Carlos Alcaraz battles through on testing day for top names at Australian Open

By Sports Desk January 18, 2024

Carlos Alcaraz came through a tough four-set battle with Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on a day of close encounters for the big names at the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic’s struggles will have given heart to his rivals but few are finding the early stages of the tournament straightforward, and second seed Alcaraz needed three hours and 25 minutes to defeat Sonego 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-3 7-6 (3).

In a match full of shot-making, Alcaraz topped the highlight reel with two winners around the net post.

“I didn’t feel I had downs in the match,” said the Spaniard. “In the tie-break, he started to play an unbelievable game. I think he made some big returns after a good first serve from me.

“I think probably I could do something else in the tie-break. But the level that he played, it was really, really high.”

Sixth seed Alexander Zverev and 11th seed Casper Ruud both needed fifth-set tie-breaks to edge into round three.

Zverev looked in deep trouble down two sets to one against Slovakian qualifier Lukas Klein before recovering to win 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (10/7).

The German said of his opponent: “I didn’t know him at all. To be honest, if he would have been in a room, I would have not known that he’s my opponent.

“But he played extremely well. He played very, very aggressive, hitting every single ball as hard as he could from both sides, I feel like. A lot of the times I was a spectator in the match. I was just witnessing whether he’s going to hit a winner or miss.

“That’s not a nice feeling to be in, especially in the important moments, but I’m happy that I managed to win.”

Zverev next faces American teenager Alex Michelsen, who knocked out last year’s quarter-finalist Jiri Lehecka.

Ruud was given a huge battle by Australian Max Purcell, who twice fought back from a set down to force a decider before the Norwegian prevailed 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-3 3-6 7-6 (10/7).

“He’s a really tricky player and a great tennis player in my eyes, even though he plays different from others,” said Ruud.

“I’m very happy with the win. He beat me in Cincinnati. The plan was to do things better from that time, and I think I did, and that was just enough to win the match.”

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