Cameron Norrie was not the only opponent Carlos Alcaraz had to overcome in the Argentina Open final, as he battled feelings of guilt after not doing "the right things" to recover from injury.

Alcaraz made it one title from one tournament in 2023 as he overcame Norrie 6-3 7-5 in Buenos Aires on Sunday.

Last year's US Open champion dropped just one set through the tournament as he marked his return to action in style, with the 19-year-old having missed the Australian Open due to a hamstring issue.

Alcaraz had not featured since November, and the world number two admitted he did not feel his application during his extended break was always as good as it should have been.

"This trophy is special. During those four months I had a hard time and I didn't do the right things off the court, and I felt a bit guilty after the injury," Alcaraz said.

"Fighting against this is not easy. Coming here, my first tournament after four months, and winning the first tournament since the US Open is very special for me."

Alcaraz won seven games on the bounce to swing the final in his favour, and believes he hit peak performance during the match.

"I felt very comfortable playing the final," Alcaraz added.

"I knew that it was going to be really difficult. I started really focussed on what I had to do at the beginning, my game, my level. 

"This is the level that I have to play in finals."

Alcaraz has already collected seven titles in his young career, with five of those coming on clay.

His idol and compatriot Rafael Nadal won 13 clay-court tournaments prior to turning 20.

Combined with Alcaraz's haul, that total of 18 betters the 13 managed by all other players combined on the ATP Tour in the 21st century before turning 20.

Alcaraz is now set to play in the Rio Open, where he is the reigning champion, this week.

In his first tournament since a four-month injury layoff Carlos Alcaraz went all the way and defeated Cameron Norrie 6-3 7-5 in the Argentina Open final.

Alcaraz, 19, became the youngest player to ever reach the world number one ranking in September, and with his victory in Buenos Aires he now has seven ATP Tour singles titles to his name.

After knocking off some rust in a close three-set opening match against Laslo Djere, Alcaraz advanced to the final following straight sets victories over Dusan Lajovic and Spanish compatriot Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

Against Norrie, Alcaraz played an exceptionally tight first set, winning 73 per cent (16-of-22) of his service points while not allowing his opponent a single break point opportunity.

He broke twice in the opening set and secured another quick break to begin the second, jumping ahead 3-0 as he threatened to run away with the match.

Norrie did not lay down, recovering from 5-2 down to tie things up at 5-5, but Alcaraz would not allow it to reach a tie-breaker as he finished the match with another break of serve.

The 250 ranking points on offer to the winner pulls Alcaraz to within striking distance of Novak Djokovic as he looks to reclaim his spot as world number one.

Carlos Alcaraz clinched a berth in the Argentina Open in his first tournament back from injury with a straight-sets victory over Spanish compatriot Bernabe Zapata Miralles on Saturday.

Alcaraz, who had not played since the Paris Masters in early November due to abdominal and right leg injuries, triumphed 6-2 6-2 in one hour and 17 minutes.

The 19-year-old Spaniard will face second seed Cameron Norrie in Sunday's decider, with the Briton needing almost two hours to overcome Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

"It’s a really special moment for me," Alcaraz said. "I was a little bit down after the injury, so I had to recover in those four months the confidence and the rhythm.

"Coming back for my first tournament of 2023 and making the final is so special for me."

Alcaraz has won all three matches at the Argentina Open, dropping only one set against Laslo Djere in his return match in the second round.

Taylor Fritz beat countryman Mackenzie McDonald for a spot in the Delray Beach Open final in Florida, fighting back from a break down in the second set to win 6-3 7-6 (8-6) and a secure a berth in his 10th career final.

Fritz, the top seed at Delray Beach, will take on Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic in the decider after he won 7-6 (10-8) 3-6 6-2 over Moldova's Radu Albot.

World number two Carlos Alcaraz was too good in his Argentina Open quarter-final on Friday, defeating Dusan Lajovic 6-4 6-2.

The 19-year-old is playing in his first tournament of the year, and after dropping a set in his opener against Serbia's Laslo Djere, he had fewer problems against Djere's compatriot.

Alcaraz will play Bernabe Zapata Miralles in an all-Spanish semi-final after he eliminated Buenos Aires' own Francisco Cerundolo 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3.

England's Cameron Norrie had to come from a set behind for the second match in a row to knock out Argentina's Tomas Martin Etcheverry 5-7 6-0 6-3, and he will meet Peru's Juan Pablo Varillas in the other semi-final.

Varillas collected arguably the biggest win of his career against world number 20 Lorenzo Musetti, and he is now two wins away from his first ATP Tour title.

