A New Chapter: Carlos Alcaraz's First Encounter with a Younger Opponent

Carlos Alcaraz will battle against Janchung Shang in the Australian Open third round

by Jovica Ilic
A New Chapter: Carlos Alcaraz's First Encounter with a Younger Opponent
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

On Thursday, the illustrious Rod Laver Arena will host an electrifying showdown between two young stars in the third round of the Australian Open. The 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz faces the emerging 18-year-old Juncheng Shang, with the competitors seeking a spot in the last 16.

In what marks a notable milestone, Carlos will engage in his 201st ATP match, notably, the first against an opponent younger than himself! Alcaraz, a trailblazer within his generation, has consistently outshone his peers, achieving milestones ahead of his contemporaries and avoiding encounters with younger opponents like Arthur Fils.

Now, world no. 2 will embark on a duel against someone born after him, a duel with someone born after him, with the promising Chinese teenager leading the charge for the 2005 generation. Having triumphed over two challenges in Melbourne, Shang has etched his name in history as the first Chinese player to reach the third round of a Major in the Open era.

Carlos Alcaraz, Australian Open 2024© Cameron Spencer / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The youngest player left in the draw is geared up to unleash his A-game against a two-time Major champion, eyeing a chance to outmaneuver him from the baseline.

Juncheng aspires to secure his inaugural top-10 victory on the hallowed court, promising an exciting duel that signals the beginning of many more encounters to come. Carlos moved into the third round with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 triumph over Lorenzo Sonego in three hours and 25 minutes.

The Spaniard enjoyed his performance, taking the tie break of the fourth set and avoiding a decider. Alcaraz faced four break points and lost serve once on his only loose service game, keeping the pressure on the other side.

Sonego put up a good fight. However, he lost serve three times and ended his campaign in the early stage of the tournament despite a decent effort and many crafty strokes. Alcaraz wasted his chances early in the opener but remained composed, supported by his rock-solid serving display.

Carlos Alcaraz will face an 18-year-old Juncheng Shang in the Australian Open third round.

The Spaniard pushed strong on the return in game seven and welcomed a break after the Italian's forehand error. Carlos clinched the first set with a volley winner at 5-4, doing everything right and hoping for more in set number two.

They served well and arranged a tie break. Sonego was a better player, landing a beautiful volley winner for 6-3 and three set points. Lorenzo attacked on the first, forcing Carlos' mistake and locking the overall result at 1-1.

Alcaraz responded with a reliable performance in the third set, keeping the pressure on his opponent. The Spaniard grabbed a break in the second game with a smash winner and landed a powerful serve in the next one for 3-0. World no.

2 clinched the seventh game for 5-2 and closed the ninth at love with a service winner for 6-3 and a boost. The rivals exchanged breaks at the beginning of the fourth set and served well in the remaining ones, arranging the second tie break after Alcaraz's powerful serve.

Carlos clinched an early mini-break and opened a 3-0 lead with a service winner.

Juncheng Shang, Australian Open 2024© Darrian Traynor / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard claimed two more points on serve for 5-2 and clinched the breaker 7-3 with a smash winner, securing a spot in the third round.

Shang had to work hard in his first-round clash, ousting Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in just under three and a half hours. Juncheng made a fresh start in the fourth set, forcing a decider and dominating en route to his first Major victory at 18.

The Chinese needed two and a half hours to beat Sumit Nagal in the second round, notching a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory and becoming the first Chinese player in the third round at a Major in the Open era. Shang won eight points more than his rival and fired over 50 winners and unforced errors.

The young gun lost serve two times and produced three breaks from ten opportunities, enough to move through in four sets. Nagal made a flying start, producing four comfortable holds and delivering two breaks to clinch the opener 6-2.

An Indian grabbed breaks in games one and seven, hoping for more in the rest of the duel. A teenager raised his level in the second set, improving his serve and earning a break in game four for 3-1. Junchang denied a break point in game seven with a forehand winner and held at 5-3 to level the overall score.

Shang dropped three points behind the initial shot in the third set, keeping the pressure on the other side and waiting for a return chance patiently. He broke Nagal with a well-constructed attack and a forehand winner in the 11th game, moving 6-5 in front and firing a service winner in game 12 to open two sets to love advantage.

There were no break points in the first half of the fourth set, with two rivals remaining neck and neck. The Chinese forged the lead with a volley winner in game seven, moving 4-3 in front and firing a service winner at 5-4 for a place in the third round.

Carlos Alcaraz Australian Open