Alcaraz Advances At US Open After Baez Retirement
Leading an entertaining US Open matchup against Sebastian Baez 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 on Tuesday, Carlos Alcaraz advanced to the second round at the final Grand Slam of the year when his opponent retired due to a leg injury.
The 19-year-old Spaniard had prevailed in two scintillating sets on Arthur Ashe Stadium against the World No. 37 Baez. Both players produced plenty of high-quality all-court tennis, but it was the 2021 quarter-finalist Alcaraz who had found something extra to clinch a crucial break of serve in the 12th game of both sets.
“No one wants to see the end of a match like this,” said Alcaraz in his on-court interview. “I think both players don’t deserve the end like this, but I just say that Sebastian is a great player. He fights until the last ball, so he decided the best thing.”
The first two sets had been a showcase of two of the biggest-hitting young talents on the ATP Tour. Both Alcaraz and 21-year-old Baez struck the ball crisply from the baseline, but they also demonstrated plenty of variety in stifling conditions in New York. Particularly in the second set, Baez used his lob to good effect to manoeuvre Alcaraz around the court as he broke for a 4-3 lead, but Alcaraz’s trademark retrieving helped him recover to take the set 7-5.
“It was really, really tough. The second set, it was really tough for me to stay at the level, physically and mentally,” said Alcaraz, who converted his fourth set point with a screaming forehand winner that he followed with a crowd-pleasing roar. “Obviously the energy I received from [the fans] was something special. Thanks to that I handled that heat and that tough moment.”
Baez began to struggle physically at the start of the third set and the Argentine opted not to risk further injury by continuing on his tournament main-draw debut. Alcaraz’s next assignment at Flushing Meadows is a second-round match against Federico Coria, after the Argentine defeated Tallon Griekspoor 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.
Should Alcaraz make it as far as the final in New York, the 19-year-old will have a chance of becoming the youngest No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on 12 September. That would cap 12 months of stunning progress for the Spaniard, who was No. 55 when he reached his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
“I remember last year was one of the best moments of my life and of my career,” said Alcaraz. “One year later being No. 4 in the world is something special for me. To come back here to Arthur Ashe, one of the biggest stadiums in the world, is unbelievable for me.”