Meanwhile, top seed and world number seven Taylor Fritz is through to the semi-final of the Delray Beach Open after fending off the challenge of veteran Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (10-8) 6-4.

Fritz has lost his past two meetings with Mackenzie McDonald, and he will get a chance at redemption after McDonald joined him in the semi-final with a 3-6 6-3 6-4 triumph over Michael Mmoh.

Fourth seed Miomir Kecmanovic joins Fritz as the only seeded players to reach the semi-finals after he saw off Marcos Giron 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, while second seed Tommy Paul was upset as a heavy favourite against Romania's Radu Albot 6-2 6-2.

Carlos Alcaraz overcame a second-set hiccup to win on his return to the ATP Tour over Laslo Djere in the second round at the Argentina Open on Wednesday.

Alcaraz, who rose to the world number one ranking after last year's US Open triumph, won 6-2 4-6 6-2 in two hours and one minute over the Serbian in Buenos Aires.

The match marked top seed Alcaraz's first since losing to Holger Rune in the Paris Masters quarter-finals, having missed last month's Australian Open following abdominal and hamstring injuries.

The Spanish 19-year-old displayed his trademark forehand on occasion, while he was at his tenacious best, saving six of seven break points generated by Djere.

"It's a great feeling to win again," Alcaraz said post-match. "It's been a long time for me with no competition, with no matches, just recovering. Finally, I got my first win of 2023."

Alcaraz will face Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic next after he won 6-3 6-1 over local Camilo Ugo Carabelli.

Second seed Cameron Norrie was pushed for three hours by Argentinian wild card Facundo Diaz Acosta before prevailing 4-6 7-5 7-6 (8-6). Diaz Acosta got within two points of victory on three occasions but could not capitalise.

Norrie will face another Argentinian in the third round, with Tomas Martin Etcheverry progressing with a 4-6 6-1 6-2 win over Roberto Carballes Baena.

Third seed Denis Shapovalov was a shock second-round casualty at the Delray Beach Open after going down in here sets to Michael Mmoh on Wednesday.

The American, who is ranked 87th in the world, triumphed 7-5 3-6 6-3 in two hours and 20 minutes at the event in Florida.

The Canadian committed 30 unforced errors across the match compared to Mmoh's 16. Shapovalov also generated 10 break points but only capitalized on two, while Mmoh converted three of five.

Mmoh will take on countryman Mackenzie McDonald who won 6-3 3-6 6-2 over fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka.

Fourth seed Miomir Kecmanovic cruised past qualifier Nuno Borges 6-3 7-5, while Marcos Giron also progressed in straight sets over Matija Pecotic.

Carlos Alcaraz has described Novak Djokovic as "like a god", but fully intends to take his world number one spot back from the Serbian.

Alcaraz has been out of action for four months through injury, but will return at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires on Wednesday when he faces another Serbian, Laslo Djere.

The 19-year-old had been top of the men's world rankings when he suffered a leg muscle injury, causing him to miss the Australian Open.

Djokovic leapfrogged Alcaraz into top spot after he won in Melbourne, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in last month's final.

"It has been a long time [I spent] at No. 1," Alcaraz said. "Now it's a goal for me to recover No. 1 and try to do my best in these tournaments to be back on that number. I'm looking for that."

The young star acknowledged that he has a big job on his hands though, recognising that Djokovic is one of the greatest of all time.

"He has no weaknesses. Every shot, it's amazing," he said. "His physical condition is amazing, his mental condition is amazing.

"He's like a god and I admire him over the years staying at the same level, staying at the top. It's really, really difficult and I admire that."

Despite his ultimate lofty goals, Alcaraz does not want to push himself too fast after his injury, and suggested his main aim at the Argentina Open is just to regain fitness and confidence.

"It's tough to play my first tournament after a long time for me, after four months," he said. "So it's going to be really, really tough to win the tournament or be close to winning.

"My hope is to feel that I am okay with the injury, with my body and try to play well."

Yoshihito Nishioka made it eight wins from his first 10 matches this year after defeating Oscar Otte 6-3 0-6 6-4 in Monday's opening round at the Delray Beach Open.

Nishioka was the highest seed in action on the first day of the tournament, and he had his back up against the wall after failing to win a game in a troubling second set, but produced three breaks of serve in the back-and-forth decider.

Meanwhile, Ecuador's Emilio Gomez earned a shot at top seed and world number seven Taylor Fritz after advancing 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 against Taiwan's Tung-lin Wu.

