Home Sport Alcaraz cruises into second round on ‘the most beautiful court’ at Wimbledon

Alcaraz cruises into second round on ‘the most beautiful court’ at Wimbledon

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Carlos Alcaraz, still only 21, is chasing his fourth Grand Slam title and hopes to become just the sixth man after Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz in action during his first round match against Estonia’s Mark Lajal at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture: REUTERS, Hannah Mckay

Carlos Alcaraz said Wimbledon’s Centre Court is “the most beautiful court that I have played on” after brushing off the cobwebs to beat Estonian qualifier Mark Lajal in the opening match of his title defence.

The Spanish third seed was taken to a tiebreak in the opening set and trailed 2-0 against his unheralded opponent in the second but held his nerve to win 7-6 (7/3) 7-5 6-2.

Alcaraz, still only 21, is chasing his fourth Grand Slam title and hopes to become just the sixth man after Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back.

“Stepping on this court, the Centre Court of Wimbledon, it is the most beautiful court that I have played on,” he said.

“I still get nerves when I am playing here. I played for 45 minutes here on Thursday and it is the first time I get nervous practising. I’m glad and I am a privileged guy to play on this court.”

The Spaniard was asked whether he was getting flashbacks to last year, when he beat Djokovic in a thrilling five-set final to win his first Wimbledon title.

“A little bit but this is a new year, a totally different tournament, I have to be focused on my game,” he said. “When I walk around I get goosebumps. I remember last year and that was a great feeling.”

Alcaraz came into the match short of practice on grass after making an early exit from Queen’s, where he was also the defending champion.

The dreadlocked Lajal, also 21, had never won a Grand Slam qualifying match let alone a main draw tie before last week and has just two wins on the ATP Tour in his career. But the 269th-ranked player put up an impressive fight against his illustrious opponent, forcing the first break of the match, which was cancelled out straight away by Alcaraz.

The defending champion won the first-set tiebreak but Lajal broke again to take a 2-0 lead in the second set. Again a ruffled Alcaraz snuffed out his opponent’s advantage. ]

Alcaraz, who won his first French Open title last month, forced a crucial break in the 11th game and served out to love to take a two-set lead. The Spaniard, who struck 44 winners in total, stepped up a gear in the third set, winning 92% of points on his first serve.

He raced into a 5-1 lead and although he was briefly held up, he served out to win in two hours and 22 minutes and will face Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic or Austria’s Sebastian Ofner next.

AFP

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