Twenty consecutive ATP Tour wins on Spanish soil for the 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz.
The top seed celebrated his birthday with another relentless performance in his homeland on Friday at the Mutua Madrid Open, where he overcame stiff resistance from Borna Coric to complete a 6-4, 6-3 semi-final victory at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000.
Alcaraz had to be at his best to overcome a resolute display from Coric. The extra variety in the Spaniard’s game proved key to his triumph, as he frequently pulled the energetic Coric around Manolo Santana Stadium and converted four of six break points to seal victory in one hour, 41 minutes.
“It means a lot to me, playing a final again here in Madrid,” said Alcaraz. “It’s such a special place for me and I have great memories since I came here to play [as an] under-12. Of course last year was amazing.
“Turning 20 like that is special, so I will enjoy the final here and of course I will try to make all of Spain happy.”
Having successfully defended his Barcelona crown two weeks ago, Alcaraz will bid for his fourth consecutive ATP Tour title in Spain on Sunday when he takes on Aslan Karatsev or Jan-Lennard Struff in the championship match. Should he defend the trophy at the Caja Magica, the Spaniard can return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings simply by playing a match at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia later this month.
“I enjoy playing here in Madrid. I always try to make [the fans] happy and myself happy as well,” said Alcaraz, when asked about the pressure of playing at home. “I don’t think about the pressure here, I just think about playing a great game, getting good results. It’s a really special place for me, I enjoy every second here, so that’s all I think about.”
While Coric’s speed around the court could have tempted Alcaraz to veer away from his trademark drop shot on Friday, the tactic still allowed Alcaraz to disrupt the baseline rhythm of Coric. That proved crucial for the top seed to break open a tight opening set by claiming its only break in the fifth game.
With both players offering few unforced errors, the match featured a series of long exchanges that tested the physicality of the players. Although he reclaimed an early break to level the second set at 2-2, Coric’s exertions appeared to catch up with him and he had no answer to the barrage of fierce forehands sent his way by the World No. 2.
Alcaraz secured two further breaks of the Croatian’s serve to close out his win and improve to 28-2 for the season. He finished with 30 winners to Coric’s 22 and was particularly effective on second-serve returns. The Spaniard won 58 per cent (14/24) of points against his opponent’s second delivery.
“It was a goal for me at the beginning of the match, trying to start the point playing aggressive,” said Alcaraz. “This is something I look for in every match, trying to attack on the return and of course trying to play with my forehand. I feel really comfortable playing with that. I think I hurt the opponent especially with the forehand and of course the drop shot, so this is a key and I’m trying to do it in every match.”
Having already lifted titles in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona this season, Alcaraz can jump above Daniil Medvedev to first place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin by claiming his fourth ATP Tour crown of 2023 in Madrid.