Feb 23, 2023

Match Reports 2/20 - 2/26

This page will be updated throughout the week with new match reports

Cam Norrie def Carlos Alcaraz 5-7 6-4 7-5

F Rio Open

Alcaraz tweaked his right hamstring in the middle of the second set, a lingering hamstring issue that became apparent in his previous match against Jarry. But don’t let this take away from the fact that Norrie had to play at a very high level to pull through in this match.

In the first set, Norrie looked much more competitive against a seemingly healthy Alcaraz compared to his 6-3 7-5 loss in the Buenos Aires final last week. One break was the difference in this set, which was actually somewhat of a fluky break, where (if I remember correctly) Norrie was up 40-0 and then he slid for a dropshot, but his foot got stuck on the line and sent him tumbling to the ground. This seemed to throw him off mentally, and resulted in a drop in level, and Alcaraz sensed this and pounced with some decisive shotmaking to steal the break and the set.

In the second set, Alcaraz got up an early break, but his serve speed had noticeably dropped. He also started trying to shorten points, and serving and volleying frequently. He also called the trainer to get his hamstring checked out, and had his hamstring re-taped. Although Alcaraz’s ultra-aggressive tactics allowed him to break Norrie one more time in the set, Norrie took advantage of his weakened serve to break him three consecutive times and take the second set.

The third set was incredible tennis, a dramatic back and forth affair with incredible shotmaking (mostly from Alcaraz but Norrie too). When Norrie got up a break serving at 3-2, it seemed like Alcaraz’s camp was calling for him to throw in the towel. But the mere suggestion of this seemed to upset Alcaraz, as he was visibly irritated at his camp during the changeover which is something you rarely see from Alcaraz. Alcaraz was clearly hampered at this point and it looked like Norrie was about to run away with the match. Alcaraz came out and defiantly hit four spectacular winners in a row to take the break back. The next four games featured a significantly hampered Alcaraz providing a steady dose of drop shots and spraying both spectacular winners and wild errors, and the outcome of this match was truly in doubt until the very end. When Norrie served for the match at 6-5, he played noticeably more aggressively sensing the finish line was close, and even managed to hit a clutch ace on match point.

If Alcaraz had won this match, it would have been an incredible feat considering how visibly hampered he was. With that said, he still played at an incredible level considering the circumstances, regularly generating incredible power while barely even pushing off with his legs, so all credit to Norrie for staying steady and mentally strong while playing an injured opponent. Props to Alcaraz for playing out the match despite his injury, he gave us tennis fans a real treat in this one, and I would say he was justified in believing he had a real chance to win. The fact that the third set was so close was a testament to Alcaraz’s greatness; he was able to cast aside his Plan A and cobble together new tactics to give himself a chance to beat perhaps the fittest guy on tour in Norrie while injured. And if Norrie had any sort of mental lapse down the stretch, Alcaraz very well could have done it.

Let’s hope that Alcaraz recovers from this hamstring injury quickly and that playing this match out didn’t make things worse. Regarding Norrie, we can’t ignore the fact that he also just played two straight weeks of clay court tennis (majority being 3 setters), some of it in very hot conditions, and still looked physically strong at the end of the third set against Alcaraz.

Carlos Alcaraz def Nicolas Jarry 6-7(2) 7-5 6-0

SF Rio Open

Chilean rank 139 Jarry came out decisive and overpowering on both his serves and returns, jumping out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set. He had some nerves serving out the set at 5-3 and Alcaraz came up with some clutch returns and incredible shotmaking. Alcaraz won 11 straight points to bring it back to 5-5, but Jarry found his form again and overpowered Alcaraz to take the first set tiebreaker. Alcaraz quickly found himself down 0-40 early in the second set, but played bold aggressive tennis to save 3 break points. Jarry got another break point after deuce, and Alcaraz rolled the dice going for a second serve ace down the T. Alcaraz managed to hold and was neck and neck with Jarry until 5-5, where he came up with some spectacular shotmaking to break Jarry and take the second set. By the third set, Alcaraz was on fire, and Jarry may have run out of gas, both physically and mentally.

This was a scary good performance from Jarry for 1.8 sets. At one point in the first set, Alcaraz asked his box “what do I do?” in regards to his return position. But Jarry was serving so well, and was so clinical with his massive forehand, that it almost didn’t matter where Alcaraz stood. Jarry was also deadly on his forehand returns, and it felt like Alcaraz was serving to Jarry’s forehand too often. Jarry’s backhand held up well for 2 sets, but it’s clearly his weaker wing; he did well for most of the match to get his backhand returns deep into uncomfortable positions, but he was clearly more dangerous off his forehand wing. By the second set, Alcaraz was getting a better read on Jarry’s second serve, and this in turn put more pressure on his first serve. From the second set onwards, Alcaraz also served a lot more body serves and kick serves to Jarry’s backhand, and this limited the damage Jarry could do on returns. Although his height allowed him to hit backhand returns more comfortably than most players, Jarry was not able to be as aggressive on his backhand returns as someone like Zverev. On a crucial break point early in the second set at ad out, Alcaraz caught Jarry leaning to the backhand side expecting a kick serve out wide, and Alcaraz hit his second serve down the T for an ace. This was the crucial point in the match, as Jarry had the momentum coming out of the first set, and the way he was serving he very well could have ridden an early break to victory. And seeing how the third set played out, Jarry really needed to win this in two. By the third set, Alcaraz was completely destroying Jarry on his second serve points, and was seemingly winning every long rally.

