Alcaraz Goes The Distance For Spanish Homecoming Victory

18-year-old wins in first ATP Tour match in native Spain for nearly one year

Carlos Alcaraz started and finished at his electric best in a successful Spanish homecoming on Wednesday at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. But in between, South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon showcased his own talent to add some drama on Pisa Rafa Nadal.

Playing in his home nation for the first time since last May, the 18-year-old Alcaraz earned his first career Barcelona victory, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, to get back on track after an early Monte Carlo exit to start the European clay swing. He improves to 19-3 on the season as he seeks his third ATP tour title of 2022.

"I started playing very well. The match was in my favour," Alcaraz said of his lightning start which saw him lead, 6-1, 2-0. "It was tough to keep up in the score at the second set. I think he started to play really well, as well. And then I [started] very well at the third.

"It was a close match, I think, even if the score was a little bit easy," he continued, noting the difficulty of playing in Wednesday's windy, cold and wet conditions.

Ranked No. 119 entering Barcelona one year ago, Alcaraz came into this week at a career-high of No. 11 in the ATP Rankings. The fifth seed was the main attraction on centre court and enjoyed a rapturous welcome from a packed Spanish crowd.

The always energetic Alcaraz seemed to have an extra spring in his step for his home debut on the 2022 ATP Tour season, bouncing around at the coin toss and carrying that lively attitude into a blistering start. He simply overwhelmed Kwon in the early stages of the match, getting within two points of a 6-0 opening set behind his untouchable ground game. 

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Just as it seemed Alcaraz would ease to victory, Kwon came from nowhere to completely change the colour of the match. Incredibly, he won six games in a row to force a deciding set. As the South Korean found his footing, pushing back at Alcaraz for the first time in the rallies, errors began to creep into the Spaniard's game — most of them forced by Kwon's aggressive hitting.

But drawing upon the support of the Barcelona crowd, Alcaraz stemmed the tide early in the deciding set. Rediscovering his range on the forehand and finding success with his drop shot, the Spaniard wrestled back control with a pair of early breaks, running out a comfortable winner in the end.

Alcaraz will next face countryman Jaume Munar, a 6-1, 6-4 winner over ninth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili earlier on Wednesday.


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