It was not an easy win for Carlos Alcaraz against Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in the second round of the Madrid Open on Friday. The 19-year-old Spaniard had to bounce back after losing the first set quite meekly. In fact, things looked very bleak with Alcaraz being 2-3, 15-40 down in the second set.
However, Alcaraz came back as the great champions so often do. He saved break points to hold his serve in the sixth game of the second set and then broke Ruusuvuori in the seventh. After winning the second set, it was an easy ride for him, as he breezed past the Finn in the deciding set.
Marked improvement on serve for Carlos Alcaraz:
Amidst the familiar resolve and tenacity that the Spaniard possesses, the marked improvement in his serve was clear to see. He broke the 210 kmph mark regularly with his first serve, firing down 10 aces over the course of the match. Those may not be the sort of numbers that the likes of John Isner or Ivo Karlovic would post, but with the quality he boasts off the ground, if he can maintain this sort of power and accuracy off the ground, he will be a formidable opponent indeed.
Ruusuvuori was able to stretch the Spaniard so much only because he returned absolutely superbly. In fact, a few of the Finn’s returns would have made Novak Djokovic proud. Ruusuvuori was exceptional in the firstfirst set and a half and also displayed subtle touches in the net. Alcaraz’s propensity to commit unforced errors frequently compounded his misery with the Spaniard visibly losing his temper.
Slight tweak to his power-game helped Alcaraz:
Alcaraz has grown taller and stronger over the last one year or so and that has allowed him to approach the game in a forceful, aggressive manner. He looked to get on the front foot from the baseline early in the rally to try to overpower Ruusuvuori, but did not always succeed in doing so.
As already mentioned, the unforced errors led to his undoing in the first set, as his forehand misfired and he failed to turn to other shots. Still, one could not help drawing a parallel to Rafael Nadal, whose increased muscle mass allowed him to hit his forehand with more power as his career progressed.
The Spaniard started altering the pace of the rally midway through the second set and the results came immediately. The extra spin meant saw Ruusuvuori, at his best as a counter-puncher, struggle to redirect the ball with the same ease and he started committing errors more frequently as a result. After breaking to get ahead in the second set, Alcaraz did not look back.
Main photo credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports