Leading and entertaining US Open encounter against Sebastian Bass 7-5, 7-5, 2-0 on Tuesday, Carlo Alcaraz reached the second round in the last Grand Slam of the year when his opponent retired with a leg injury.
The 19-year-old Spaniard prevailed in two brilliant sets Arthur Ashe Stadium against world No. 37 Baez. Both players produced plenty of quality all-court tennis, but it was 2021 quarterfinalists Alcaraz who found something special to grab a crucial break of serve in the 12th game of both sets.
“No one wants to see the end of a game like this,” Alcaraz said in his on-pitch interview. “I think both players didn’t deserve to end like that, but I’ll just say that Sebastian is a great player. He fights to the last ball, so he decided the best.”
The first two sets were a showcase for two of the most successful young talents on the ATP Tour. Both Alcaraz and the 21-year-old Baez hit the ball crisply from the baseline, but also showed a lot of variety in the oppressive conditions in New York. Particularly in the second set, Baez used his lob to maneuver Alcaraz on the court as he went 4-3 ahead, but Alcaraz’s signature retrieval helped him recover and win the set 7-5.
“It was really, really hard. In the second set it was really hard for me to stay on level physically and mentally,” said Alcaraz, who converted his fourth set point with a screaming forehand winner, which he followed with a roar appealing to the crowd. “Obviously the energy I was received by [the fans] was something special. Thanks to that I got through this heat and this difficult moment.”
Baez began to struggle physically early in the third set and the Argentine decided not to risk any more injuries by continuing his debut in the tournament’s main draw. Alcaraz’ next game at Flushing Meadows is a second-round game against him Tallon Griekspoor or Federico Coria.
Should Alcaraz make it to the final in New York, the 19-year-old will do it have a chance to become the youngest #1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on September 12th. That would cap 12 months of stunning progress for the Spaniard, who was 55th when he reached his maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
“I remember that last year was one of the best moments of my life and career,” said Alcaraz. “Being number 4 in the world a year later is something special for me. To come back here Arthur Asheone of the biggest stadiums in the world is incredible to me.”