Carlos Alcaraz sets to defend clay-court title after Australian Open



by JOVICA ILIC

Carlos Alcaraz sets to defend clay-court title after Australian Open
© Marcelo Endelli / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

World no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz will seek the title defense at the 24th edition of the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires between February 12 and 18. Carlos will be the top seed, and the remaining seven are all ranked in the top-35. Nicolas Jarry, Francisco Cerundolo, last year's finalist Cameron Norrie, Sebastian Baez, Tomas Etcheverry, Laslo Djere and Arthur Fils will challenge the Spaniard.

Carlos must bring a high level to lift another trophy in Argentina, with Yannick Hanfmann, Stan Wawrinka, Roberto Carballes Baena and Pedro Cachin also on the entry list. Alcaraz missed last year's Australian Open due to an injury, returning to action in Buenos Aires.

The young gun battled hard against Laslo Djere in the second round, prevailing after two hours. Carlos ousted Dusan Lajovic in the quarter-final and took down Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the semi-final to set the title clash against Cameron Norrie.

The Spaniard defeated the Briton 6-3, 7-5 in an hour and 33 minutes, celebrating his first ATP title in almost six months.

Carlos Alcaraz, Buenos Aires 2023© Marcelo Endelli / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Carlos took charge in the middle of the opening set and forged a 6-3, 5-2 advantage.

However, Norrie pulled the break back at the last moment and stayed competitive before Alcaraz sealed the deal with a late break. Carlos played well behind the second serve, losing serve once and pressuring his opponent. The young gun grabbed four return games, enough to emerge at the top in straight sets.

The Spaniard built the advantage in the shortest and mid-range rallies, taming his strokes nicely and landing 25 winners. Norrie held in the encounter's first game with a service winner, and Alcaraz followed that with a drop shot winner in game two.

Cameron closed the third game with a drop shot winner, and Carlos responded with a service winner a few minutes later for 2-2. The Spaniard held at love in game six, locking the result at 3-3 after 24 minutes. Norrie hit a double fault in the seventh game and offered Alcaraz two break points.

Carlos Alcaraz will seek his second title Buenos Aires title in February.

Carlos grabbed the second after a nice defense and a massive forehand, opening a 4-3 gap and gaining a boost. The Spaniard cemented the break with a crafty drop shot in game eight, with the Briton serving to stay in the set at 3-5.

Alcaraz painted a forehand winner for two set points, converting the second after Norrie's backhand error and wrapping up the set. World no. 1 closed the second set's first game with a service winner and pushed strong on the return.

Carlos delivered his third straight break in game two, taking the game at 15 after Cameron's wayward backhand. Alcaraz squandered two game points in the third game before seizing the third with a backhand down the line winner, rattling off his seventh game and moving closer to the finish line.

Carlos moved 4-1 in front with a service winner in game five and repeated that at 4-2 for a hold at 30, forcing Cameron to serve to stay in the match.

Carlos Alcaraz, Buenos Aires 2023© Marcelo Endelli / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

Norrie did that in style, closing the eighth game at love and reducing the deficit to 5-3.

Alcaraz served well so far, but his initial shot let him down at the worst moment. The Spaniard hit a costly double fault, losing serve and keeping the Briton in contention. Cameron closed the tenth game with an unreturned serve, leveling the score at 5-5 and improving his chances after being on the verge of defeat.

Alcaraz stayed focused and cracked a forehand down the line winner in the 11th game for a 6-5 lead, sending the pressure to the other side. Norrie missed a backhand that could have introduced a tie break. Alcaraz denied the rival's second game point with a winner at the net and created a match point with a deep return and Norrie's mistake.

Carlos seized it with a forehand drop shot winner, celebrating his seventh ATP title and the first in five months.

Carlos Alcaraz Australian Open