Alcaraz goes for Spanish double, No. 1 spot at Madrid Open

MADRID (AP) — Carlos Alcaraz gets another chance to defend a title at home in Spain, and move closer to regaining the No. 1 ranking.

After winning in Barcelona for a second year in a row last week, the 19-year-old Alcaraz stayed in Spain to try to repeat as Madrid Open champion and practically guarantee a return to the top of the rankings.

Daniil Medvedev will be his top challenger at the clay-court tournament after the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic because of injuries. Defending women’s champion Ons Jabeur also won’t play in Madrid this year because of an injury.

The second-ranked Alcaraz is chasing Djokovic for the No. 1 spot after having traded the top ranking with him three times this season. If he wins the title in Madrid, Alcaraz would only need to play one match in Rome to be back at No. 1. The Spaniard can also get back to the top by playing at least one match in Madrid and winning in Rome.

Alcaraz had never successfully defended a title until winning the Barcelona Open this year, which gave him his third title of the season and ninth overall in his impressive young career. He was the first player to repeat as Barcelona champion since Nadal won there three times in a row from 2016-18.

“I’m a bit tired after Barcelona, but the focus is already on this tournament (in Madrid),” Alcaraz said. “I’ve gained a lot of experience since my win here last year. I’ve grown both as a player and as a person. I’m still the same person, but maybe a bit more mature.”

Alcaraz beat both Nadal and Djokovic on his way to his Madrid title last year. He said playing at home did not add any extra pressure.

“It’s always motivating to have my family, friends and local fans supporting me,” Alcaraz said. “I don’t see it as pressure. It’s a pleasure to be able to play in front of my people in Spain. It’s different than anywhere else. It’s a unique feeling.”

Four other players have a chance to become No. 1 heading into the French Open, including Medvedev, who did not play in Madrid last year. The others are Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, who would need to do well both in Madrid and Rome. Tsitsipas lost the Barcelona final to Alcaraz, while Rublev is coming off a title in Monte Carlo and Ruud won in Estoril.

Jabeur pulled out because of an injured left calf, though both Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, the two highest-ranked players in the world, will be playing in the tournament at the Caja Magica (“Magic Box”) tennis complex in the Spanish capital.

The tournament was expanded this year, with a bigger main draw and longer schedule.

In the first round of the women’s draw on Tuesday, Ana Bogdan rallied to defeat Anna Bondar 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in a match that lasted more than three hours. Sorana Cirstea beat American Lauren Davis 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, while Karolina Muchova defeated Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-2.


AP tennis: and

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