Carlos Alcaraz overcomes ‘struggle’ with De Jong to advance at French Open

<span>Carlos Alcaraz lunges to retrieve a backhand against Jesper de Jong.</span><span>Photograph: Mateo Villalba/Getty Images</span>
Carlos Alcaraz lunges to retrieve a backhand against Jesper de Jong.Photograph: Mateo Villalba/Getty Images

There is a grand slam title on the line for whoever is prepared to ­perform at the highest level and seize his ­opportunities in one of the most open, uncertain men’s French Open draws in a long time.

For Carlos Alcaraz, the third seed and one of the tournament favourites, this means there is much more work to do. Under the Philippe Chatrier roof, the Spaniard overcame a mid-match hiccup before moving through to reach the third round with an unconvincing 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 win over Jesper de Jong, a Dutch qualifier.

Related: French Open 2024: Iga Swiatek v Naomi Osaka, Alcaraz advances – live

Alcaraz arrived here after a difficult period as he was sidelined by a forearm injury for much of the clay-court season. The 21-year-old withdrew from Monte Carlo and Barcelona before he exacerbated his injury while trying to retain his Madrid Open title last month. He then withdrew from the Italian Open before Roland Garros.

Although Alcaraz had described his arm as 100% after his first-round win, he still faces the challenge of finding rhythm and form. He initially looked comfortable as he rolled to a two-set lead despite a low break-point conversion rate.

Then, out of nowhere, he hit a wall. As De Jong injected more pace into his forehand and looked to dictate from inside the baseline, Alcaraz’s unforced errors began to pile up. He finished the second set with six ­winners to 15 unforced errors and he continued to struggle early in the fourth before winning the final four games to advance.

“It was up and down,” Alcaraz said. “I played good tennis the first and second sets and then I was ­struggling a little bit.

“He dominated most of the points in the third set. Then in the fourth set I had to fight. I got to overcome the problems that I had most of the time with my serve. But really happy I could get the win in a good way at the end.”

Late on Wednesday night, Jannik Sinner, the second seed and possible semi-final opponent of Alcaraz, reached the third round with a comfortable 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over France’s Richard Gasquet.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the ninth seed, had his own struggles as he reached the third round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4 win over Daniel Altmaier, the world No 83. After losing the third set, Tsitsipas was losing 2-4 in the fourth before reeling off four games in a row to win.

“I’m happy I got away from that bad situation I was being faced with later during the match,” the 2021 French Open finalist said. “Had a great comeback, was very patient with myself and dealing with my emotions. I can only be proud of that.

“I am happy I didn’t go into a fifth-set adventure, as I like to call it, and find myself in maybe situations that suddenly you see a completely different storyline of the match.”

The French Open has requested fans to show respect to players after Belgium’s David Goffin criticised partisan fans for showing him “total disrespect” during his first-round win on Tuesday.

“The public are incredibly enthusiastic, particularly on the outside courts,” tournament organisers said. “However, they must of course show full respect to all players while doing so. Oversight bodies are in place to make sure rules are followed.

“Although it is only natural that fans share their excitement and cheer on their favourites, this may not in any case go against the values of ­tennis or consideration for the players.”

After defeating France’s Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard in five sets to reach the second round, Goffin said he was spat at by a spectator as members of the crowd tried to disrupt him.

“It’s really too much,” he said. “It’s becoming football. Soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and fights in the stands.

“It’s starting to become ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to create an atmosphere. Someone spat out their chewing gum at me.

“A lot of people are complaining, a lot of umpires feel that there is a lot of disrespect. This is repeated a lot in the locker room and among the ATP authorities. We’re going to have to do something about that.”