Alcaraz Makes History, Leads Teen Surge At Roland Garros
The #NextGenATP Spaniard upset 28th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday to become the youngest man to reach the third round at this tournament since 17-year-old Andrei Medvedev in 1992. Alcaraz is also the youngest man to advance this far at Grand Slam since 17-year-old Rafael Nadal at the 2004 Australian Open.
"Obviously it's good, the numbers, but I still focus on me," Alcaraz said. "That means that I'm going the right way. I am doing the right things, and I keep [doing] this. I'm still growing up as a player and as a person, and that's the important thing."
The Murcia-native is not the only teen who has made his mark this week, though. Lorenzo Musetti and Jannik Sinner, both 19-year-old Italians, also advanced to the third round on Thursday. The last time three teens reached the Round of 32 on the terre battue was in 2001, when Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Tommy Robredo did it.
This is Alcaraz's main draw debut on the Parisian clay. Eight months ago, he lost in the first round of qualifying here. The #NextGenATP star consistently showed positive emotions throughout the match with fist pumps and roars of "Vamos!", none more visible than after clinching his victory after one hour and 56 minutes.
“Today the positive emotions were really, really important because Nikoloz is a really, really good tennis player,” Alcaraz said. “He has a lot of great skills. He hits the ball really, really hard, and if you don't focus, if you are not focused, it's hard to play against him. You have to be focused all the time.”
After a tough four-set battle in the first round against fellow Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles, Alcaraz came out firing against Basilashvili. The Georgian is one of the most powerful players on the ATP Tour, and he has enjoyed success on clay, having lifted the ATP 500 trophy in Hamburg twice (2018 and 2019).
But his teen opponent had no problem going shot-for-shot with the 29-year-old. Alcaraz was comfortable in rallies, forcing Basilashvili into mistakes. And any time the five-time ATP Tour titlist played a bit safer, the Spaniard stepped into the court and ripped the ball. He finished with 27 winners to Basilashvili's 16.
Alcaraz let slip a break advantage at 4-3 in the third set, but he regained that edge immediately and pointed to his head as a sign of his mental strength before completing the win.
"If I went down in that game, it was [going to be] really, really hard," Alcaraz said. "I was focused, and that's a good skill for me."
The World No. 97, who first cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings last week, will next play another big-hitter in German Jan-Lennard Struff, who eliminated Argentine Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 7-6(1), 6-4 after two hours and 18 minutes.
Struff is a similar player to Basilashvili, and he carried plenty of confidence after beating seventh seed Andrey Rublev in the first round. The 31-year-old is trying to make the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the second time (also 2019 Roland Garros).