Carlos Alcaraz kicked off the season with a 7-6, 6-1, 6-2 triumph over the veteran Richard Gasquet in the Australian Open first round. Carlos opted to skip the season's opening two weeks, focusing on the first Major and playing well after taking two months off the court.
The young gun admitted it took work in the opening set, as he needed time to find his rhythm. Everything worked well for a two-time Major champion in sets two and three, sailing over the top and moving into the second round.
The Spaniard fired nine aces and faced only two break points at the beginning and the end of the duel. He saved them and mounted the pressure on his rival, who stayed competitive only in the opener after defending nine break points.
Carlos grabbed four breaks from seven chances in sets two and three, ending the rival's resistance and earning his 20th hard-court Major win. The young gun finished with 53 winners on his tally, taming his strokes nicely and outplaying the veteran.
Alcaraz could not break Gasquet in the opening set, but there was nothing wrong with his game, firing 23 winners and saving the only break point he faced.
Carlos Alcaraz played his first match of the season in Melbourne.
Richard survived three break points in the opening game and earned a break chance in the second.
Carlos denied it after the rival's backhand error, avoiding an early setback and serving well in the rest of the set. The Frenchman felt the pressure in games five and seven, defending three break points in each and remaining on the positive side.
They served well in the remaining five games, introducing a tie break. Gasquet attacked at 4-4 and forced Alcaraz's mistake for a 5-4 lead. The Spaniard grabbed the tenth point with a perfect drop shot winner and landed a winner at the net at 6-5 to seal the opener after 72 minutes of a grueling battle!
Carlos served well in the second set, and Richard failed to follow that pace. Alcaraz broke at love in the second game with a backhand crosscourt return winner and fired a service winner in the next one for a hold at love and a 3-0 lead.
Richard played against three break points in game four, denying them and reducing the deficit.
However, the young gun landed a crafty slice winner in the fifth game for 4-1 and pushed strong on the return in game six.
Carlos broke Richard, moving 5-1 up and closing the set with an ace in game eight, forging two sets to love advantage after an hour and 42 minutes. The Frenchman squandered game points at the start of the third set and sprayed a backhand error to experience a break.
Carlos grabbed the second game with a service winner and secured another break with a mighty forehand down the line that sent him 3-0 in front and closer to the finish line. The Spaniard served well in games four and six, opening a 5-1 lead with a backhand crosscourt winner.
Alcaraz served for the victory in game eight and struggled a bit, wasting match points and offering Gasquet a break chance. Carlos denied it with a service winner and seized the fifth match point with a powerful serve to move over the top and advance into the second round.
"I need to get used to the competition again after not playing before the Australian Open. That made the opening match a tricky one. The first set was difficult for me, and I played better and better since I won it, reaching a high level by the end of the duel," Carlos Alcaraz said.