Carlos Alcaraz failed to win a match at the ATP event for the first time this year at the Paris Masters. World no. 2 fell to a qualifier Roman Safiullin 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes in the second round, likely blowing his year-end no.
1 chances. The Spaniard was aware of a challenging rival on the other side of the match, admitting the Russian's level did not surprise him, as he anticipated that from an in-form opponent. Roman came from a break down in both sets, playing composed tennis and celebrating his career-best triumph.
Safiullin pushed Alcaraz's serve to the limits, turning 43% of the return points into four breaks and bringing the victory home. The 20-year-old grabbed two early breaks in both sets, failing to maintain the lead and leaving Paris empty-handed, staying without an ATP title since July.
Safiullin played better in the shortest and more advanced rallies, bringing confidence from the opening three wins in Paris and trusting his strokes against a two-time Major winner. Roman had fewer errors than Carlos, outplaying him from the baseline and extending a dream run.
The young Spaniard clinched the first break at 1-1 in the opener after his rival's backhand error. Alcaraz stayed in front only for a couple of minutes, losing serve in game four after Safiullin's backhand winner. Carlos experienced more issues at 3-4, sending a routine backhand long and moving Roman in front.
The Russian served for the set in game nine and painted a backhand down the line winner for 6-3 in 37 minutes. Carlos created two break chances in the second set's second game and squandered them. World no. 2 fixed that the next time, delivering a break at 2-1 with a return down the line winner and forging the advantage.
Safiullin did not stay behind for too long, cracking a forehand winner at the net and erasing the deficit. The Russian pushed strong on the return at 3-3, constructing four break points. The Spaniard played a loose forehand on the last, finding himself 4-3 behind and closer to the exit door.
Carlos served to stay in the match at 3-5 and held at 30, hoping for one more chance on the return. Instead, Roman landed a service winner after deuce in game ten, celebrating a career-best victory and sending world no. 2 home.
"Roman did not surprise me. I was aware of his high level from the past couple of months, beating notable rivals and reaching the finals. I was ready for a tight challenge, and this was not a surprise," Carlos Alcaraz said.