Carlos Alcaraz closes his debut at the Shanghai Masters 1000 satisfied and remembers at the time of signing in the chamber of a member of the Villena academy where he exercises that he recently suffered a traffic accident: “Madrona, this victory is for you”. The 20-year-old from Murcia has resolved without hesitation against the Frenchman Grégoire Barrère, but the result (6-2 and 7-5, in 1h 41m) is misleading because the rival has not wrinkled. “He [Barrere] He has good shots, and I think that everything I had in mind to improve, I have done quite well. The first match of a tournament is never easy,” recalls the Spaniard, who this year has won each and every one of the tournament debuts he has gone through. There are 15 in total, and he has already played 70 games. Legs and lungs count at this point, but head freshness matters just as much or more.
“Seeing today’s level and feelings, I see myself with options; I don’t know if to win the title, but to achieve a good result here. Coming from Beijing [donde cedió en las semifinales]”I think I have done quite well,” continues the one from El Palmar, who between now and the end of the year has the goal of taking number one from Novak Djokovic. Between them there are now 2,830 points, although the Balkan’s real income decreases to 2,285 because the 500 points he obtained last year for the victory in Astana will soon be deducted. “I think about Novak in every training session, I’m not going to deceive you,” said Alcaraz before starting to compete in Shanghai, where Nole is not there – by his own decision, recharging his strength – but there are two other big obstacles: Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner , recent double spanking.
Launched since he began to celebrate more successes starting in February, six in total this season, the Murcian has become the usual man to beat. From jump to jump, Alcaraz has been projecting a halo of superiority around him and collecting victories – 62 after this last one against Barrere – to the same extent that the determination of his opponents to beat him has increased. The veteran Djokovic (36) achieved it in the Cincinnati final, Medvedev (27) reduced him in the New York semifinals and the Italian Sinner (22), the player who scored the most times (4) achieved it in the penultimate stop in Beijing. has surpassed him. The Tyrolean now appears in Shanghai with hunger and conviction, as does the Russian despite the fact that for one reason or another, he is never completely comfortable. If it is not the stands, it is the balls, and if not, the surface.
“This was the fastest tournament on the circuit and now it may be the slowest along with Indian Wells, but it is what it is, and we have to play like this,” protests the one from Moscow, the most productive tennis player on cement this season. With the victory over Cristian Garín by double 6-3, he accumulates 43, translated into four trophies: Rotterdam, Doha, Dubai and Miami, to which is added the prize in Rome (land). “I would have loved to win a Grand Slam, but if we put that aside, it is probably my best year. “It has been a great season, but it is not over yet,” warns Medvedev, the last champion in Shanghai. He lifted the trophy in 2019, without giving up a single set, and the four subsequent editions were canceled due to the Asian country’s anti-pandemic protocol.
“The difficult challenges”
Apart from revalidating the Chinese title in the short term, in the medium term the Russian sees a succulent incentive in the possibility of ascending to the world summit again. With 7,490 points he does not have it easy at all, but his meritorious annual performance gives him hope since he still has to participate in Vienna, Bercy and the Turin Masters Cup, in addition to Shanghai. Last year he occupied the throne for 16 weeks – spread over two periods, 3 between February and March and 13 between June and September – and the score he achieved against Alcaraz in New York gave him wings. Handily defeated by the Spaniard in Indian Wells and Wimbledon, he now sees open a door that until a month ago seemed sealed and sealed. Sensation shared by Sinner.
“We are both very young and we both hate losing, especially against each other,” says the Italian, who these days is enjoying his best ranking (4th) and will try to confirm his good moment after conquering Beijing, the ninth success of his career, third in 2023 after Montpellier and Montreal. “I always look for the most difficult challenges,” he adds. “And I don’t think that when you win something everything changes drastically. I simply think that at the US Open I should have done a couple of things better and we have worked on them, especially the mental aspect; “I’m trying to understand how my brain works a little better,” he continued after having beaten Marcos Giron this Saturday 7-6(7) and 6-2, looking forward to the reunion with Alcaraz in the final on the 15th.
Out of combat as soon as the tournament began, figures like Holger Rune, Alexander Zverev or Felix Auger-Aliassime, the latter groggy, the two of them and Medvedev predict a beautiful three-way duel in the coming days. “I want to face both of them, but for that I have to win my games and so do they,” explains Alcaraz, aware that the fronts and the threat are multiplying. It’s not just Nole anymore. They send two more and he accepts; The top four in the world ranking engage in hand-to-hand combat until the finale at the end of November. What before the summer was an almost exclusive one-on-one with Djokovic is now an intensified exercise in hierarchy. “I think that right now the most complicated is Medvedev,” concludes the one from El Palmar, who will face Daniel Evans or Mikhail Kukushkin on Monday in the round of 16.
SWIATEK ENDS GAUFF’S STREAK
Rain hindered the course of the day in Shanghai, where most of the matches scheduled on the outdoor courts had to be canceled and moved to Sunday. In Beijing, meanwhile, the news broke with the defeat of Coco Gauff against the Polish Iga Swiatek by 6-2 and 6-3.
The 19-year-old American, September champion of the US Open and trained by the Spanish Pere Riba, suffered some physical discomfort in her right shoulder and gave in to the number two. Swiatek will face Liudmila Samsonova for the title this Sunday, who beat Elena Rybakina at the last minute.
The Pole’s victory closed a sequence of 16 consecutive wins for Gauff, who had not lost since losing in the Montreal quarterfinals to her compatriot Jessica Pegula. From there she obtained the Cincinnati and Flushing Meadows trophies, and four more victories in Beijing.
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