ATP

Titles in their sights as Alcaraz and Rune get set to leave teenage years behind

By Sports Desk April 22, 2023

Carlos Alcaraz raced through to the Barcelona Open final as the defending champion set up a final showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

With his 20th birthday approaching on May 5, world number two Alcaraz will have the chance on Sunday to land his ninth ATP title as a teenager.

Alcaraz crushed the hopes of first-time Barcelona semi-finalist Dan Evans, racing to a 6-2 6-2 victory over a player who was seeking to become the first British finalist at this tournament.

Earlier, Tsitsipas, who had not dropped serve en route to the semi-finals, had to dig deep for a 6-4 5-7 6-3 victory against Lorenzo Musetti, the Italian who beat Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo last week.

Greek star Tsitsipas bizarrely has a 0-9 record in finals at ATP 500 level, the tier at which this tournament sits, despite having won two of his six title matches in elite ATP 1000 events.

Alcaraz will start as a firm favourite in the final. He holds a 3-0 career head-to-head lead over Tsitsipas from their past meetings, including a three-set win in the Barcelona quarter-finals last year.

That was a stormy encounter, with Alcaraz taking exception to almost being hit by a shot from Tsitsipas at the end of the opening set, so the rematch could be one to savour.

"It's so special to play a final here in Barcelona, a tournament I love playing," Alcaraz said on Prime Video. "I came to watch this tournament when I was very, very young, and I played for this club when I was 12, 11. I love this club, I love this tournament, and it's so special to have the chance to lift the trophy here again.

"Last year [against Tsitsipas] we had a spicy match, but I know he's a really nice guy off the court."

At the BMW Open in Munich, it was much the same story on Saturday.

Defending champion Holger Rune, another 19-year-old with a birthday approaching, in his case on April 29, earned another shot at the title.

Rune set up a Sunday showdown against Botic van de Zandschulp, in what will be a repeat of last year's final.

A resilient Rune lived up to his top seeding by ending Christopher O'Connell's fine run, which included a win against Alexander Zverev at the last-16 stage.

The 6-3 6-2 outcome masked the fact Rune saved eight break points as unseeded world number 82 O'Connell threatened to make it a tighter contest on the scoreboard than it turned out to be.

Van de Zandschulp then scored a fine win in the second semi-final as the Dutch fourth seed got the better of American second seed Taylor Fritz, winning 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 

Last year's trophy match ended in disappointment when Van de Zandschulp retired due to chest pains during the first set, with Rune saying it was "probably the worst way to win a final".

Rune has three ATP titles to his name, with 27-year-old Van de Zandschulp yet to lift a singles trophy.

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