Alcaraz Returns To Action With Beijing Debut Win

Spaniard faces Musetti next

Exactly three weeks after he exited the US Open in the semi-finals, Carlos Alcaraz made a winning return to action on Friday at the China Open. The Spaniard defeated qualifier Yannick Hanfmann 6-4, 6-3 at the Beijing ATP 500 to begin his late-season charge to return to the top of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

With victory in his first ATP Tour match in China, Alcaraz improved to 14-0 this season in first-round matches and 59-7 overall, his 59 wins leading the ATP Tour. Alcaraz also leads the ATP Tour in titles (8) and finals (6) this season, both personal bests.

The Official App Of Tennis | Download ATP WTA Live App

He began the Asian swing behind World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, but could close that gap to 315 points by winning his first title since Wimbledon in Beijing.

"Hopefully I have a lot of years to come here to China. Creating my chapter here in China would be great for me," Alcaraz said after receiving a warm welcome on his debut in the nation. "To finally be able to come here to China and show my tennis in front of the Chinese people is something that I wanted a long time ago and I'm really happy to do it, hopefully the first of many here."

Alcaraz made a strong start in Beijing with an early break, but showed signs of rust as he twice lost a break lead in the opening set. At 4-4, a punishing forehand broke the resistance of Germany's Hanfmann, who battled to save eight of 11 break points in the set.

Both players improved on serve in set two, with Alcaraz's early and late breaks proving enough to claim the set and the match. The top seed did not face a break point in the second set as he worked through the gears, dialling in both on serve and from the ground. He finished the match with five breaks of serve in 16 chances.

Hanfmann pushed Alcaraz with powerful baseline hitting and a few successful drop shots, but Alcaraz was better in both aspects overall and ultimately won the pair's first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting in one hour, 37 minutes.

"I'm really happy to be able to win this match in straight sets," Alcaraz assessed. "Yannick's playing great. He's a really dangerous player, big shots. He was playing big bombs in this match so I had to be really focussed, trying to not let him dominate the match.

"I tried to be really focussed on every part of my game. I have to improve a little bit so I'm really happy to do it and have another chance to be better in the next round."

The Spaniard will next face Italy's Lorenzo Musetti, a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 winner against Karen Khachanov earlier on Friday. Khachanov saw his perfect start to the Asian swing end after he won the Zhuhai title on Tuesday, beating Yoshihito Nishioka in the final.

Also in the top quarter of the draw, Casper Ruud closed Friday's play with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win against Jan-Lennard Struff. The seventh seed will next meet Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry, with the winner of that match to take on Alcaraz or Musetti. Norway's Ruud is now 9-9 this season on hard courts.

Andrey Rublev was also a Friday winner in Beijing. The fifth seed earned a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory against Cameron Norrie, setting up a second-round meeting with Ugo Humbert. Rublev improved to 3-2 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series against Great Britain's Norrie with the result, gaining revenge after a defeat in Indian Wells in their most recent meeting.

More stories like this in: