Wimbledon 2022: Alcaraz underlines his status as the next big thing

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Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates victory against Jan-Lennard Struff in Wimbledon's men's singles first round
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates victory against Jan-Lennard Struff in Wimbledon's men's singles first round

By Paul Eddison at Wimbledon

Carlos Alcaraz arrived at the French Open as Rafael Nadal’s designated successor and tennis’ next superstar.

A relatively underwhelming performance at Roland Garros, losing in the quarter-final to Alexander Zverev, has lowered the expectations but a comeback win in Round 1 at Wimbledon is a reminder of why the teenager is so highly-rated.

Up against big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff, Alcaraz seemed as though he would be sent packing for much of the match.

But some scintillating shot-making in the fourth set tie-break allowed him to take the match into a decider before coming through 4-6 7-5 4-6 7-6 (3) 6-4.

And while the No.5 seed is does not carry the same burden of expectation that he did in Paris, he believes the potential is there for a big run at the All England Club.

He said: “First of all, I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great battle, four hours almost the match. I enjoyed it. For me playing on grass is so beautiful. I like to play on grass.

“I would say my level on grass has to improve a little bit. But I'm happy with my level. Of course, I'm not an experienced player on grass.

“I will improve. My level is okay right now.

“I don't feel the pressure because I rank myself not one of the favourites to win this tournament.

“Obviously if I play well, I have level to win the tournament. But there are a lot of more experienced players on grass.

“I don't feel the pressure.”

Alcaraz lost to Struff at the French Open last year, and there must have been fears of a repeat here as the German twice led by a set.

For the Spaniard, it was the ability to focus in on his return that made the difference though, as he fought back to take the win.

He added: “I knew at the beginning of the match that is going to be really, really tough. Struff has a big serve, big shots.

“I knew that I had to be really focused on the return today, the second ball after the return, to try to hit good passing shots, good lobs.

“Grass is tough for me because the movement is tough. Well, it is more difficult to move on grass than the other surfaces.

“I would say to play four hours on grass is tougher than the other surface, even if there are not long rallies. So for me it is tougher to play a marathon match on grass than the other surface.”

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