Portugal's Nuno Borges continued his winning run after earning his spot through the qualifiers, eliminating America's Steve Johnson 6-4 3-6 6-4, but the crowd got something to cheer for when the USA's Denis Kudla got the better of Australia's Jordan Thompson 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2).

Further south at Argentina's Buenos Aires Open, Serbia's Laslo Djere booked a blockbuster showdown against world number two Carlos Alcaraz after repelling the challenge of Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-4 6-4.

Argentinian Pedro Cachin put on a show for his hometown fans with a 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory over Brazil's Thiago Monteiro, but Cachin's compatriot Guido Pella had less success with a 6-4 7-5 defeat at the hand of Spain's Jaume Munar.

Carlos Alcaraz is on course to return to tennis action next month after the world number one stepped up his recovery from injury by practising on clay.

The 19-year-old Spaniard was ruled out of the Australian Open after suffering a hamstring injury in pre-season.

That was another blow for Alcaraz, who cut short an outstanding 2022 season due to an internal oblique muscle tear he sustained during a Paris Masters quarter-final against Holger Rune in November.

Alcaraz won five titles last year – including a maiden grand slam triumph at the US Open – and surged to the top of the ATP rankings.

The teenager delivered an encouraging update on his fitness on Friday, posting pictures of himself in action on a clay court and writing: "Back on court and back on clay. VAMOS!"

Alcaraz is set to make his comeback at the Argentina Open, which start in Buenos Aires on February 13.

He won Masters titles in Madrid and Miami last year, along with triumphs in Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and at Flushing Meadows.

Carlos Alcaraz has pulled out of the Australian Open after suffering a leg muscle injury in training.

The 19-year-old world number one won the US Open last September and would have been among the favourites at Melbourne Park and one of the players capable of challenging nine-time champion Novak Djokovic.

However, Alcaraz announced he would not be fit enough in time to feature, with a problem with a hamstring leaving him sidelined for the tennis season's opening grand slam.

He wrote on Instagram: "When I was at my best in preseason, I picked up an injury through a chance, unnatural movement in training.

"This time it's the semimembranosus muscle in my right leg. I'd worked so hard to get to my best level for Australia but unfortunately I won't be able to play the Care A2+ Kooyong or the Australian Open.

"It's tough, but I have to be optimistic, recover and look forward. See you in 2024 @australianopen."

The Kooyong event is an exhibition tournament ahead of the major, and it is the Australian Open where his presence will be most sorely felt.

Alcaraz has emerged as the pick of the new generation of players, with his high-intensity game winning him a legion of supporters and bringing him a host of titles already.

He earned $7.6million and picked up five singles titles last season, including the first grand slam crown of his career in New York, ending the year with a 57-13 win-loss record and the ATP top ranking.

Alcaraz's compatriot Rafael Nadal is the defending champion in Melbourne, while Djokovic returns this year after being deported from Australia 12 months ago amid a vaccination saga.

Andy Murray has been named the winner of the ATP's Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for the second time after he donated his prize money for 2022 to Ukraine.

The Briton announced in March that his winnings earned throughout the rest of the year would be donated to UNICEF, for whom he is an ambassador.

Ukraine was invaded by neighbour Russia in February, escalating an ongoing conflict that saw players from the latter nation barred at Wimbledon this year amid sanctions.

After previously being presented with the honour in 2014, Murray revealed earnings of approximately £510,000 would be donated from his season.

"There are 7.5 million children in Ukraine and after more than nine months of increased conflict, 5.2 million of them are in need of assistance," he said. 

"When you see images of children on the news who were impacted by things like this, that makes it even more difficult to stomach.

"I have four young children who are really fortunate that everything is fine with them. But being a parent, it affects you differently.

"You try to put yourself in their shoes. If something like that happened with your own family, how difficult would that be? It is hard to fathom."

Carlos Alcaraz was meanwhile named the Most Improved Player of the Year, after the Spaniard claimed a maiden grand slam at the US Open and reached number one in the ATP Rankings.

"Everything has come so fast," the teenager added. "I didn't think at the beginning of the year that I'm going to have the year that I'm having right now.

"I always believe in my team and in my work, so this is something that came with the hard work that I put in every day. Everything pays off."

Carlos Alcaraz pinpointed Iga Swiatek as a hot shot example to follow as the world number one looks to successfully defend top spot in the ATP rankings.

Spaniard Alcaraz enjoyed a hugely impressive 2022 season, winning five titles including a first grand slam at the US Open.

