Carlos Alcaraz continues to keep his name in illustrious company. The 20-year-old has become only the second man to win the Mutua Madrid Open in consecutive years, joining his legendary compatriot Rafa Nadal to achieve that.
Alcaraz stepped on the accelerator when he really needed to in the final set to win his second straight title in the Spanish capital defeating Jan-Lennard Struff, who also had quite an achievement, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours 24 minutes. Struff was the first lucky loser to reach the final of a prestigious ATP Masters 1000 final.
In his acceptance speech he turned to his mother and thanked
her. He said: "I know you can't be at all the tournaments I play but I am very happy you are here today."
Alcaraz has become the youngest player to defend a 1000 title since Nadal did that in Monte Carlo and Rome in 2005-06.
Struff certainly gave Alcaraz a stern test for two and a half sets. The German had the advantage early on before Alcaraz rallied back to win the first set, but Struff then got off to a flying start in the second. He went up 3-0 and then 4-1 as he applied the pressure on by levelling the final.
The turning point was the third game of the final set when Struff had a break point. When Alcaraz saved that, the crowd got even more involved, and they lifted the Spaniard. It was a very noticeable turnaround from Alcaraz. There was even more purpose in his returns and how he was approaching his shots. It wasn't that Struff dropped off, it was definitely Alcaraz switching on.
In the very next game Alcaraz pounced on the Struff serve and broke to go up 3-1 and held for 4-1. He was on a run now. Struff had to save break points in the next game as well. This was the first match in Madrid this year where Struff had been broken in the final set.
Alcaraz served for the match at 5-3 and it was an emphatic service game. He won it to love with a drop shot, then an ace, then an easy overhead put away before Struff sent a return long on championship point.
Alcaraz dropped to the court on his back and savoured the moment and the applause.
"I knew he was going to play aggressive, serve and volley, trying to attack my serve," Alcaraz said. "I knew everything he has done today. So, all I can say is I had to be really, really focused, you know, on every shot from him, trying to, you know, push him to a limit, try not let him play his game. But it was tough for me to do it. I just tried to return every serve, trying to, you know, make good passing shots. But nothing he has done surprised me at all."
He maintains his record in Masters 1000 finals having never lost one out of the four he has played and joins only Michael Chang and Jim Courier with at least a 4-0 win-loss record in 1000 finals (Chang and Courier were 5-0). This is his tenth career title and fourth from five finals this season, and he has now won his last 21 matches in Spanish clay tournaments.
The victory puts Alcaraz within five points of regaining the world No.1 ranking and for Struff it means a new career high ranking of 28, outdoing his previous best by one.
"I think it will sink in the next days. Just realizing, it's strange, it's two weeks tournament, I have just been in doubles that far, in Australian Open, for example. I was in semis," Struff said. "It was a new feeling for me to be that long in tournament. It felt like it was way longer than two weeks, I would say, because it feels like I'm four weeks in Madrid right now. But it was a great time.
"Yeah, of course I wanted to go all the way to win today, but I would definitely say if someone told me two weeks ago, you're gonna play the finals, I would take it, yeah, definitely. Yeah, I'm proud the way I played, proud the way I presented myself today, and yeah, that's way to go, yeah."
The doubles title was claimed by the Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, its their biggest title together and they defeated Rohan Bopanna and Matt Ebden 6-3, 3-6, 10/3.