Carlos Alcaraz goes for Spanish double, No. 1 spot at Madrid Open

Getty Images

MADRID – Carlos Alcaraz gets another chance to defend a title at home in Spain, and move closer to regaining the No. 1 ranking.

After winning in Barcelona for a second year in a row last week, the 19-year-old Alcaraz stayed in Spain to try to repeat as Madrid Open champion and practically guarantee a return to the top of the rankings.

Daniil Medvedev will be his top challenger at the clay-court tournament after the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic because of injuries. Defending women’s champion Ons Jabeur also won’t play in Madrid this year because of an injury.

The second-ranked Alcaraz is chasing Djokovic for the No. 1 spot after having traded the top ranking with him three times this season. If he wins the title in Madrid, Alcaraz would only need to play one match in Rome to be back at No. 1. The Spaniard can also get back to the top by playing at least one match in Madrid and winning in Rome.

Alcaraz had never successfully defended a title until winning the Barcelona Open this year, which gave him his third title of the season and ninth overall in his impressive young career. He was the first player to repeat as Barcelona champion since Nadal won there three times in a row from 2016-18.

“I’m a bit tired after Barcelona, but the focus is already on this tournament (in Madrid),” Alcaraz said. “I’ve gained a lot of experience since my win here last year. I’ve grown both as a player and as a person. I’m still the same person, but maybe a bit more mature.”

Alcaraz beat both Nadal and Djokovic on his way to his Madrid title last year. He said playing at home did not add any extra pressure.

“It’s always motivating to have my family, friends and local fans supporting me,” Alcaraz said. “I don’t see it as pressure. It’s a pleasure to be able to play in front of my people in Spain. It’s different than anywhere else. It’s a unique feeling.”

Four other players have a chance to become No. 1 heading into the French Open, including Medvedev, who did not play in Madrid last year. The others are Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, who would need to do well both in Madrid and Rome. Tsitsipas lost the Barcelona final to Alcaraz, while Rublev is coming off a title in Monte Carlo and Ruud won in Estoril.

Jabeur pulled out because of an injured left calf, though both Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, the two highest-ranked players in the world, will be playing in the tournament at the Caja Magica (“Magic Box”) tennis complex in the Spanish capital.

The tournament was expanded this year, with a bigger main draw and longer schedule.

In the first round of the women’s draw on Tuesday, Ana Bogdan rallied to defeat Anna Bondar 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in a match that lasted more than three hours. Sorana Cirstea beat American Lauren Davis 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, while Karolina Muchova defeated Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-2.

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

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.