Carlos Alcaraz appeared well on his way to a second consecutive Rio Open presented by Claro title on Sunday when he led Cameron Norrie 7-5, 3-0 0/30. But a resurgent Norrie and physical issues for the Spaniard proved too much to overcome.
Second seed Norrie rallied for a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory after two hours and 42 minutes in the ATP 500 final. The triumph marked the Briton’s fifth ATP Tour title and his first hardware of the season.
“So special to win this one, especially I’d lost a couple finals already this year and I had to do it the tough way,” Norrie said. “A set and a break down and 0/30 on my serve, I was looking done there and I managed to flick a switch and turn it around, so it was a good day.”
Alcaraz was not at his best in the early going, but when he crushed a backhand return winner to capture the opening set, momentum was fully on his side. Norrie showed frustration as he relinquished an immediate service break in the second set and the match appeared to be slipping away. But he never stopped battling to earn his ATP Tour-leading 18th win of the season (18-3). No other player has more than Daniil Medvedev’s 14 victories.
After losing in the Auckland final in January and the Buenos Aires championship match last week, it was an emotional win for Norrie.
“Especially on a surface that I’m not too comfortable with,” Norrie said. “I had to battle a lot of demons the last couple weeks, but I managed to just play well in the big moments and that’s what it took today.”
The lefty refocused just in time in the second set to stay in the match and Alcaraz’s right leg began to bother him. The Spaniard had it wrapped in the middle of the set and his movement thereafter became noticeably hindered, as did his serve.
As Norrie acted as a wall at the back of the court, Alcaraz tried everything possible to fight his way to the finish line. From serving and volleying to crushing returns and rushing forward, the Spaniard searched for solutions despite his physical struggles.
The World No. 2 played ultra-aggressive tennis to rally from a break down in the third set and put himself within a few more big shots of victory. From jaw-dropping power from the baseline to making consistent use of his drop shot to end points quickly, the Spaniard kept his hopes of a second consecutive title in Rio de Janeiro alive.
The 19-year-old seemingly maintained dialogue with his team throughout the early part of the third set with the severity of his injury unclear. He never let slip his fighting spirit.
But Norrie never panicked and let the tidal wave of Alcaraz’s shotmaking overwhelm him. After crushing an ace down the T to end the match, Norrie dropped to his knees and let our a roar to celebrate. The Briton will climb one place to No. 12 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday.
“What a match, Charlie, man. Another battle. I had to give absolutely everything to beat you today and obviously it could have gone your way as well” Norrie said to Alcaraz during the trophy ceremony. “Congrats on another final. Congrats to your team.
“The match could have gone either way, but I managed to run a little bit more and it was a really good match. It’s an honour to share the court with you again and compete with you.”
Did You Know?
Alcaraz defeated Norrie in the final of the Argentina Open last week in Buenos Aires. This was the first time two players have played finals against one another in back-to-back weeks since Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray split titles in Madrid and Rome in 2016.