Carlos Alcaraz and lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff will chase history when they meet in the Mutua Madrid Open final on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Alcaraz triumphed in the Spanish capital 12 months ago and is trying to become just the second player alongside Rafael Nadal to clinch consecutive crowns at the clay-court event. On the other side of the net, the 33-year-old Struff is aiming to become the first lucky loser to win an ATP Masters 1000 title since the series began in 1990.
Despite being 13 years his junior, Alcaraz has the edge against Struff when it comes to big-match experience. The four-time ATP Masters 1000 champion is competing in his 13th tour-level final and is chasing his 10th title. In contrast, Struff is making just his second appearance in a tour-level final, having lost in the Munich title match in 2021.
If Alcaraz wins the trophy, he can seal his return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday, 22 May simply by playing a match later this month at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. With an expectant home crowd set to roar the Spaniard on inside Manolo Santana Stadium, Alcaraz is relishing the chance to shine on the big stage once again.
“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.”
Executing in attack & defence ⚔️🛡️@carlosalcaraz is heading into the final on Sunday with a 77% #Conversion & 41% #Steal ‼️
Seriously impressive, especially alongside his shot location; no part of the court going unused ✊#TennisInsights | @atptour | @MutuaMadridOpen pic.twitter.com/RdjnJS72E9
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) May 6, 2023
The 33-year-old Struff fell against Aslan Karatsev in the final round of qualifying 11 days ago before he received a spot in the draw as a lucky loser. The German has taken full advantage of his second chance, upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals before he gained revenge against Karatsev to become the first lucky loser to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final.
Aiming to become the oldest first-time Masters 1000 winner and fourth player to win their first tour-level title at a Masters 1000 event, Struff will have to be at his big-hitting best if he is to upset the top seed, who is on a 20-match winning streak at Spanish ATP Tour events.
“We played an amazing match at Wimbledon last year and I was very close to beating him but he pulled off unbelievable shots in the tie-break,” Struff said when looking ahead to the final against Alcaraz. “This is going to be different. This is in Spain, in Madrid. I think he is 20-0 on Spanish clay courts, so it is going to be very tough. I have to go for it otherwise I will have no chance. I will try my best to beat him and win my first title.”
Players To Win Maiden Tour-Level Title At ATP Masters 1000 Event
Struff, who is up to No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, will look to impose his brand of ‘big-man tennis’ on Alcaraz. The German’s ability to strike clean winners off both wings will be key to his chances, while he will aim to close the net behind his first serve to pressurise the Spaniard.
Alcaraz has dropped just one set en route to his fifth tour-level final of the season, though, and has the all-round game to disrupt Struff’s rhythm. The 20-year-old could use the drop shot to outmanoeuvre the German, and has the ability to take time away from his opponent with his explosive groundstrokes.
Recent Lucky Loser Champions
Alcaraz, who has lifted titles in Buenos Aires, Indian Wells and Barcelona already this season, is aiming to become the youngest player to successfully defend an ATP Masters 1000 title since Nadal in Monte-Carlo and Rome in 2005-06.
Locked at 1-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, Struff will be eager to stop the Spaniard. If he can earn his sixth Top 5 win, the German will become the second lucky loser to win an ATP Tour title this year alongside Soonwoo Kwon in Adelaide.
Watch Sunday’s final from 6:30 p.m. CET/12:30 p.m. ET.