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Alcaraz Advances to Semis of NextGen ATP Tennis Finals, Musetti Keeps Hopes Alive With Five-set Win

By Ricky Dimon

Following two days of action at the NextGen ATP Finals, only one man is safely through to the semifinals. And it isn’t a surprising one.

Carlos Alcaraz, the highest-ranked player in Milan at No. 32 in the world, clinched the top spot in Group A with a 4-3(4), 4-1, 4-3(4) victory over Brandon Nakashima on Wednesday afternoon. Alcaraz had previously defeated Holger Rune 4-3(6), 4-2, 4-0.

“I am really happy with the level I am playing at,” the 18-year-old Spaniard noted. “I am so happy. I hope to play the semifinal at this level…. The serve is very important on hard courts and indoor courts; I am trying to improve the serve for my game.”

Nakashima and Ruud are both 1-1 and will go head-to-head for the second semifinal spot out of their round-robin group. Juan Manuel Cerundolo (0-2) has been eliminated.

The other quartet is more complicated. Sebastian Korda is 2-0, Sebastian Baez and Lorenzo Musetti are 1-1, and Hugo Gaston is 0-2. But it isn’t 2-0 vs. 0-2 and 1-1 vs. 1-1 on Thursday. Instead, Korda is facing Musetti and Baez is going up against Gaston. Nobody has advanced at this point and nobody has been eliminated.

If Gaston had defeated Musetti in Wednesday’s nightcap, it would have been Gaston vs. Baez straight up for a spot in the semis–similar to Nakashima vs. Rune. The Frenchman had chances, but Musetti battled to a 4-3(4), 4-3(6), 2-4, 3-4(7), 4-2 victory after two hours and 33 minutes. It was the longest match in the four-year history of the tournament.

The 19-year-old Italian was a shocking 0-for-15 on break points until finally converting a match point with Gaston serving on the deuce point in the sixth game of the final set.

“It was tough physically, as we ran a lot,” Musetti commented. “We had some really, really long and great rallies at the end. I was empty. My hole in my stomach finally went away and I laid down to rest and enjoy the moment.”

“I am really tired right now because I played really late yesterday. I recovered as I had today to rest and prepare for this match. Hugo came back with some really great tennis and he showed this last week in Paris. I took revenge on him because I lost against him in the last round of qualifying. It was a great battle, but I am really proud of this win.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.