now ride a wave of confidence into the remaining rounds of the tournament, where he will be bidding to protect his throne.
“For every player, the most challenging opponent is yourself”, explained Alcaraz, aware of the intangibles that have to be handled in the quest for glory. “Controlling your mind on your own is the most difficult thing in tennis. You have to be calm, positive. If you let a negative thought enter your mind and start down that road, it’s the worst thing that can happen to you. In every match and at every tournament, you are your own worst enemy”.
Alcaraz will now play in the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals against world No. 10 Karen Khachanov, a 7-6(8), 6-4 victor over Andrey Rublev in the match that opened the day’s play in the Manolo Santana Stadium. Having failed to escape the second round on his previous five visits to the Caja Mágica, Khachanov is now enjoying his best run in the Spanish capital.
The Spaniard has a 2-0 lead in his ATP Head2Head with his next opponent, which is comprised purely of matches on clay; victories in the fourth round of the French Open and the quarter-finals of the ATP 500 in Hamburg last season.