After great start, Carlos Alcaraz heads to Paris among favorites

Getty Images
1 Comment

MADRID — It’s been a quick rise for Carlos Alcaraz.

It wasn’t long ago that the 19-year-old Spaniard was playing in youth tennis tournaments and talking about his idols Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and about his dream of one day making it into the top 10 and winning the French Open and Wimbledon.

It was only a year ago that he broke into the top 120 for the first time and began making his way into the main tournaments.

Few at the time could predict what the future held for the young Spaniard. But come next week in Paris, Alcaraz will be among the favorites to win the French Open.

The Spaniard is tennis’ newest sensation and the hottest player on tour this year, considered by many the successor of Nadal.

Alcaraz won the Madrid Open for his tour-leading fourth title of the season, lifting the trophy after back-to-back victories over Nadal, top-ranked Novak Djokovic and third-ranked Alexander Zverev.

“I remember the first time when I was playing, when I was a kid in (the Spanish city of) Murcia, and of course I didn’t imagine at that moment that I was going to be able to reach this level, to be here right now, winning the Madrid Open,” he said.

Alcaraz is the second youngest player to reach the top 10 and second youngest to win two Masters 1000 tournaments. Only Nadal did both at a younger age in 2005 when he was 18.

“I can see him becoming big in a very short time,” fifth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas said. “I’d really like to get to the level he is right now. I think he’s one of the best players in the world, to be honest. He has proved it with consistent results, thriving in the biggest tournaments. There is nothing you can take away from that.”

Alcaraz leads the tour with 28 victories this year, one more than Tsitsipas. His only three losses came against Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo, Nadal in Indian Wells and Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open.

He is the youngest player in the history of the ATP Tour to defeat three of the top five players at the same event, and the first to eliminate Nadal and Djokovic at the same clay-court event.

Djokovic and Nadal had only praise for the youngster, with Djokovic saying it was “impressive for somebody of his age to play so maturely and courageously.” Nadal said Spain should celebrate having “an amazing player for a lot of years to come.”

Alcaraz was on the front pages of most sports dailies in Spain, taking the main headlines even though Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid faced each other in the Spanish league derby.

“Blessed,” the AS newspaper said of Alcaraz.

Looking more mature than his age, Alcaraz has impressed with a complete game that is highlighted by a devastating forehand and precise drop shots. He didn’t concede a single break opportunity to Zverev in Sunday’s final in Madrid.

Alcaraz will not play in Rome this week so he can fully heal from a right ankle injury he sustained in the quarterfinals against Nadal in the Spanish capital.

The youngster will head to Roland Garros, where Nadal is a record 13-time champion, at a career-high No. 6. He reached the third round in Paris in his debut last year, losing to Jan-Lennard Struff in three sets.

“I think that people are going to think that I’m going to be one of the favorites to win Roland Garros,” Alcaraz said. “I don’t see it as pressure, I see it as motivation. I really look forward to going to Paris, to fighting for the Grand Slam, and I am really looking forward to showing my great level in a Grand Slam as well.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”