Alcaraz says he was missing the rhythm but makes strong start to Madrid defence

Nadal scores crushing straight-set win over American teenager Darwin Blanch as Rublev ends four-match losing streak

By AFP

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Spain's Carlos Alcaraz in action during his round of 64 match against Kazakhstan's Alexander Shevchenko . - Reuters
Spain's Carlos Alcaraz in action during his round of 64 match against Kazakhstan's Alexander Shevchenko . - Reuters

Published: Fri 26 Apr 2024, 11:14 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Apr 2024, 11:16 PM

Carlos Alcaraz returned after a month out to start his double Madrid Open title defence with a convincing 6-2, 6-1 win over Alexander Shevchenko on Friday.

The world number three shone on home clay in the Spanish capital to reach the third round, after a forearm problem led to his withdrawals from the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open.


"It's been quite a tough month for me, with the uncertainty over when I'd be back," said Alcaraz."The priority today was to see how I felt, in a difficult match.

"The feelings were very good, and I think I played at a very good level despite coming without rhythm... I am very happy and it's a pleasure to play here in Madrid again."


Spain's Rafael Nadal in action against Darwin Blanch. - AFP
Spain's Rafael Nadal in action against Darwin Blanch. - AFP

Rafael Nadal began his Madrid Open farewell with a crushing straight-set win over American teenager Darwin Blanch.

The five-time Madrid champion, who has indicated he plans to retire after the 2024 season, took just 63 minutes to complete a 6-1 6-0 victory against his 16-year-old opponent.

Wearing a protective sleeve on his right arm, two-time Grand Slam winner Alcaraz quickly dispelled any doubts after his time out by flying out of the blocks in the first set with a break.

The 20-year-old Spaniard was as exciting as ever, frequently on the attack, and secured a second break in the fifth game for a 4-1 lead.

Russia's Andrey Rublev in action during his round of 64 match against Argentina's Facundo Bagnis. - Reuters
Russia's Andrey Rublev in action during his round of 64 match against Argentina's Facundo Bagnis. - Reuters

Indian Wells winner Alcaraz hit the net with a drop shot to let the Kazakhstani back in but broke again himself for a 5-2 advantage which he served out.

Alcaraz pulled off two second set breaks for a 3-0 lead but again allowed his 23-year-old opponent to cut the deficit before striking back with a third break, which he consolidated for 5-1.

The 2022 and 2023 Madrid winner and second seed wrapped up his victory in little over an hour with another break when Shevchenko sent a forehand long.

Alcaraz will face Thiago Seyboth Wild in the third round after the Brazilian surprised Lorenzo Musetti 6-4, 6-4.

Andrey Rublev ended a four-match losing streak with a straightforward 6-1, 6-4 win over Facundo Bagnis.

After obliterating his racquet in Barcelona and defaulting in Dubai after losing his temper, Rublev enjoyed a calmer morning in the Spanish capital.

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The Russian world number eight hit 24 winners to just 10 unforced errors to cruise through in straight sets against the Argentine.

Rublev will face Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round.

"It feels really great after a while to start with a win and I'm happy with my performance," said Rublev."I think I played a good match, for the first round especially being in completely different conditions compared to other tournaments, and I played (at) a good level."


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