Reigning Champion Alcaraz Wins Queen’s Club Opener

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Luke Walker/Getty Images for LTA)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, June 18, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Two weeks after winning his third major title at Roland-Garros, in which he became the youngest player in history to win a Grand Slam on all three surfaces, World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz arrived in London after celebrating his French Open triumph with friends in Ibiza.

“I had a few days off. I went to Ibiza with a group of friends. I had fun,” Alcaraz said on Sunday during his cinch Championships pre-tournament news conference. “It was a great time celebrating Roland-Garros and I just had fun. For me as a player, I need this kind of thing.

“Every player is different but for me to reach my best tennis I have to separate the professional part from the personal part. I have to have some days off to forget a little bit that I am a professional player. Being with my friends and family means I can rest a little bit.”

On Tuesday, the 21-year-old Spaniard looked fit and rested from his holiday as he began defense of his ATP 500 cinch Championships title on grass at The Queen’s Club in West London with a with a 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 26 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, in an hour and 22 minutes before a full house that filled Centre Court.

After easily taking the opening set, Alcaraz rallied from 2-5 down in the second set and won the final five games of the match to advance to the second round against new British No. 1 Jack Draper, ranked No. 31, who eased past 29th ranked Mariano Navone of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2, in just 54 minutes for his sixth straight win on grass after winning the BOSS Open in Stuttgart on Sunday.

A year ago, Alcaraz excelled on grass, winning 12 consecutive matches to lift consecutive trophies at The Queen’s Club and the Wimbledon Championships. Against Cerundolo, he picked up where he left off by winning – even if he wasn’t at top form. Alcaraz hit 15 winners to 15 unforced errors and outpointed Cerundolo 67-43. He converted four of eight break points and was broken just once.

“The first match in any tournament is never easy but even more difficult here on grass, starting the grass season,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “You want to do a good result and have to deal with a lot of expectations that you put on yourself. I am really happy with the match and it was a good test, playing with Francisco. It was close in the second set. It is good to have tough situations. Having to deal with nerves.  I’m happy it’s everything I’ve done and hopefully I can keep going.”

Alcaraz is a believer that his success from last year will enable him to transition from clay to grass quickly.

“I have more matches in my bank on grass and now with the great run I had last year at Queen’s and Wimbledon, I know a little bit on how to play and understand the game a little bit on grass,” said Alcaraz, who improved to 27-4 this season and is 17-2 on grass in his career. “I am more mature playing on this surface. The first practice I have done here, my movement wasn’t as good as last year but it is a slow process, so I have to be really focused in every practice and every match.”

Murray still has that winning feeling after 1,000 Tour matches

At 37 and a five-time Queen’s Club champion, Andy Murray showed that winning feeling Tuesday evening as he defeated 48th-ranked Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the second round. Retirement? Not just yet.

The 129th-ranked Murray of Scotland has many wonderful moments that he would still like to experience and share with family, friends and fans. Playing in his 1,000th ATP Tour-level match and winning it – for career victory No. 739 – will be remembered as one that the wild card Murray showed plenty of spark and fight in breaking a personal four-match losing streak.

Murray’s one-hour, 51-minute victory improved his career win-loss record at The Queen’s Club to 32-9 and set up a second-round battle with No. 43 Jordan Thompson of Australia.

After setting up match point with his ninth ace, Murray secured his latest victory with a backhand volley coming into the net. He unleashed his emotions much to the delight of the British fans, which included his mother, Judy, and his wife, Kim.

“I didn’t realize, but my mum told me before the match that this was my 1,000th match on the Tour,” Murray said, smiling throughout his on-court interview. “A lot of matches and a lot of wear and tear in the body. It’s not easy but I’m pushing through it.”

When Murray was asked how much he enjoyed battling it out in front of the home fans, he replied: “Obviously, during the match it’s difficult. Great reward at the end for the hard work and effort I put into the match. I haven’t gotten too many wins this year. It’s been a difficult season. But I did well to come through in the end. Held quite a few tight service games and managed to serve it out well.”

Murray tallied 28 winners to 19 unforced errors, converted two of four break points and outpointed Popyrin 82-76. In the final set, Murray broke Popyrin in the second game and maintained the break lead to the very end.

“Any win you can get is important,” Murray said, “That’s why we’re playing. To try and win matches. With Wimbledon a few weeks away, I wan to try and build up confidence and get some matches in my legs.

“Today was a difficult one. I’m proud with the way I fought and came back in the third set after losing the second. Great to get another win here.”

Around The Queen’s Club

Following Monday’s upset of No. 7 seed Holger Rune of Denmark by Thompson, three more seeds were sent packing as the first round was completed. First, new World No. 7 Alex de Minaur of Australia fell to No. 30 Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, just two days after winning the title at the Libéma Open in the Netherlands. Then, No. 8 seed Ugo Humbert of France, ranked 16th, lost to No. 35 Matteo Arnaldi of Italy, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6). Finally, No. 67 Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard of France upset No. 14 and sixth seed Ben Shelton of the United States, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Musetti hit seven aces and struck 25 winners against de Minaur, despite being outpointed 86-81. Each player converted four break points during the two-hour, one-minute Centre Court clash. It was Musetti’s first Top-10 win of the season after four losses and it snapped a 13-match losing streak against Top-10 competition.

“I knew my game could be better,” Musetti said of his slow start, during his on-court interview. “I think I served better [at the end]. … I stated to play with more confidence and beating Alex on grass is one of the toughest challenges of the season. I’m really happy to be in the second round in Queens.”

Next, Musetti will face No. 63 Brandon Nakashima of the United States, who advanced over 59th-ranked British wild card Daniel Evans by retirement after splitting sets 4-6, 6-3.

Among the Tuesday winners were a trio of Americans: No. 4 seed Taylor Fritz, ranked 12th, who defeated 85th-ranked qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan, 6-3, 6-3; No. 5 seed Tommy Paul, ranked 13th, who beat No. 19 Sebastian Baez of Argentina, 6-4, 6-4; and No. 23 Sebastian Korda, who took care of No. 22 Karen Khachanov of Russia, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Also, No. 24 Alejandro Tabilo of Chile won his continued match over No. 33 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-1, that was suspended in the third set on Monday, and 162nd-ranked British wild card Billy Harris advanced over No. 32 Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Tuesday’s cinch Championships results

Wednesday’s cinch Championships order of play

By the numbers

Carlos Alcaraz is on an eight-match winning streak after capturing his third Grand Slam title at Roland Garros earlier this month. Last year, the Spaniard became the youngest champion at the Queen’s Club event since Lleyton Hewitt in 2000.

“Quotable …”

“We have to be focused on the tournament that we are playing right now. Roland-Garros was a fantastic two weeks for me, a dream come true lifting the trophy. But right now, my mind has to be here on the grass to be ready as soon as I can to play good tennis and to get ready for Wimbledon. Right now my focus is on the grass and then after that, my mind will be on clay again to be at my best for the Olympics.”

Carlos Alcaraz, during his pre-tournament news conference, on his focusing on the grass season.