Alcaraz Makes History In Umag, Reaches First ATP Tour Final
#NextGenATP star Carlos Alcaraz turned to his team and roared after hitting a final backhand winner on Saturday evening in Umag. The 18-year-old will not soon forget that moment, when he clinched a berth in his first tour-level final.
Alcaraz clawed past top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 7-6(3) to advance to the championship match at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag and become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008.
"I have a lot of emotions right now," Alcaraz said. "It is my first ATP final, so I am enjoying everything here in Umag. I am really happy right now."
The teen first broke onto the scene last February as a 16-year-old ranked outside of the Top 400 in Rio de Janeiro, where he defeated Ramos-Vinolas in a three-hour, 37-minute marathon. Alcaraz showed his growth in Croatia, where he overpowered his countryman for much of the match before battling through the second-set tie-break to triumph after exactly two hours.
Ramos-Vinolas, who triumphed earlier this year in Estoril, was trying to reach his 11th ATP Tour final, and he fought hard to recover a break deficit on three occasions in the second set, including when Alcaraz served for the match at 6-2, 7-5.
The teen, seeded seventh this week, said on Friday that he learned from losing his first tour-level semi-final earlier this year in Marbella. And Alcaraz proved it against Ramos-Vinolas, staying composed despite his missed opportunities. The World No. 73 went for his shots in the biggest moments, and was rewarded with a trip to the final.
Alcaraz will play an experienced opponent on Sunday in former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet.
"I know Gasquet is a really good tennis player. He's played a lot of finals and won a lot of tournaments. This one is my first ATP final," Alcaraz said. "I think he has a lot of experience. I have to handle the nerves and everything [well]."
The fourth seed battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmaier 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes to reach the championship match. This will be Gasquet's first tour-level final since Bastad in 2018.
Gasquet, a 35-year-old, is the second-oldest finalist in tournament history, only trailing Paolo Lorenzi, who was 35 in 2017. The Frenchman is a 15-time ATP Tour titlist and this will be his 32nd tour-level final. Gasquet had lost five consecutive semi-finals before this match, but he relied on all his experience to battle through this marathon against a motivated Altmaier.
The veteran saved seven of his 10 break points, but he was only able to convert three of his 17 opportunities. In the deciding set, Gasquet won 43 per cent of his return points to triumph.