Carlos Alcaraz defends Madrid title, ready to take No. 1 spot from Novak Djokovic
Carlos Alcaraz turned 20 on May 5, and he celebrated the end of his teen years by winning his second consecutive Madrid Open title just two days later, defeating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
It wasn't an easy final for Alcaraz, who lost to Struff in the third round of the 2021 French Open. Struff has a monster serve and is a great returner (the commentators on Sunday couldn't stop comparing him to Pete Sampras), which allows him to dictate the pace with shorter points. That stymies Alcaraz's game, because he's all about longer rallies that allow him to show off his range of movement and killer drop shot.
After taking a close first set, Alcaraz struggled throughout the second set, looking lost and even confused at times against Struff, who was absolutely dominating. Alcaraz has an impressive tennis toolbox, but it was useless against Struff because Alcaraz had no time to use it. Instead of being able to set himself, Alcaraz was chasing balls all around the court, dashing from one side to the other like he was playing, well, himself.
Five break points saved 🤺@Struffitennis digs out a HUGE hold for a 4-1 lead on Alcaraz in the second set!#MMOpen pic.twitter.com/rfOeOm6U3p
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 7, 2023
⚠️ Caution: HOT STRUFF ⚠️@Struffitennis levels the Madrid final 4-6 6-3 vs Alcaraz!#MMOpen pic.twitter.com/ftVUIY0o4T
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 7, 2023
Alcaraz managed to find himself again by the third set and shut down Struff to win his 10th career title — becoming the sixth-youngest man to win 10 tour-level titles in the Open Era.
Carlos Alcaraz hits one of the most delicate & controlled backhand drop volleys I’ve seen in a long time
His athletic ability is so great that he really could’ve played any sport & been great.
Let’s all be thankful he chose tennis 😅
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) May 5, 2023
After winning Madrid in 2022 (where he'd beaten both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic), Alcaraz opted to rest up for the French Open. But this year, he's powering right on through. He told Amazon Prime on Sunday that he wants to go to Rome and play in the Italian Open, the final tournament before Roland Garros.
Alcaraz planning to go to Rome.
‘I really want to go to Rome. I have never played there, I really want to play there in front of the Italian crowd’.
- Carlos Alcaraz to @CWhitakerSport on Prime.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) May 7, 2023
Alcaraz will take No. 1 spot from Djokovic
Alcaraz is poised to retake the ATP No. 1 spot at the Rome Masters after spending 11 of the last 12 weeks ranked No. 2 behind 2023 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic. And he doesn't have to play a single game to do it.
Djokovic, who dropped 360 ranking points after missing the Madrid Open with an elbow injury, holds just a five-point lead on Alcaraz. Since Alcaraz will gain 10 points by simply showing up in Rome, he'll retake No. 1 no matter what.
But Alcaraz obviously has his sights set higher than being No. 1 by just showing up. Despite having never played at the Italian Open, Alcaraz has a decent chance of winning just by looking at his recent results. After missing the 2023 Australian Open due to an elbow injury, he beat Cam Norrie to won a title in Buenos Aires back in February. He lost to Norrie in the finals at Rio just a few weeks later, then bounced back by winning three of his next four tournaments.
Alcaraz is on a tear. Someone can try to stop him as the clay season wraps up in Rome and Paris, but they may not have any luck. Alcaraz is clearly in the zone and thriving on his favorite surface.