Carlos Alcaraz learned the hard way the hardness of the masters tournament. Here there is no adaptation period or easy rivals to pick up the pace. Here you play against the best from minute one. And as much as he came from training with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic himself, the official matches are another story.
Alexander Zverev, master in 2018 and 2021, showed Alcaraz why this is one of the most difficult tournaments on the calendar (6-7 (3), 3-6 and 6-4) and forces the Spaniard to entrust himself to the two following matches to be able to be in the semifinals.
The German, with a series of direct serves and almost forty winners, disarmed Alcaraz, who showed signs of his best level, but choked when he had the victory within reach. After the bad feelings of Paris-Bercy, Turin was the opportunity to end the season on a high, but his start against Zverev was hopeless.
He gave his serve at the first opportunity and had to row and suffer to take the first set to the tiebreaker, after going through three set points that Zverev saved with his serve at 5-6. The ‘tie break’ was the Murcian’s great moment, showing initiative, aggressiveness and control on the court. During the ten points that it lasted, the Alcaraz was glimpsed biting and overwhelming other sections of the course.
That inertia, which made him win the set, lasted until the first game of the second set. He had a break point to have taken a more than considerable lead, but Zverev not only saved it, but began an escalation to the match from his lowest point. Helped greatly by Alcaraz, who gave away the next turn of service and did not bother the German’s serve again throughout the set.
Zverev, who had lost both matches against Alcaraz this year, showed his great tennis on this surface, when the ball was running the most, recovering the confidence he had prior to Roland Garros 2022, at which time he broke his ankle and was out for many months off the track.
Alcaraz was clearly upset, out of rhythm and unable to hit several good points in a row. Each service was little more than a delivery and with 2-2 the farewell to the match began. In the second opportunity that the German had, Alcaraz, who had connected a great serve, went up to the net and let Zverev’s shot pass, thinking that he was going out. He bounced on the line and drew a passive expression on the Spaniard’s face, who showed neither anger nor disappointment, as if he had known for minutes that this was the most likely result.
The German had not conceded a single break point since the first game of the second set and maintained that streak until the last game of the match. When he needed composure to close out the match, he allowed a small crack in his game in the form of 30-40, but his response was impeccable. A cannon shot with the service to the line, followed by two others, to knock down an Alcaraz who will remember his debut in the tournament with a serious gesture.
It was not his worst performance, but it was far from what is expected of El Palmar’s talent and even more so on a stage in which he is destined to reign and join his name with the only two Spaniards who have triumphed here: Manuel Orantes (1976 ) and Alex Corretja (1998).
The positive news for him is that this set win gives him another chance to advance to the semifinals, although victories against Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will be mandatory in the next two days.
He had already lost number one since Novak Djokovic beat Holger Rune this Sunday and that is why the Serbian received the trophy as a tennis player who ends the year on top before the match between Alcaraz and Zverev began.
“It is the crown of the season, finishing here is the dream of every player and one of the most difficult things to achieve,” said the Serbian, who has finished the course as the best eight times, two more than Pete Sampras, the next on the list.