Alcaraz: Historic Day In Rio Ends With His Biggest Victory

Carlos Alcaraz (photo: Rio Open)

RIO DE JANEIRO/WASHINGTON, February 21, 2o22 (by Michael Dickens)

Carlos Alcaraz and Diego Schwartzman met for the first time on the ATP Tour Sunday afternoon in the title final of the Rio Open presented by Claro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It turned out to be a memorable first impression and resulted in Alcaraz making some history.

The seventh-seeded Alcaraz of Spain defeated World No. 14 and third seed Schwartzman from Argentina, 6-4, 6-2, in one hour and 27 minutes to become the youngest ATP 500 champion since the category was created in 2009.

It’s the second tour-level title for the 18-year-old Spaniard, currently ranked 29th, who won his first crown last year in Umag, Croatia. He originally made his tour-level debut in Rio two years ago as a 16-year-old wild card.

I can’t believe it, honestly,” Alcaraz said during his on-court interview before lifting the most important trophy he’s won in his young career. “It has been a great week for me playing a great level. First tournament on clay since a long time, so I’m really happy with the performance during the whole week. It’s an amazing feeling right now.”

Alcaraz won with power and variety. He was just as comfortable hitting groundstrokes from the baseline as he was in coming into the net to volley or to surprise his opponents with an occasional surprise drop shot. He showed great maturity.

To reach the final, Alcaraz completed a pair of remarkable victories over Italians Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini on Saturday, pulling double duty due to his quarterfinal being rained out on Friday.

After beating the top-seeded Berrettini, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, during the day Saturday, Alcaraz returned and stopped Fognini, 6-2, 7-5, to reach Sunday’s final.

“It means a lot to me,” Alcaraz said Saturday night during his post-match interview. “I surprised myself to be able to win two matches in a row in the same day. It’s tough to win one match, two is even tougher.”

Meanwhile, after spending five-and-a-half hours on court Saturday during his quarterfinal and semifinal matches, Schwartzman came through to reach his second ATP Tour final in as many weeks. The Argentine beat Pablo Andújar of Spain, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4, then defeated fellow countryman Francisco Cerundolo, 7-6 (4), 6-3, to reach Sunday’s title match.

“Unbelievable, the effort I did today with my team. Not just me,” Schwartzman said. “Yesterday (Friday), we were here all day long. We went to the hotel at 10 p.m., coming back in the morning today to play one match, now the other one. I don’t know how I did it. I really don’t understand how I did it, but I did. So, I’m very happy and of course playing with this crowd in Brazil, for an Argentinian player it’s unbelievable.”

Looking back, Schwartzman, who won the 2018 Rio title, remained upbeat after finishing runner-up to Alcaraz.

“I think the South American clay season gives me a lot of confidence, points and rhythm,” Schwartzman said in press. “After Australia, I went back home not feeling very well. Physically, I finished not in the best way in the first tournaments of the year. But then I made the semifinals and two finals in South American, losing against I think the best opponents every tournament.”

Bolelli and Fognini win fourth doubles title together

Italy’s Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini won their fourth tour-level doubles title together with their 7-5, 6-7 (2), 10-6 victory over No. 3 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil Sunday evening.

Earlier, the unseeded Bolelli and Fognini reached the final with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 semifinal victory over Santiago Gonzalez and Andres Molteni. Since Friday, the tournament had been playing catch-up due to numerous rain delays and it forced double duty for the Italian doubles team. Plus, Fognini also played two singles matches on Saturday, reaching the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.

“Fabio is amazing. He was playing singles all week with a lot of delays because of rain, but did not give up on the doubles and here we are with the title,” said Bolelli, who teamed with Fognini to win the 2015 Australian Open title. Bolelli has won nine tour-level doubles titles while Fognini has won six doubles titles.

“Sorry for Bruno,” Fognini said. “I know how much it means for a Brazilian to win in Rio. I love playing here, the fans carried me all week, all the week to this title.”