The 19-year-old subsequently became the youngest number one in ATP history, as well as the youngest player to top the year-end rankings.

It has also been a dominant year for Swiatek, who landed eight titles including the French Open and US Open, while also embarking on a 37-match winning streak – the longest this century on the WTA Tour – and registering 22 'bagel' sets.

Alcaraz, who knows there will be greater expectations on him delivering the goods, hopes to follow in the footsteps of the runaway WTA leader.

 

"I see her year has been incredible," Alcaraz told Arab News. "She broke a record for the longest winning streak [this century]. It's amazing,

"I wish to be like her, to not lose the number one [ranking]. But I think it's almost impossible. I'm going to lose it, but the point is to recover it and stay there at number one as much as I can."

He added: "Obviously yes, all the people want to beat the number one in the world. I could feel that after the US Open, everyone had a target on me and everyone wanted to face me on court. That's what I have to be prepared for."

Despite an incredible year, Alcaraz admitted his achievements are yet to truly hit home.

"It sounds like a dream for me," he said. "Honestly, there are so many times I think about this year, about my position right now, and I still can't believe it. I'm thinking: 'Is this real? I’m number one in the world?' I'm dreaming. It's something I have to realise someday."

Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will be exchanging fierce right-handers and left-handers across the net when tennis visits a legendary Las Vegas boxing venue in March.

In the lead-up to the Indian Wells Open, the Spanish superstars will go head to head at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 5, it was announced on Tuesday.

The indoor venue has staged major fights featuring the likes of Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez, Manny Pacquiao and Tyson Fury.

Nadal, the record 22-time men's singles grand slam winner, will be facing current world number one Alcaraz in a clash of generations. Alcaraz does not turn 20 until May, while Nadal will be 36 in June.

The match will mark Alcaraz's return to action in the United States, six months after he triumphed at the US Open in New York to land a first slam title.

Already the youngest number one in ATP history, Alcaraz is expected to win many more majors, but he recently said he turns a "deaf ear" to comparisons between himself and Nadal.

"There is no point in comparing," Alcaraz told reporters. "It doesn't matter that now I am world number one, Rafa's entire career counts for a lot. It is a pleasure, for every tennis lover, to see Rafa on the court."

The Indian Wells action begins on March 8. Nadal beat Alcaraz in last year's semi-finals before losing to Taylor Fritz in the final, later revealing he played with a broken rib in the title match.

Carlos Alcaraz turns a "deaf ear" to comparisons between himself and fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

A stunning season for Alcaraz has seen him become the youngest world number one in ATP history at the age of 19.

He won two Masters 1000 titles and his maiden grand slam at the US Open in September.

Alcaraz was ruled out of the ATP Finals with an abdominal injury, but Nadal's elimination in Turin ensured Alcaraz would end 2022 as the youngest ever year-end number one.

Such accomplishments have seen him compared by some to countryman Nadal, who won the French Open aged just 19 in 2005 on his way to becoming one of the most decorated men's tennis players of all time.

But Alcaraz refuses to entertain such talk, instead speaking of his admiration at what the now 36-year-old Nadal had achieved over his long career.

"There is no point in comparing," Alcaraz told reporters. "It doesn't matter that now I am world number one, Rafa's entire career counts for a lot.

"It is a pleasure, for every tennis lover, to see Rafa on the court."

He added he hopes to achieve "at least half" of what Nadal has, in a career spanning over two decades and encompassing 22 grand slam titles.

Alcaraz, meanwhile, is trying to "regain strength before returning to the court" as he eyes the new season, and acknowledged he will start with a target on his back due to his 2022 success.

"The season is going to be difficult because I am going to start as the favourite," he explained. "There is going to be a lot of pressure on me.

"But I try to keep the good part and see that all this does not go to my head. In the end, beating your idols is an incredible achievement.

"I try to take it normally and never forget that whatever happens in the future, I have to enjoy tennis and play at my level."

Casper Ruud secured his place in the last four of the ATP Finals and ensured Carlos Alcaraz will be the year-ending world number one by beating Taylor Fritz on Tuesday.

Ruud made it two wins out of two in the Green Group to seal his semi-final spot with a 6-3 4-6 7-6 (8-6) defeat of Fritz in Turin.

The third seed eliminated Rafael Nadal when he won the first set and in doing so guaranteed that injured 19-year-old Alcaraz will be the youngest player to be at the top of the ATP rankings at the end of a year.

