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Escape for Alcaraz — Spanish teenage star wins five-set marathon at French Open

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Sixth seed Carlos Alcaraz clawed his way back from the brink of a shock second-round defeat at the French Open on Wednesday, to outlast fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a five-set marathon that fully tested his title credentials.

The 19-year-old — who has taken the tennis world by storm this year — survived a match point in the fourth set and battled back from 3-0 down in the fifth, before winning 6-1, 6-7 (9/7) 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 in a match lasting more than four-and-a-half hours.

Alcaraz is now unbeaten for 12 straight matches after bagging back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Madrid going into Roland Garros and will next face American Sebastian Korda.

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“I am still young but I am an experienced player now,” Alcaraz told a news conference.

“I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, grand dlams. I am ready to play these kind of matches in these situations.

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Alcaraz had looked unflustered by the blustery conditions on the Simonne Mathieu Court with a near flawless performance in the first set.

The 34-year-old Ramos-Vinolas, a clay court specialist and quarter-finalist in Paris six years ago, had no response to Alcaraz’s explosive power and accuracy.

The teenager’s serve proved equally devastating as he gave away just three points in his service games in the first set.

His veteran opponent, however, was far from done, putting up a stronger fight as unforced errors started creeping into Alcaraz’s game, including a forehand that sailed wide on Ramos-Vinolas’s set point.

With his opponent now clearly unsettled, having lost his earlier momentum, Ramos-Vinolas moved Alcaraz around and broke him to go 2-1 up in the third set.

Alcaraz was paying the price for his unforced errors and his 44th, a simple volley into the net, handed Ramos-Vinolas a break to go 6-5 up and he held serve to lead 2-1.

Facing the prospect of a shock exit, Alcaraz survived a match point at 5-4 before forcing a fifth set.

Carlos Alcaraz showed his speed and agility on the red clay in his five-set match against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.(Getty Images: NurPhoto/Ibrahim Ezzat)

He again had to work his way back from 0-3 down in the decider. One of the key points came in the fifth game. at 30-40, with Alcaraz pushing for the break.

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Ramos-Vinolas served down the T, leaving Alcaraz to block it back.

Then Ramos-Vinolas took advantage, hitting an inside-out forehand to the corner of the court, forcing Alcaraz to stretch to get it back over the net.

While his opponent hit a volley into the open court for an apparent winner, the 19-year-old sprinted across to steer a backhand winner from outside the tramlines, prompting a huge roar from the crowd.

He won the match by finishing Ramos-Vinolas off with an ace on his first match point.

“I knew that I would have my chance in the end of fourth set. I believed in myself the whole time. In the fourth and fifth set I was smiling with my team.”

In other matches, Rafael Nadal earned his 300th victory at a grand slam tournament, with a straight-sets win over Corentin Moutet, third seed Alexander Zverev came from two sets down to beat Argentina’s Sebastian Baez in five, and top seed Novak Djokovic was only challenged briefly in a three-set win over Slovakia’s Alex Molcan.

Ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov also went through in straight sets, however American Taylor Fritz (13) was the only seed to be knocked out, losing in four sets to Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles. 

Reuters/ABC

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