Carlos Alcaraz digs in to avoid shock defeat by Emil Ruusuvuori in Madrid
Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz dug in to avoid a shock loss against Emil Ruusuvuori and reach the third round of the Madrid Open.
The young Spaniard thrilled his home fans last year by defeating Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on his way to the title, establishing himself as not just the future but the present of men’s tennis.
He was in brilliant form last week as he successfully defended his Barcelona Open title but looked on the way out early in Madrid before turning the match around to win 2-6 6-4 6-2.
Errors flowed from the Alcaraz racket during the first set against powerful Finn Ruusuvuori, ranked 41.
Normally so composed, the 19-year-old threw his racket in frustration early in the second set but the turning point came in a long sixth game where he saved five break points before eventually holding.
He broke the Ruusuvuori serve in the next game and did not look back, going on to dominate the deciding set and move through to a clash with Grigor Dimitrov, who defeated Gregoire Barrere.
Alcaraz said on atptour.com: “It was really tough. I would say I was about to lose. It was just one point. One of the break points he had at 2-3 in the second set was like a match point for him.
“I was really happy I was able to save that game and come back a bit. It was really tough. Emil played unbelievably, but I am really, really happy to get through that.”
Casper Ruud’s troubles continued, though, the third seed suffering another early defeat, this time losing 6-3 6-4 to Italian qualifier Matteo Arnaldi.
Fifth seed Andrey Rublev edged out Stan Wawrinka 7-5 6-4 while fellow Russian Karen Khachanov was a 6-3 3-6 6-3 winner against Thiago Monteiro.
On his Madrid debut, Holger Rune took advantage of a fifth match point to win a third set tie-breaker against Alexander Bublik and secure a 6-1 4-6 7-6 (9) victory.
“Honestly I’m out of words right now. It was such a tough match,” Rune told atptour.com.
“In these kind of conditions, it’s altitude, it’s very fast compared to what I’ve played so far.
“Bublik, we all know how he’s playing. He’s playing super aggressive, taking the ball aggressive and early. So I had to really dig deep and find solutions. I was brave at the end and that’s what made the difference.”
Alexander Zverev needed three sets and almost three and a half hours to beat Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-7 7-5 6-0.
Meanwhile, Andy Murray has reacted to the disappointment of his defeat by Andrea Vavassori on Thursday by taking a wild card into next week’s Challenger tournament in Aix-en-Provence.