Alcaraz v Tsitsipas, round 2 – what to expect six months after their US Open thriller
Carlos Alcaraz was the underdog when he met Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open in 2021. Six months later the Spaniard is on much more solid footing.
It may not officially be a rivalry – yet – but it certainly has the potential to become one. Stefanos Tsitsipas and Carlos Alcaraz played one of the most dramatic matches of the 2021 tennis season at last year’s US Open, with Alcaraz finding his way to a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 0-6 7-6 victory that propelled the young Spaniard to a history making run that saw him become the youngest quarter-finalist in US Open Open Era history.
On Tuesday evening in Miami – on Grandstand no less – the pair will get reacquainted.
Episode 1 – Alcaraz completes an epic win
“I have not words to explain how I feeling right now,” Alcaraz told the press after the four hour and seven minute tussle with Tsitsipas in New York last September. “I just don’t know what happened out there in the court. I can’t believe that I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic match. For me it’s a dream come true.”
A dejected Tsitsipas had the chance to see the kind of competition he could look forward to first-hand in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and he came away impressed with what he saw.
“It’s kind of bitter, I would say, especially after such an incredible fourth set by my side, dominating, being just so aggressive, not dwelling on the past. It was a great fourth set,” Tsitsipas told reporters. “I don’t know. I felt like he played the fifth one completely — the way he played the first set basically, careless, going for every single shot.
“I have never seen someone play such a good fifth set, honestly.”
Episode 2 – Round of 16, Miami Open, Tuesday March 29
Fast forward six months and a lot has changed for both players. Alcaraz has ticked every box on his road to higher ground in the ATP rankings. The Spaniard finished his 2021 season strong – no small task for a younger player that has not experienced the grind of a full season on tour before – with indoor wins over Matteo Berrettini in Vienna and Jannik Sinner in Paris, then started 2022 with a vengeance.
Alcaraz became the youngest player in history to win a 500-level title at Rio last month and, just two weeks ago, he reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final at Indian Wells, where he fell to Rafael Nadal but pushed the great champion ever step of the way.
Alcaraz is 14-2 on the season, his only losses coming to Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open in five sets, and Nadal at Indian Wells in three.
Tsitsipas – Bouncing back from a rough elbow injury
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, has had his struggles. The Greek completed the 2021 season in a state of worry, his right elbow causing him pain and sapping his energy and confidence. He would undergo surgery to repair the elbow, and later expressed just how much the weight of the worry affected him.
“I remember being at the ATP Finals a few days before the surgery, and I was thinking of quitting,” Tsitsipas told reporters before Indian Wells. “I didn’t think that anybody would be able to help me heal and get back to where I wanted.
“The fact that I was able to go deep in the Australian Open was the best thing that has happened in my career so far.”
It hasn’t been a perfect start to the season for Tsitsipas but the Greek takes a lot of confidence from the fact that he’s been able to play without pain. By doing that he is setting himself up for a strong push – one that could begin in Miami.
Tsitsipas was the favorite when he faced Alcaraz in New York, but a lot has changed since then.
Tsitsipas – I like these kinds of challenges
“I’m going to try and fight,” Tsitsipas said after his win over De Minaur on Monday night in Miami. “He’s a great player. For me it is going to be a big challenge to step out on the court. I like these kinds of challenges. I’m going to put my soul out there and give it my all.”
Sounds like a preview of the second installment of a rivalry for the ages…