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Alcaraz Lights Up The Madrid Night, Sets Zverev Rematch | ATP Tour

Alcaraz Lights Up The Madrid Night, Sets Zverev Rematch | ATP Tour

After escaping Emil Ruusuvuori in a three-set comeback to begin his title defence at the Mutua Madrid Open, Carlos Alcaraz advanced to the last 16 with a thoroughly entertaining win on Sunday against Grigor Dimitrov. In a 6-2, 7-5 victory, the stylish Alcaraz imposed his athletic game to make a fast start then showed his grit to instantly recover a break in the second set.

He will next face Alexander Zverev in a rematch of last year’s Madrid final, won by Alcaraz in straight sets. Zverev leads the ATP Head2Head 3-1, including a win in their most recent meeting in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals.

“I really want to play that match. We played a few times, head-to-head he is up,” Alcaraz said of the showdown encounter. “I really want to show my great level here in front of my home crowd. I have great memories from last year in the final but obviously I have to be really focussed in that match. I know that Sascha is a really good player, a really aggressive one with good serves. I have to show all my skills.”

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Alcaraz is seeking to complete the Barcelona-Madrid double for the second straight season after retaining the title at the Barcelona ATP 500 last Sunday. He has won 17 straight matches on Spanish soil across four campaigns and must push that number to 21 to earn the title in Madrid.

Picking up where he left off in closing out Ruusuvuori, Alcaraz used his all-action game to take command against Dimitrov in a one-sided opening set on Manolo Santana stadium.

Alcaraz spoke before the tournament about feeling motivation rather than pressure from the expectant Spanish crowd, and he showed it by playing freely against the Bulgarian. A highlight moment came early on when he brandished his racquet like a magic wand, feigning a cross-court slice before lifting a down-the-line pass beyond his stranded opponent.

Alcaraz continued to thrill his home crowd throughout the match, with the aggressive Dimitrov playing his part by forcing the Spaniard to rely on his world-class speed and defensive skills. The top seed kept a smile on his face throughout the 90-minute contest and raced through the finish line by winning five of the last six games.

The opponents are good friends and have practised together this week in Madrid, an experience Alcaraz said helped him fine-tune his tactics.

“When we practised, it helped me a lot in the tactical game, what I had to do,” he said. “Obviously I was focussed on myself all the time, trying to hit the ball really clear and with a lot of power. That was the goal at the beginning of the match, trying to play aggressive all the time.”

Dimitrov was seeking to repeat his heroics from 2013 in Madrid, when he beat then-World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for his biggest win. He was denied a fourth win against a Top 2 opponent and stopped two rounds short of matching his Madrid quarter-final run from 2015.

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