Korda Conquers Alcaraz At Monte-Carlo Masters

Sebastian Korda (photo: ATP Tour video)

MONTE-CARLO/WASHINGTON, April 13, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Sebastian Korda overcame momentum shifts and tamed a pesky, 20-mile-an-hour wind blowing in off the Mediterranean Sea to garner his biggest win of the season at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters Wednesday afternoon.

The 42nd-ranked Korda went the distance to beat World No. 11 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (5), 6-3, in three hours and two minutes on Court Rainier III, which began a full day of second-round matches in the year’s first Masters 1000 on red clay taking place at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in the Principality of Monaco.

Also, advancing to Thursday’s third round were: No. 4 seed Casper Ruud of Norway, No. 10 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States and No. 11 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. Among the other seeds besides Alcaraz to fall were: No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 7 Cameron Norrie and No. 16 Lorenzo Sonego.

The 21-year-old American from Bradenton, Fla., rallied from a break down in the final set against Alcaraz, the 18-year-old Spaniard who won his first Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open two weeks ago and was making his Monte-Carlo debut. To his credit, Korda, who also was playing in his first Monte-Carlo Masters, handled the windy conditions best and his heavy-hitting style was something that gave Alcaraz trouble all afternoon.

“It was nice to get the victory today,” Korda said during his on-court interview following his victory over Alcaraz in their first meeting on clay. “I stayed calm and believed in my returning. It was super tough, every time he threw up the ball it moved around. It was a crazy match.”

Although the two NextGen ATP stars combined for 107 unforced errors (59 by Korda and 48 by Alcaraz), Korda stepped up and hit 36 winners, won 34 of 44 net points and converted seven of 10 break points against Alcaraz. He outpointed his opponent, 129-124, to gain revenge for his loss to Alcaraz in last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals title match. Alcaraz finished with 21 winners and converted six of 19 break-point chances.

“I had to just stay calm and believe in my returning,” said Korda, who won 44 percent (47 of 106) return points against Alcaraz. “It was super tough. Every time you’d throw up the ball, it would move around. It was super tough to serve today but I’m super happy with the way I handled myself.”

During his on-court interview, Korda was reminded of the last time he played a Spaniard. It was against Rafael Nadal, who defeated the American in the second round at Indian Wells last month after Korda led 5-2 in the third set. It’s a tournament Nadal would go on to win the title.

“After losing to a Spaniard in Indian Wells and serving for it, it was nice to get a victory today,” said Korda, grinning at the thought.

Meanwhile, during his post-match press conference, Alcaraz said he was “a bit” disappointed with himself. “I had a lot chances to be up in the match and close to winning,” he said, “but these losses sometimes [are] good to live. You have to play matches. But I didn’t think about the expectations that the people have [for] me. I just focused on me and what I have to do. But as I said, you have to play more matches on clay courts.”

Next, Korda will play fellow American and No. 10 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States, who eliminated No. 23 Marin Cilic of Croatia, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in two hours and 13 minutes on Court des Princes. Fritz hit 18 winners and benefited from 46 unforced errors by Cilic. Fritz outpointed his opponent 103-93.

Around the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

• World No. 3 and second seed Alexander Zverev of Germany advanced to the third-round with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 35 Federico Delbonis of Argentina in an hour and 26 minutes that wrapped up play on Court Rainier III as darkness fell over the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Zverev overcame 36 unforced errors by hitting 18 winners and breaking Delbonis’s serve six times in 11 opportunities. He outpointed the Argentine 70-51.

“I think it’s not bad for a change of surface,” Zverev said of his first clay-court Tour match of the season. “Also, after Miami I was ill. So, you have to take that into consideration a little bit. I’m happy with the win. More honestly, I know I have to play better. Hopefully, I can give myself the best chance to win.”

Next, Zverev will oppose No. 13 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, who moved into the third round following the retirement of Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. The 17th-ranked Carreño Busta was ahead 4-6, 7-6 (3), 4-3 against No. 36 Bublik.

