An ‘A’ For Alcaraz: Carlos Aces Opening Test At Roland Garros
All eyes were on Carlos Alcaraz at Roland Garros, where the 19-year-old Spaniard passed his first test on Sunday with flying colours.
The sixth seed eliminated lucky loser Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 after one hour and 50 minutes to reach the second round at the clay-court major. Alcaraz will next face countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
“It was difficult at the beginning, but it’s always special to play in such a great stadium, a great court,” Alcaraz said. “I’m really happy with the performance in my first match in Philippe Chatrier, and hope to play more matches [on] this court.”
A lot has changed for the teen over the past year. At Roland Garros 12 months ago, Alcaraz was No. 97 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and had to qualify (which he did, advancing to the third round of the main draw). Now he is one of the leading favourites at the tournament, having won two of the season’s first five ATP Masters 1000 events.
One of those triumphs came in Madrid, where Alcaraz ousted Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in consecutive matches to stake his claim as a contender in Paris. His victory on Sunday did nothing to change that status, but he is not worrying about the attention.
“I am trying to be focussed just on the tournaments, on the matches, and [not] trying to be a part of the social media and everyone talking about you,” Alcaraz said. “[I] just focus on what I have to improve, what I have to do [in] the matches, what I have to do… every day to be ready in the tournament.”
Alcaraz faced an experienced opponent in Londero, who advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros three years ago on his Grand Slam main draw debut. But the 28-year-old Argentine was unable to find enough consistency to put his younger opponent, who won the final 10 games of the match, into much difficulty.
In the first set, Londero played with far more aggression than normal to prevent Alcaraz from dominating their baseline exchanges. And for the most part, that strategy proved sound.
But after missing a forehand long to give Alcaraz set point, Londero dumped a backhand into the net to relinquish the first break of the match and with it, the opening set. Alcaraz roared “Vamos!” and never looked back, taking full control from there.
The Spaniard never played outside of his typical game on Court Philippe Chatrier, relying on his powerful groundstrokes and deft drop shot. Londero missed a forehand wide to go down 2-4 in the second set and his level slipped from there.
Alcaraz, who struck 22 winners in the match, gave his team a quiet fist pump after watching a final Londero backhand sail long. He did not face a break point in his victory and converted six of his 12 chances.
It will not get easier against Ramos-Vinolas, who battled past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) after four hours and seven minutes.
Ironically, Alcaraz faces Ramos-Vinolas in his first ATP Tour main draw match two years ago in Rio de Janeiro. That day, the teen emerged victorious after three hours and 37 minutes on the Brazilian clay. Alcaraz also defeated Ramos-Vinolas in last year’s Umag semi-finals en route to his first tour-level title.