Carlos Alcaraz’s Paris Masters campaign came to a sudden end as he retired injured to Holger Rune in the quarter-final. The world No 1 had dropped the first set to his fellow 19-year-old and required treatment on his abdomen at 6-5 in the second set. He played on but the physio’s help failed to work as he retired minutes later with Rune Leaving 6-3 6-6 [3-1].
Alcaraz and Rune stepped onto the court for the first instalment of what many hope will become the next great rivalry in tennis. As the only two teenagers in the world’s top 100, the pair were born just six days apart and had only met on the official tour at last year’s Next Gen Finals, played with a different scoring format.
It was Alcaraz who won that encounter 4-3 4-2 4-0, going on to lift the title at the 21-and-under tournament. But this time around it was the lower-ranked 19-year-old who started off strong, opening with a love-hold and setting up two break points on the Alcaraz serve.
The top seed held but found himself broken two games later as Rune raced to a 5-2 lead in 29 minutes and closed out a 6-3 set seven minutes later, outclassing the US Open champion on serve as he hit three aces to Alcaraz’s one and made 77 per cent of his first serves. The world No 18 then created a break point in the first game of the second set but failed to capitalise.
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Alcaraz continued to find himself under pressure and jumped in the air to celebrate holding for 3-2, showing how much of a test the Dane was proving to be. It was then Rune’s turn to save two break points to hold for 4-4 before Alcaraz suddenly appeared hindered three games later as he was forced to call the trainer for what appeared to be an abdominal issue, requiring a three-minute medical time-out.
Rune forced a tiebreak and went 3-1 up with a mini-break when Alcaraz suddenly shook his head and approached the umpire’s chair, saying he could no longer continue as he retired the match and shook hands with his fellow 19-year-old. It meant the world No 18 advanced to his maiden Masters 1000 semi-final, leading by 6-3 6-6 before the Spaniard retired.
Alcaraz now has just nine days to recover ahead of the ATP Finals, where he is set to make his debut. The world No 1 won the Next Gen Finals just under a year ago and will bid to follow in the footsteps of Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won the 21-and-under version of the event in 2018 before lifting the ATP Finals title a year later in 2019. But his hopes are now in doubt following his new injury scare.
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