Alcaraz seemed to have some trouble with his hamstring and called the trainer in the second set, but it didn’t seem to hamper him in this match. It is something to keep an eye on for his finals match against Norrie though.

Barbora Krejcikova def Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-2

F WTA Dubai

Krejcikova had Iga on the back foot from the very beginning of the match. She was consistently returning Iga’s serves hard, flat, and deep, and rushing Iga on her next shot. Krejcikova is one of the better servers on the WTA, and she served well enough to be able to dictate points on the majority of her service points. Krejcikova effectively utilized her all around game, with consistent power off both wings, effective use of the slice, and high level net play. This was one of the best performances of Krejcikova’s career, and midway through the second set, she had Iga flustered and not knowing what to do. Although Iga may be the best baseliner in the game, Krejcikova showed that on a good day she has a significant serve/return advantage over Iga, so she was consistently starting points with the upper hand. Krejcikova’s level never really dipped, so we also have to credit Krejcikova’s mental strength here, to maintain an elite level from start to finish against the #1 player in the world.

Carlos Alcaraz def Mateus Alves 6-4 6-4

2R Rio Open

Although the scoreline doesn’t show it, this was an exciting and entertaining battle where Alves came out playing so well that an Alcaraz victory was not a foregone conclusion. This was quite a surprising development considering 22 year old Brazilian wild card Alves is currently ranked 556 with a career high ranking of 395, and when you search “Alves tennis abstract” on google, he is the fourth result that pops up. Prior to this match, the highest ranked player Alves played was #106 ranked Tomas Etcheverry, who defeated Alves 6-1 6-1.

Playing against the #2 player in the world in Alcaraz, Alves more than held his own, to the delight of a raucous Brazilian crowd. The wind was swirling in Rio, with occasional rain showers and ominous thunderclouds heading towards the stadium. Alves went shot for shot with Alcaraz for much of the match, utilizing a powerful serve and big forehand to dictate points whenever possible. Alves played a gutsy match, playing aggressively with nothing to lose, and kept both sets close until the tail end of the sets. However, Alcaraz hits a little bigger on both wings, serves a little better, runs a little faster, and is much more experienced on the big stage despite being younger, and at the tail end of both sets this fact put immense pressure on Alves, as Alcaraz was able to raise his level while Alves was already playing at his highest level just to keep the match close. The shot that broke the deadlock in this match was a missed overhead by Alves in the first set, and this led to overhead yips, as he continued to struggle with overheads throughout the match, and wildly missed several routine overheads. The fact that Alves kept it close despite the overhead yips is a testament to his mental strength. Under pressure, your least practiced or weakest shot tends to break down first, and it’s not uncommon for this to be the overhead… especially considering executing an overhead can be wildly different based on the conditions. And in these windy conditions under immense pressure, it’s not too surprising that this was the shot to break down for Alves.

This was a good performance by Alcaraz to stay steady against an inspired opponent, and also dealt with several delays due to disturbances in the crowd, and an overnight rain delay up 6-4 5-3. And it was a very promising performance by Alves, who showed potential to play at a higher level, and will certainly be feeling confident after this match despite losing. Alves has previously beaten several players ranked in the top 200: Renzo Olivo, Jay Clarke, Federico Gaio, so it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Sebastian Baez def Thomaz Bellucci 6-3 6-2

2R Rio Open

Brazilian lefty veteran Bellucci made a good account of himself as one of the Brazilian wild cards despite not playing a match since last September. You could tell that this guy was once a top 30 player, who reached a career high ranking of 21 and reached the fourth round of Roland Garros. He displayed a powerful first serve which allowed him to win first serve points clinically. He showed a very high level second serve which Baez had a hard time attacking. He showcased his ability to hit through Baez on many occassions with his laser forehand. However, you could also tell that he lacked match play, as his first serve percentage was very low, he missed simple volleys, and lacked quality on his drop shots. Had he come into this match in better form, you could see that he could have a real chance to beat Baez. He very well could have been up 4-0 in the first set, as he had game points in all four games, but instead found himself down 1-3.

Bellucci is retiring after this match, and it was unfortunate that he drew the second best player in the draw in his first match, and he would have had a fair chance against many other players in the draw. This is the end of the road for 35 year of Bellucci, who enjoyed a great career, and carried the torch for Brazilian tennis for nearly a decade.

It was a fortunate draw for Baez, who got a relatively straightforward match coming off a title win in Rio. Moreover, he got an extra day of rest due to rain delays on Tuesday.