Ruud stormed into a 3-0 lead and did not allow Fritz a way back into the first set, but the American broke for the first time to level the match when his opponent was serving to stay in the second.

The battling Fritz fended off two break points in the fifth game of the deciding set and saved two match points as he fought back from 5-1 down in the tie-break to draw level at 6-6.

Norwegian Ruud was not to be denied, though, becoming the first player to reach the semi-finals when eighth seed Fritz drilled a forehand long at the Palbata Alpitour.

Fritz will do battle with Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday for a place in the last four.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Ruud - 14/3
Fritz - 15/0

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Ruud - 36/4
Fritz  - 36/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Ruud - 1/5
Auger-Aliassime - 1/4

In recent years, the notable absentee at the ATP Finals has been Roger Federer, with his last appearance in the tournament coming in 2019.

The lack of Federer at the showpiece event will be felt even more apparent this year after the Swiss maestro retired from tennis in September, though it is the absence of a player at the other end of his career that is more relevant in Turin.

World number one Carlos Alcaraz had to withdraw from the tournament after suffering an abdominal tear, which means his status at the top of the men's game is in jeopardy.

Rafael Nadal has spoken well of his 19-year-old compatriot in the past, but is not ready to pass the torch just yet, and could even topple Alcaraz from his number one spot.

The 22-time grand slam champion has finished as year-end number one five times previously, most recently in 2019. Should he accomplish the feat again this year it would put him in joint-second for most year-end finishes at the top of the ATP Rankings (since 1973) along with Pete Sampras (six).

In order to do so, Nadal will need to win the tournament, something he has never done before.

However, he comes into his 11th appearance in good form, and has won 32 per cent of his return games in 2022, the highest percentage by any player this year, and has converted 43.8 per cent of his break points in 2022, the third best amongst all players.

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, is the other competitor who can knock Alcaraz off top spot, though his task to do so is a little more complicated as he needs to win every match on the way to the title in Turin. 

No player has played more matches in 2022 than Tsitsipas (80), 21 on clay, 11 on grass and 48 on hard courts; he has won 59 of them and lost 21.

Should neither man win at the Pala Alpitour, Alcaraz will breathe a sigh of relief and earn his first year-end number one finish, having taken his place after winning the US Open in September.

Nadal has been drawn into the Green Group with Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz, while Tsitsipas will be in the Red Group alongside Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic can equal Federer record

One man surprisingly unable to end the year as number one is Djokovic, despite having done so on more occasions than anyone else in history (seven).

However, the 21-time grand slam champion can still make his mark in Italy.

Djokovic has had an up-and-down year, only playing in two of the four grand slams due to his vaccination status, though he was able to win Wimbledon for the seventh time, beating Nick Kyrgios in the final.

Should the Serbian go all the way and lift what would be his sixth ATP Finals title, he will go level with Federer for most victories since the tournament began in 1970.

Among the eight participating players in this year's tournament, Djokovic has won 87 per cent of his service games in 2022, the best percentage among these players and the sixth overall.

It would be quite the ending to the year for Djokovic, who finds himself in the unusual position of sitting eighth in the world rankings, and at the age of 35, who knows how many more appearances he will make at the event?

 

Strong field promises fireworks

As is the intent of the format, the ATP Finals should be a tightly-contested few days as the best men's players in the world come together.

Ruud will be looking to add to an already impressive season, having reached two grand slam finals and winning three tour-level titles, while Fritz is aiming to carry on the fine lineage of American players to have won the tournament.

Players from the United States have won the ATP finals 16 times, with Sampras and Ivan Lendl winning five of them each. It is the most by any country and 10 more than next best Switzerland (six, all Federer) and Germany (also six, three wins for Boris Becker, one for Michael Stich and two for last year's champion, Alexander Zverev).

Auger-Aliassime has had a strong end to the year, beating Djokovic at the Laver Cup before winning three titles in as many weeks in Florence, Antwerp and Basel.

Only John Isner (895) has recorded more aces in 2022 than Auger-Aliassime, who has registered 852 in total, averaging 10.9 per match.

"All the players who participate [at the ATP Finals], I have already faced them, I have beaten them," the Canadian recently said. "So for me, there's no reason why I can't show up to this tournament with the aim of winning it."

Medvedev was world number one as recently as September but enters this tournament in fifth, though he did win the Vienna ATP 500 event last month, while his first opponent in Turin, Rublev, enters with a 2022 record of 49-18, looking for his second straight 50-win season.

Whoever comes out on top at this year's ATP Finals, the race for supremacy in 2023 promises to be as delightfully chaotic.

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