Under the floodlights of the Manolo Santana Stadium, Carlos Alcaraz managed to inject some much-needed flair back into his game. The first seed defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 7-5 under the night sky of the Spanish capital to book himself a place in the last sixteen in an enclave he is bidding to make his own once again. Spurred on by the Madrid fans, the home favourite produced a thoroughly convincing performance and will now be looking to kick on and grow his legacy at home.
“It was a really complete match. My game felt good and I moved well and hit the ball well. I played my own game, which is playing aggressively and hitting big shots”, explained the Spaniard. “This match has given me a lot of confidence for what is to come”.
Only halfway through the tournament, expectations are already through the roof in Madrid. Alcaraz will now star in a repeat of the 2022 final against Alexander Zverev in round four, a huge match despite the fact that there is still a long way to go.
The Murcia native put all memories of Friday’s match in the Caja Mágica behind him. In his opener against Finnish player Emil Ruusuvuori, he came dangerously close to a shock defeat. Two days later, though, Alcaraz took to the clay of Madrid with a completely different attitude; playing every shot with conviction, injecting unbridled energy into his game and, in doing so, firing a warning shot towards anyone who dares threaten his throne. His pace around the court was astonishing, his body language was positive, and his dazzling array of shots managed to wrong-foot the agile Bulgarian on several occasions.
In a packed stadium, Alcaraz took to the court determined to mark his territory. The Spaniard broke Dimitrov’s opening serve and must have felt that the first set was already his. He soon made it that way, taking a 1-0 lead with two breaks and completely unscathed on his own serve.
The second set proved to be more of a test for the number one seed. Dimitrov came out fighting and finally found a way to break his adversary and slip into a 4-2 lead. However, an unfazed Alcaraz bounced back immediately, winning the next game to love to restore parity.
Juan Carlos Ferrero’s understudy immediately nullified the threat Grigor had worked so hard for and closed out the match without having to resort to a tiebreak. Alcaraz’s final burst, in which he took five of the last six games of the match, underlined the confidence he feels when playing in the Caja Mágica.
The Spaniard now faces a monumental challenge in Madrid. The Murcia native will take on Zverev in search of a place in the quarter-finals, his next step in a draw replete with danger. The German leads their ATP Head2Head 3-1, including their titanic duel in the quarter-finals of last year’s French Open, which went to the German.
“It will be completely different to last year’s final. He’s playing very well. We’re going to have to play our best tennis”, said Alcaraz. “We practised here and he won the set in training, although it’s different in a match. Everyone knows what a great player Zverev is, the great shots he has. I have to try and dominate, play my best match on return and see what happens. I can’t wait to play him”.