'I expected Carlos Alcaraz to beat me easily,' admits his young opponent



by JOVICA ILIC

'I expected Carlos Alcaraz to beat me easily,' admits his young opponent
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

An 18-year-old Juncheng Shang used his Australian Open wild card nicely. A teenager scored two wins, becoming the first Chinese male player in the third round of a Major. Shang met world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz in the third round and suffered a 6-1, 6-1, 1-0 loss, retiring after 66 minutes.

Juncheng expected a one-sided affair, starting the match with his right thigh heavily strapped and receiving treatment after the fifth game of the second set. Despite the setback, Shang was pleased with his Australian Open run, scoring his first five-setter victory and earning a chance to battle against world no.

2 at Rod Laver Arena. A teenager did not want to end his first trip to a notable stadium with a retirement, hoping to return many times in the future. Instead of a tight encounter, Alcaraz took charge right from the start and dominated an injured opponent, facing someone younger than him for the first time in a career!

Juncheng Shang, Australian Open 2024© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Carlos lost five points in his games, never facing a break point and keeping the pressure on the other side. The Spaniard tamed the rival's serves with easy, winning 58% of the return points and securing six breaks from 12 opportunities.

The Chinese made a promising start, closing the encounter's first game at 15 with an unreturned serve. Carlos responded with a powerful serve in game two and created his first break chance at 1-1 with a forehand lob. The Spaniard placed a deep return, delivering a break and moving in front.

Shang struggled behind the initial shot again at 1-3, defending four break points before Alcaraz converted the fifth with a forced error, forging a 4-1 advantage. Juncheng served to stay in the opener in game seven, and Carlos grabbed his third consecutive break with a sharp return for 6-1 after a swift 27 minutes.

Juncheng Shang spoke about his duel against Carlos Alcaraz.

Shang held in the second game of the second set for 1-1 before Alcaraz moved 2-1 up with a service winner in the next one. The Spaniard grabbed a break in game four with a forced error and cemented it with a forehand down the line winner a few minutes later for 4-1.

Juncheng required a medical timeout on his troubled thigh and continued. Firing from all cylinders, Carlos broke at 15 in game six for a 5-1 advantage and landed two service winners in the next one to secure the set and move 6-1, 6-1 in front after 59 minutes.

The Spaniard grabbed an early break in the third set with a forehand return winner. The Chinese missed a forehand in the first point of the second game, deciding to end his misery and retire.

Juncheng Shang, Australian Open 2024© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

"I had expected a lopsided score before the match because I was below 80% physically.

It was a pity I could not finish the match; it was not the way I wanted it to end. However, I'm happy with the start of the season and a week in Melbourne. I scored my first five-setter victory and learned a lot from top-50 rivals and battling against world no. 2 at Rod Laver Arena. I would not have believed this a month ago, and I'm very pleased," Juncheng Shang said.

Carlos Alcaraz Australian Open