The rapid rise of Carlos Alcaraz continues this week at the Western & Southern Open, where his 7-6(4), 6-1 victory against Marin Cilic on Thursday made him the event’s youngest quarter-finalist since Andy Murray 16 years ago.
The Spaniard could move past Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev to No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings by winning his third ATP Masters title of the season in Cincinnati. After reaching the quarter-finals, he remains at No. 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings but is less than 600 points shy of the second spot.
Alcaraz showed great resilience against Cilic on center court, rebounding strongly after missing out on two set points as he attempted to serve out the first set.
“I know that Marin is a really aggressive player. I had to be really focused on the match,” Alcaraz said after his victory. “I knew that it was going to be a tough match, that I had to be [mentally] in the match all the time. I knew that I was going to have my chances to break his big serve. So I’m really happy with the performance and the focus in the match.”
The 19-year-old was controlling the rallies and did not drop a point on first serve until he stepped to the line at 5-4 in the opener. But the Croatian picked up his aggression late in the set, and after three consecutive Alcaraz double faults handed back his break advantage, a quick Cilic hold forced his opponent to serve to stay in the set.
Rising to the occasion, Alcaraz got back on the attack to win eight straight points and wrestle back control of the set and match.
“Obviously these kind of things can happen in really close moments,” he said of the serving hiccup. “It’s tough to come back after three double faults in a row to break my serve in that moment, but I am serving really well so I will just train a little bit more tomorrow before the quarter-finals. But I have the confidence pretty high .”
In set two, Alcaraz consolidated an early love break by saving a pair of break points at 2-0. He continued to dictate play and was rewarded with an insurance break late in the set.
Alcaraz wrapped up a strong serving performance with eight aces and an 83 per cent win rate on first serve, outpacing the big-serving Cilic’s four aces and 60 per cent first-serve win rate. The Croatian finished with 27 unforced errors as he was forced to press the issue to stay in the rallies against his in-form opponent.
The Spaniard will next face ninth seed Cameron Norrie, who ended the dream debut of Ben Shelton with a 6-0, 6-2 win on Thursday evening.
Now 17-3 at the ATP Masters 1000s this season, Alcaraz is bidding for his third title at that prestigious level (Miami, Madrid). He is the only player with multiple Masters 1000 titles in 2022.