Jan-Lennard Struff Faces Biggest Test Yet In ATP Madrid Final Against Carlos Alcaraz

Carlos Alcaraz ahead of ATP Madrid Final

Jan-Lennard Struff embodies the very idea of a journeyman tennis player. In his 14-year-old long professional career, the 33-year-old big German, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall, is yet to win a singles ATP title and only managed to reach a career-high ranking of 29 in 2020. Currently ranked No. 65 in the world, Struff came from being a Lucky Loser to reaching the ATP Madrid final, his first ever at a Masters 1000. Possessing a game that is not well suited to the slow red dirt, but works better in the somewhat quicker playing conditions in Madrid, Struff has got the better of fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas among others in the tournament. He beat an injured Aslan Karatsev in the semifinal, thus becoming the first lucky loser ever to reach a Masters 1000 title.

However, the hugely talented Carlos Alcaraz waits for him in the final. Needless to say, the 20-year-old Spaniard will start as the favorite to win his fourth Masters 1000 title on Sunday. Quite significantly, he has not lost a set since scraping past Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round. On paper, the final looks to be a mismatch of sorts and the chances of a Struff victory can almost be ruled out, but stranger things have happened in sports.
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Clash of different styles:

As mentioned earlier, Struff’s game is more suited to quicker surfaces. Still, he has not altered his style of play and primarily relied on his big serve, powerful groundstrokes, and net game in Madrid thus far. In fact, he has even stayed close to the baseline while returning, thus taking the ball early and also time away from his opponents.

In comparison, Alcaraz has a touch of genius in almost everything he does on a tennis court. He has a complete all-court game that is further enhanced by his powerful groundstrokes and a much-improved serve. Moreover, his subtle touches in the net are good enough to satisfy even the staunchest of purists. He can serve and volley quite well, too, when required. The 20-year-old Spaniard also can grind out a victory as he showed in the semifinal against Borna Coric.
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Jan-Lennard Struff should be ready to go to the net frequently:

It goes without saying that Struff will struggle to win the battle from the baseline. Hence, it can be safely assumed that he will rush the net quite frequently, the threat of Alcaraz’s passing shots notwithstanding. Even if he is reluctant to go the net himself, Alcaraz will keep dragging him to it with his world-class drop shots. It remains to be seen how quickly the big German can move forward repeatedly against a much younger opponent.

However, Alcaraz boasts a brilliant defense and it will not be easy for Struff to go past it. The German will, therefore, have to exhibit top-class net skills to make a match of it, as his ability to hit quality drop volleys will be absolutely critical on Sunday.

Main Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports