regular-article-logo Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Carlos Alcaraz comes through tricky early test at French Open, sealing victory over Japan’s Taro Daniel

With normal service having resumed, Alcaraz closed out match on serve to book encounter with Canadian 26th seed Denis Shapovalov

Reuters, AP/PTI Paris Published 01.06.23, 04:56 AM
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka during her second-round match against compatriot Iryna Shymanovich on Wednesday

Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka during her second-round match against compatriot Iryna Shymanovich on Wednesday Reuters

Carlos Alcaraz came through a tricky early test at the French Open with flying colours, as the world No.1 sealed a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Japan’s Taro Daniel on Wednesday to reach the third round.

Alcaraz enjoyed a dominant opening win over Flavio Cobolli in his first match as the top seed in a grand slam and the 20-year-old made another blistering start against Daniel to ease through the first set on the back of two breaks.


Daniel pounced early in the next to grab a 3-0 lead before Alcaraz got on the board. He continued to batter the suddenly error-prone Spaniard with some relentless hitting from the baseline before levelling the contest.

But the Japanese player, who is ranked 112, was quickly on the back foot again as Alcaraz regained focus to break early and close out the third set in style conceding only one game late on.

With normal service having resumed, Alcaraz closed out the match on serve to book an encounter with Canadian 26th seed Denis Shapovalov.

Carlos Alcaraz after winning his second-round match on Wednesday

Carlos Alcaraz after winning his second-round match on Wednesday Reuters

Tsitsipas in control

World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas found little resistance as he disposed of claycourt specialist Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 on to advance to the third round.

The fifth seed, who is chasing his first grand slam, had struggled somewhat in his tournament opener against Jiri Vesely but was in complete control against the 30-year-old Spaniard, cruising to an easy win.

He quickly grabbed the initiative, breaking his opponent early, while holding his own serve, to bag the first set.

The pair then traded two breaks each in a rollercoaster second set with Carballes Baena trying to lock Tsitsipas in long baseline rallies.

The Spaniard managed to take it to a tie-break but the Greek kept his composure to take a two-set lead before cruising to a quick 4-0 and then booking his spot in the second round with ease.

Marathon man

An exhausted Gael Monfils said his epic five-set comeback victory over Sebastian Baez on Tuesday was one of the greatest matches of his career.

The 36-year-old Frenchman was one point away from going 5-0 down in the deciding set of the near four-hour match before mounting a sensational comeback to win 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 under the lights at Court Philippe Chatrier.

Monfils, who reached a career-high sixth in the world in 2016, last appeared at a grand slam in the 2022 Australian Open quarter finals before missing much of last season due to heel surgery.

He said Tuesday’s match would live long in the memory. “It’s definitely in like top two (matches in my career),” Monfils said at his press conference after the match ended after midnight.

“Of course this one is another flavour. I’m older and (had) even less chances to win this match today.

“Top two, top one. It was a great atmosphere tonight.”

Monfils, who lost in the second round in 2021 and is now ranked number 394, was visibly cramping at the end of the match and credited the Paris crowd for inspiring him to a victory that earned a second-round encounter with sixth seed Holger Rune.

Sabalenka on track

World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka fought off a determined challenge from fellow-Belarusian Iryna Shymanovich on Wednesday to move into the third round with a 7-5, 6-2 victory as she eyes the world No. 1spot.

The 25-year-old, who will take over the top spot from Poland’s Iga Swiatek with victory at the Paris grand slam, did not have an easy start with qualifier Shymanovich, ranked 214th, matching her power with every groundstroke.

Shymanovich started moving her opponent around, playing the angles and forcing her to the net with audacious drop shots as she tried to stop Sabalenka imposing her own rhythm on the match.

The second seed wasted two set points at 6-5 but bagged the set on her third opportunity, chasing down yet another drop shot from heropponent.

She took a two-game lead at the start of the second set but had to fight tooth and nail for every single point before sealing victory on her second match point.

Ostapenko stumbles

French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko. Stearns only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the third round.

The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Monfils won a five-set thriller in Tuesday night’s session, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Blow to France

French hopes of a Roland Garros singles champion were all but extinguished as Russian Anna Blinkova sent fifth seed Caroline Garcia tumbling out with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 second-round victory.

Blinkova prevailed on her ninth match point to end a tussle that lasted nearly three hours.

The world No. 56 double-faulted twice on match point as nerves got to her, but she eventually ended it with a powerful serve.

With Garcia gone, the French women are without a seed in the singles’ draw while none of the French men were among the top-ranked.

On a sun-kissed Court Philippe Chatrier, Garcia broke for a 2-1 lead in a strong start to her bid to claim consecutive wins on clay for the first time this season.

She did not face a single break point in the first set.

Mixed day for India

The Indian pair of Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni notched up a 6-3, 6-2 win over France’s Arthur Rinderknech and Enzo Couacaud in men’s doubles but Rohan Bopanna and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden went down 5-7, 6-7 (5-7) to French duo Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul.

N. Sriram Balaji and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan also lost 3-6, 4-6 to Belarus’ Ilya Ivashka and Alexei Popyrin of Australia in their opener.

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