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SPORTS | 20-02-2023 09:15

Carlos Alcaraz captures Argentina Open title after four-month injury lay-off

Carlos Alcaraz wins final of the Argentina Open, his seventh career title and the first since winning the US Open in September and becoming the youngest-ever world number one.

Carlos Alcaraz marked his return to action for the first time in almost four months with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Cameron Norrie in the final of the Argentina Open on Sunday.

It was a seventh career title for the 19-year-old Spaniard and first since winning the US Open in September before he went on to become the youngest-ever world number one.

"I felt very comfortable playing the final," Alcaraz said.

"I knew that it was going to be really difficult. I started really focussed on what I had to do at the beginning, my game, my level. This is the level that I have to play in finals."

A leg muscle tear at the Paris Masters in November meant Alcaraz missed the start of this season, including the Australian Open won by Novak Djokovic. He also lost his top ranking to the Serb.

World number two Alcaraz took his head-to-head record over the 12th-ranked Norrie to 4-1 thanks to his 93-minute victory on Sunday.

He turned an early 2-3 deficit into an impressive 6-3, 3-0 lead and he did not face a break point until he failed to serve out the match at 5-3 up.

Down 0-15 while serving at 5-5, the Spaniard unleashed a forehand volley to reassert himself.

The next game was the longest of the match as Alcaraz battled through two deuces before sealing victory with a drop shot as Alcaraz showed his mastery of clay courts had not been diminished by his long absence.

Of his seven titles, five have come on clay and he will get the chance to quickly add another as he heads to Rio next week to defend the trophy he won in 2022.

Alcaraz is the first Spanish player to win the title in Buenos Aires since Rafael Nadal in 2015 and he did it in some style, losing just one set in his four victories all week and that was in his first match back against Serbia's Laslo Djere.

Sunday's win also meant he was the first teenager to capture the title in the Argentine capital.

Alcaraz had a breakout 2022. As well as becoming the youngest US Open champion since Pete Sampras in 1990, he also defeated Djokovic and compatriot Nadal on back-to-back days on his way to the Madrid Masters crown.

He also claimed the Miami Masters and ATP 500-level trophies in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.

"It was a very good year. I achieved my dream, my goal, very quickly. I dealt with it as naturally as possible," said Alcaraz on the eve of Buenos Aires.

"After becoming number one I had to set new goals, new things for the long term, to continue to enjoy myself, continue to improve, because I'm very young and I have a lot of things to improve."

 

– AFP

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