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Alcaraz defends Madrid title with three-set win over Struff

Carlos Alcaraz is a two-time champion at the Mutua Madrid Open after holding off lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in Sunday’s final.

Alcaraz won the 2022 Madrid title in his last year as a teenager. He successfully defended it in the first year of his 20s after celebrating his 20th birthday with Friday’s semifinal defeat of Borna Coric.

Unsurprisingly, though, it was no easy task with Struff on the other side of the net. The big-serving German beat Alcaraz in straight sets at the 2021 French Open and extended the Spaniard to five sets at Wimbledon last summer. Struff again forced a final set in their third meeting, but Alcaraz recovered from dropping the second set to prevail in two hours and 25 minutes.

“It was a really tough match,” Alcaraz commented. “Jan was playing great–really aggressive. In the second set I had a lot of chances to break his serve and I didn’t take it. It was tough for me to lose it. I told myself that I had to be positive all the time and that I would have my chances, and I think I did it in the third set.”

After taking the second set, Struff got a look at a break point at 1-1 in the third set to take control. Nonetheless, Alcaraz fought it off, held for 2-1, and held the upper hand the rest of the way. A break in the next game proved to be decisive for the world No. 2.

“For me it is so, so special,” Alcaraz assured. “To lift the trophy here in Madrid, in my country, it is always special to play and to be able to [have] a good result here. [Being] a champion is so special in front of my home crowd, my family, my friends–everyone close to me. For me it is a special feeling that I will never forget.”

It was still an unforgettable fortnight for Struff, who became the first-ever lucky loser to play in a Masters 1000 final. Amazingly enough, the 33-year-old lost to Aslan Karatsev in the qualies final round and ended up beating none other than Karatsev in the semis

Interestingly, Alcaraz also almost found himself out of the tournament not too long after Struff thought he was toast. The top seed came dangerously close to losing his first match, as he trailed Emil Ruusuvuori by a set and had to save five break points to avoid going a break down in the second set.

Fast forward two weeks and Alcaraz is the Madrid champion…again.

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