Carlos Alcaraz missed four months due to injury, but he has picked up where he left off.
The Spaniard advanced to the Argentina Open final on Saturday when he cruised past countryman Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-2, 6-2 in 77 minutes. The top seed will try to secure his first title of 2023 in his first tournament since last year's Rolex Paris Masters.
“It’s a really special moment for me,” Alcaraz said. “I was a little bit down after the injury, so I had to recover in those four months the confidence and the rhythm. Coming back for my first tournament of 2023 and making the final is so special for me.”
The 19-year-old knows he will face a tough challenger in the championship clash against second seed Cameron Norrie. The Spaniard leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1, but Norrie claimed their most recent meeting last year in Cincinnati.
“I played a couple of times against him. [He is] a really, really tough player," Alcaraz said. "I know that I have to give everything I have in the final. I’m going to say it’s going to be a really tough final, but at the same time a beautiful one.”
Despite losing a set in his first match of the tournament against Laslo Djere, Alcaraz has gained momentum on the Argentina clay. A winner in Rio de Janeiro last year, Alcaraz will try to add another South American crown to his trophy case.
After one point early in the second set, Alcaraz hit an open-stance backhand winner up the line on the full stretch. Zapata Miralles threw his hands up in disbelief, knowing his opponent was finding an answer for all the questions he was asking with his own game.
Alcaraz was relentless with his pressure from the baseline, punishing every ball that did not drive him back. He won 55 per cent of his return points and broke serve five times.
Photo Credit: Argentina Open/Sergio Llamera
Norrie is also finding his clay-court footing in Buenos Aires. The second seed advanced to the final with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory against Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas.
"It’s going to be a tough one for sure regardless of who I play," Norrie said before knowing Alcaraz will be his opponent. "I lost a tough final in Auckland, so hopefully I can get some good feelings back tomorrow in the final."
Norrie needed three sets to battle through his first two matches of the week at the ATP 250. However, the lefty raised his level in the semi-finals against a gritty foe in Varillas, who reached a career-high No. 94 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in January.
The Peruvian rallied the crowd to his side and clawed back deficits throughout the match, saving two set points when serving at 4-5 in the opening set and another at 5-6. But Norrie, who has team members from Argentina, never let slip his focus. He saved two break points in the final game to triumph after one hour and 54 minutes.