Paul was on the verge of his third straight second-round elimination at Canada’s ATP Masters 1000 event when he hit the match point in the tiebreak of the second set with 6 from 7, but the 25-year-old kept his nerve for strength to win a decider in his first ATP Head2Head meeting with the second seed. Consistent ball strikes from deep earned Paul a crucial break of serve in the decider as the world No. 34 clinched a three-hour and 19-minute marathon win to book a third-round matchup against the 13th seed Marin Cilic or Karen Khachanov.
“It’s nice to finish games at the net,” Paul said after coming forward to convert his fifth match point. “He made a pretty nice passing shot there at the last point and I covered the line well and volleyed well. I think I did a lot of things well today. I played a good level of tennis, especially there in the third set, so I’m glad I’m going through.
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Paul was also under pressure early in the second set after Alcaraz built a 4-1 lead to draw within two games of the win. The American responded with four straight games and stormed back into contention, and although he ultimately needed a tie-breaker to win the set, Paul admitted he had believed in it all along.
“I just felt like I was in his service games,” Paul said. “In the second set I felt like I could break. I didn’t expect to get two breaks back and serve for the set, [but] I felt like I was playing comfortable tennis overall. I stuck to the game plan and played well.”
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Until Paul came clean in the deciding set, the Montreal crowd was treated to an engaging, fine-margined matchup that included some dramatic all-court rallies and both players struggled to capitalize on strong positions. However, Paul’s ability to pressure Alcaraz’ performance with an incisive return ultimately proved crucial as he converted four break points from 15 to reach the third round for the first time.
The second round clash was Alcaraz’s first hard court appearance since his defeat Kasper Ruud to seal his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami in early April. In contrast, Paul started his North American hard court season with a quarterfinalist spot in Atlanta before becoming the eventual champion Nick Kyrgios last week in Washington. With Wednesday’s victory, Paul becomes only the fourth player to defeat Alcaraz after losing the opening set in an ATP Tour match.
“I think I caught him on the hard courts in his first game,” Paul said. “So hopefully next time we play him [also] doesn’t have too many hard court games [under his belt].”