Carlos Alcaraz is through to the second round of the US Open after beating Sebastian Baez 7-5 7-5 2-0(ret).
The 19-year-old Spaniard, who is seed No. 3 at this year’s Grand Slam in New York, played out two highly entertaining sets, which he narrowly came out on top in, before his opponent was forced to retire through injury.
Carlos Alcaraz had to battle hard to beat Sebastian Baez in the first two sets of his opening match at the US Open. Unfortunately for Baez, he had to retire at 2-0 down in the third due to injury. Alcaraz, who is one of the frontrunners to win the US Open this year with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer not competing at Flushing Meadows, will play either Tallon Griekspoor or Federico Coria next.
The world No. 4, who will play either Tallon Griekspoor or Federico Coria in the second round, had sympathy for his opponent when reflecting on the match afterwards.
“This end to the match… no one wants to see,” he said.
“Sebastian is a great player, fighting till the last ball. He did all he could. It was really tough [in the conditions]. In the second set it was [difficult] to maintain my level, physically and mentally.”
After making his debut at the US Open last year, it’s clearly a competition that is close to Alcaraz’s heart.
“Obviously, the energy I received on Arthur Ashe is something special,” he continued.
“Last year I remember it was one of the best moments of my life and career. One year later, being number four in the world is something special for me. To return to Arthur Ashe is unbelievable for me.”
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Baez avoided an early disaster as he fought back to take his first service game after Alcaraz blew a break point.
The rallies were intense and played with unbelievable pace, and Alcaraz was finding Baez a tricky customer to deal with but managed to remain on serve despite a couple of scares.
In the 10th game of the first set, Alcaraz built three break points but somehow managed to squander each one as Baez held service to make it 5-5.
But the Spaniard wasn’t going to be denied. After rattling through a dominant game to hold, Alcaraz made the first break of the match to take the first set thanks to two ferocious forehands.
Alcaraz cut a frustrated figure as Baez took a lengthy break between sets, but he held his nerve to break his opponent in the second game of the second set to take a fourth straight game, racing into a 2-0 lead.
However, Baez responded, breaking back – but only after 15 minutes featuring several absorbing rallies and five break points, finally getting on the board with a clever lobbed shot. And he managed to consolidate after yet another energy-sapping and enthralling game.
The next two games were much more straightforward affairs, with each player holding respectively. Alcaraz would have been relieved to have halted Baez’s growing momentum, but his body language suggested he was struggling with his opponent’s resistance. The Argentine then made another break to take another epic game on the fifth break point thanks to a crunching backhand.
There were signs that Baez was struggling to deal with the pressure as he went off the boil and a double fault allowed Alcaraz to break back before the Spaniard nudged back in front at 5-4.
Baez was hanging on by a thread, however, taking the next game, but despite putting up a real fight, a forehand into the tramlines allowed Alcaraz to hold. After building three match points, the 19-year-old proceeded to take the second set in style with a thrilling winner up the line.
The pace of the match had clearly taken its toll on Baez and he required treatment on his left calf before the third set could get underway. He was evidently uncomfortable as Alcaraz made another break before the Argentine was forced to retire.