Carlos Alcaraz kicks off Wimbledon title defense run

Carlos Alcaraz is safely through into the second round at Wimbledon

by Jovica Ilic
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Carlos Alcaraz kicks off Wimbledon title defense run
© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

World no. 3 Carlos Alcaraz is off to a winning start at Wimbledon. The defending champion faced a qualifier Mark Lajal in the first round on Centre Court and notched a solid 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 triumph in two hours and 23 minutes.

The three-time Major champion notched his 53rd victory on the most notable scene, hoping for another great run in London after becoming the third-youngest Wimbledon champion a year ago. Lajal played well in Roehampton, passing three rivals and qualifying for his first Major at 21.

Mark pushed Carlos to the limits in the opening two sets, forging the advantage in both but failing to maintain it. The Spaniard made the difference with his first serve, winning 47 out of 57 points. Alcaraz suffered two breaks in the early stages of sets one and two, pulling them back straight away and turning 42% of the return points into five breaks from ten opportunities.

Carlos Alcaraz, Wimbledon 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The defending champion tamed his strokes nicely and fired 44 winners and 28 unforced errors, winning 25 points more than his opponent and booking a place in the second round.

Alcaraz bounced back from 0-30 in the first game of the encounter and held with service winners. The Estonian made a reliable start, firing a service winner in the second game and adding his name to the scoreboard. Carlos landed a drop shot winner in the third game before Mark collected the next one at love with a forced error, locking the result at 2-2.

World no. 269 found the range on the return in the fifth game and generated two break points. He seized the second with a deep return and a forehand attack, delivering a break and moving in front. Instead of building on that, an inexperienced player faced three break points in game six after Alcaraz's deep return.

Carlos converted the first with a forehand attack and a forced error, returning to the positive side of the scoreboard.

Mark Lajal & Carlos Alcaraz, Wimbledon 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Carlos Alcaraz defeated Mark Lajal in straight sets at Wimbledon.

The Spaniard cracked a forehand winner in the seventh game, holding at love and moving in front.

Alcaraz extended the tenth game with a smash winner before a qualifier closed it with a service winner, locking the result at 5-5 and prolonging the battle. They served well in games 11 and 12, with the Estonian arranging a tie break with a forehand down the line winner.

They traded mini-breaks in the opening points and served well for 3-3. Lajal sprayed a forehand error in the seventh point, falling behind and facing three set points after Alcaraz's forehand winner. Mark hit a double fault on the first, allowing Carlos to rattle off four points and claim the opener after 54 minutes.

The defending champion painted a forehand down the line winner in the first game of the second set, generating a break chance. A qualifier saved it with a service winner and held with another, avoiding an early setback and gaining a boost.

Carlos Alcaraz, Wimbledon 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The Spaniard played a loose volley in the second game, offering his rival a break chance. Carlos saved it but fell on the second after a careless forehand, finding himself 2-0 behind.

Like in the opener, Lajal played a terrible service game while building the lead. He faced three break points in game three and missed a forehand on the first to suffer a break at love, bringing Alcaraz back to the positive side.

They produced four consecutive holds at love before Carlos landed a volley winner at the net in game eight for 4-4. The defending champion landed a return winner in the ninth game, creating a break opportunity. Mark denied it with a forehand winner and held for more drama.

The Estonian forged a 40-0 lead in the 11th game, looking good to secure a tie break. However, the Spaniard climbed back and reached a deuce with a crafty winner at the net. Carlos created a break point with a well-constructed attack and secured a break after Mark's loose forehand.

Mark Lajal, Wimbledon 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The defending champion held at love at 6-5, opening two sets to love advantage after an hour and 44 minutes. With a boost on his side, Alcaraz converted the second break point in the first game of the third set, providing his second straight break and moving closer to the finish line.

Lajal sprayed a backhand error in the second game before reducing the deficit with a fine hold in the next one. The Spaniard grabbed the fourth game at love with a volley winner at the net and made another push on the return in the next one.

Carlos clinched a break after a touchy drop shot, extending the gap and landing a service winner in the next game for a 5-1 lead. Mark served to stay in the match in the eighth game and faced a match point. The Estonian denied it and held with a service winner to extend the battle.

Alcaraz served for the triumph at 5-2 and sealed the deal with a forehand winner, moving into the second round and kicking off the title defense.

Carlos Alcaraz Wimbledon
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