• In a matchup featuring the ATP Tour’s top two Scandinavian men’s players, World No. 7 and fourth seed Casper Ruud of Norway advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory over 79th-ranked qualifier Holger Rune of Denmark.

“Holger is one of the young guys on Tour, he’s on the rise, and he was playing well today,” Ruud said during his on-court interview. “He played much more aggressive than in [our] previous matches and he didn’t let me control the match as much as I would like to.”

The 23-year-old Ruud, who won both of his two previous matches against Rune in straight sets, struck 18 winners to 24 unforced errors, converted four of five break points, and outpointed Rune 83-74. The 18-year-old Dane countered with 26 winners but made 34 unforced errors during the one-hour and 55-minute match on Court Rainier III.

Ruud spoke highly of Rune, who earned a main-draw berth through winning two rounds of qualifying over the weekend coming directly after winning an ATP Challenger Tour title at Sanremo, Italy on Saturday.

“He took the ball on the rise many times and was playing fast,” Ruud said. “He’s had some matches on the surface already this year and has been in a good flow, so I’m happy that I was able to stop him.”

In Thursday’s third round, Ruud will face No. 29 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who already has recorded two victories this week at Monte-Carlo.

Other Wednesday highlights:

• Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti garnered his second career Top 10 victory with his 6-2, 7-6 (2) upset of World No. 9 and sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada on Court Rainier III. The 83rd-ranked 20-year-old from Tuscany, who now lives in Monte Carlo, gave a spirited, high-quality performance over the duration of the one-hour and 42-minute match that resulted in his second win against Auger-Aliassime in three meetings. The loss was Auger-Aliassime’s fifth in his last six appearances dating back to losing the final at Marseille two months ago. He has never advanced past the second round in four Monte-Carlo appearances.

“I live here and practice here,” Musetti said during his on-court interview after advancing to the third round against No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. “It is nice to be here and play here in front of such a crowd. I am really happy. My backhand down the line was a key to many of my great shots. After a really good first set, he came back with such powerful serving, but I was calm and patient and that was the most beautiful thing about today.”

On Thursday, Musetti will face 16th-ranked Schwartzman, who defeated Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, ranked 57th, 6-0, 7-6 (4).

“Diego knows how to run and how to defend and attack, so it is going to be a really great battle,” Musetti said. “Diego was my first Top 10 win, so let’s see if I can double up the score. I hope to play a great match.”

• No. 9 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win over 81st-ranked Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori for his 18th victory of the season. Sinner outpointed Ruusuvuori 70-66 and next will face No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who rallied to beat No. 25 Alex de Minaur of Australia, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, in two hours and one minute, behind 26 winners. Rublev outpointed de Minaur 92-84.  Both matches were on Court des Princes.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas, a Monte-Carlo finalist in 2017, ran his record on clay to 4-0 against World No. 10 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. The 33rd-ranked Spaniard beat the No. 7 seed Norrie, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, in two hours and 31 minutes on Court des Princes. It was Ramos-Vinolas’ eighth Top 10 win of his career. Next, Ramos-Vinolas will face No. 11 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who advanced with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 45 Pedro Martinez of Spain.

• No. 16 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy fell to No. 62 Laslo Djere of Serbia, 6-4, 6-4. Djere outpointed Sonego 68-52, winning 73 percent (41 of 56) of his service points. Next, Djere will play defending champion and No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in Thursday’s third round.

• Wild card David Goffin of Belgium defeated No. 27 Dan Evans of Great Britain, 7-6 (5), 6-2. The 74th-ranked Goffin outpointed Evans 76-64 and advanced against No. 45 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who upset World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Tuesday.

Wednesday’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters results

Thursday’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters order of play

By the numbers

Alexander Zverev is now 44-15 against left-handers, including 3-0 against Federico Delbonis and 41-9 against lefties not named Rafael Nadal.

“Quotable …”

“I love playing Carlos. He’s an unbelievable player, an even better person. I hope we play tennis for a lot of years, with a lot of matches coming up. … Watching him [do well] inspires me to do better.”

Sebastian Korda of the United States on his budding rivalry against Carlos Alcaraz, as told to Tennis Channel.