Barcelona, Spain — Carlo AlcarazThe biggest fans flocked to see the world’s new top player return home to Spain.
Instead they were witnesses Felix Auger-Aliassime beat their new idol before staying on the hard court to secure a second doubles win and help Canada secure a 2-1 win over Spain in Friday’s Davis Cup group stage.
Alcaraz lost 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2 to a superb Auger-Aliassime who endured the partisan crowd and tipped the game in Valencia in his own way after the 19-year-old Spaniard dug deep to turn to take first place – set tiebreaker.
“Felix is a beast. Physically and mentally, Felix is one of the best in the world,” Alcaraz said after his first match since winning the US Open last weekend to become the youngest man to rise to the top of the ATP rankings .
“I arrived in not very good physical condition,” he added. “It was a very tough day but I have to congratulate him because he showed an incredible game.”
As the pavilion roared for Alcaraz, Auger-Aliassime responded coolly, surgically placing shot after shot exactly where he wanted. He dominated on serve with 16 aces, eventually breaking Alcaraz late in the second set and twice in the third.
“He’s number 1 in the world and he has a lot of credit for that, but today I was a little better in the third set,” said Auger-Aliassime in 13th place. “I didn’t want to let my team settle down with my fighting spirit.”
Next, Canada play Serbia on Saturday, while Spain take on South Korea on Sunday to determine which two advance to the quarter-finals in the southern Spanish city of Malaga in November.
Spain beat Serbia 3-0 on Wednesday while Alcaraz was resting after flying home from New York, where he won his first singles Grand Slam title on Sunday after a grueling run that included three straight wins contained five sentences.
Before the Davis Cup tie, Alcaraz was busy signing autographs and posing for photos after practice. He received the biggest applause when the Spanish team was unveiled and he was introduced as the ‘new world No. 1’.
After the game, he didn’t focus on the loss but on the joy of being back home.
“I wanted to return to Spain, I wanted to share this moment to be number 1 and become US Open champion with all my people,” said Alcaraz.
After Spanish fans had to stay up practically all night to watch his matches at the US Open due to the time difference, this was the first opportunity to see him play at home since May when he won the Madrid Open. Alcaraz beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the capital, where many saw Nadal pass the torch to his Spanish successor.
Red and yellow flags were draped over the pavilion’s railings, including one with the name of Alcaraz’s home region, Murcia, painted in large black letters. Valencia on the Mediterranean coast is about 2½ hours north of Alcaraz’ hometown of El Palmar with a population of 24,000.
Alcaraz had previously only met Auger-Aliassime once in the quarterfinals of the 2021 US Open when the Spaniard was forced to retire through injury.
While Alcaraz returned after a busy two weeks in the US, Auger-Aliassime played singles and doubles on Tuesday to help Canada beat South Korea in the Davis Cup opener.
Alcaraz failed to touch Auger-Aliassime’s serve, eliciting more cheers from the stands that included his parents. He pumped his fist at captain Sergi Bruguera and his personal trainer Juan Carlos Ferrero after hard-fought points.
That was enough for Alcaraz to get through the first set tiebreak after Auger-Aliassime’s untimely errors.
But Auger-Aliassime never lost the initiative. Canada captain Frank Dancevic jumped from his spot on the sidelines to cheer when Auger-Aliassime finally broke Alcaraz late in the second set. The Canadian poured it up.
Also on Friday the Netherlands advanced after defeats Andy Murray‘s Britain 2-1 in Glasgow, Scotland. The result also meant the United States advanced from Group D.
Germany and Australia rose from Group C after the Germans beat Belgium 2-1, while in Group A Italy defeated Argentina 2-1 in Bologna.